The Gulf War was a popular war. But one year ago, on January 16, when America and its allies began bombing, I believed—and today am more convinced than ever—that no Christians, least of all evangelical Christians, should have fought in it.

The leaders of nations have long used warfare to secure their way of life against outsiders. One would expect something different from those who uphold Christ. Yet, in matters of war and peace, most still bow to Caesar and Saint Augustine. The sainted bishop broke with the New Testament and said Christians could be soldiers when a war was just. And to this day, especially when a war is popular, the churches march to a military drumbeat.

But the just-war theory undergirding all of this is both a snare and a delusion. It fools the church into routine endorsement of state violence. The theory says war must be a last resort. It must have a just cause and purpose, proceed under legitimate authority, and respect the immunity of noncombatants. It must have a good prospect of succeeding. The harm it causes must be proportional to the good achieved.

People usually embrace the particular interests of their particular nations. And for Christians who think warfare can be acceptable, the bandwagons of patriotism are hard to resist.

Clearly, my view is a minority position. Before the Gulf War began, 7,000 people filled the National Cathedral in Washington for an antiwar prayer service. After the shooting started, and the news media lapsed from criticism into hype, the questions dried up even for most believers. When 800,000 people gathered in Washington to celebrate victory, the Washington Post counted only 200 protesters.

Even if all the protesters were Christians, which is doubtful, it was a small showing. ...

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