One of the darkest hours of Christian history, in my opinion, was the time of the crusades (approx. 1095-1291). In fact from the time of Constantine (4th century) forward, the identity of Christian faith was usurped by holy roman empire and the power of the church was held in the power of kings and armies. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann calls this reality the two crosses. After Constantine we had: the cross of Christ, on which our redemption was effected, and we have the cross of Constantine that he had put on the shields of his army. Ever since there has been a blurring of what is the Christian cross and an assumption that both crosses point at the same referent, hence the baptism of violence and war at the hands of kings and Popes, alike.
Those who favor waging war in Christ’s name haven’t retained anything they may have read in the Gospels, or the New Testament for that matter. This was not the kind of Kingdom brought by Jesus. His words spoke against such action and encouraged us to love our enemies, to do good and to pray for those who do bad to us; to find our identity not in power but in mercy and in forgiveness. The isue isn’t so much that war and conflict exists (although I wish it didn’t), history has shown that such is an unfortunate but regular reality. The problem is the attempt at condoning such a reality with Christ, as though he would lay his blessing upon any human conflict. That, precisely, is the blasphemy!
This morning I read an article in the news that completely befuddled me, I have a hard time understanding how folks think it is okay to put Bible verses on our military weapons. Defense contractor has God in its sights. In this article we learn that the main contractor for the rifle scopes for the military has engraved Bible verses on its scopes for many years, consequently the men and women fighting in our two wars are carrying rifles with Bible verses on the scope. The above article made the point how this could provide fodder for Taliban and others, who already liken these wars to the crusades. While that is a concern and problematic for men and women serving in these places, my frustration is more in line with my earlier statements.
The problem is a misconstruing of kingdoms, a blurring to which even the church has acquiesced in many ways. We have somehow forgotten that Christ is not about war, not about power plays and conflict. It is offensive to me that anyone would think that a rifle scope is an appropriate place to put Christian Scripture, especially scopes heading into conflict in the hands of military. But then again, these days it seems that this blurring has worked in favor of the NRA and gun advocates because a good percentage of Christians have some how become the most “pro-gun people” in our nation.
The point of this article is to assert that the “two crosses” referred to earlier in this post are, indeed, not the same. Nor is the kingdoms (governments, armies, conflict goals etc.) of humanity, the same as the kingdom of God. Governments do good things, which I believe is pleasing to God, but their conflicts are not among those things that makes God smile. We as Christians and as citizens of the U.S., need to learn to differentiate between the two crosses and the two kingdoms at play in this world, then choose which one we intend to follow.