Christians at War

Jeh Johnson is going to be getting some roundhouse condemnations for this:

Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, posed that question at today’s Pentagon commemoration of King’s legacy.

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today’s wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner’s teachings.

“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack,” he said.

See Adam Serwer for the refutation in detail.

What I’ll observe is that this is a mere sub-set of the “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” problem in American public life. Martin Luther King was a Christian and a pacifist, and it certainly seems to me that any straightforward reading of the Gospel would support King’s views on these matters. But though Christians are common in the United States, pacifists are exceedingly rare. What’s more, in the US at least belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ is actually highly correlated with a tendency to embrace violent nationalism as an approach to the world. Consequently, people inclined to agree with the upshot of peace-loving Christian universalism of an MLK are relatively unlikely to embrace the Christian ethics that underly it, and vice versa.