By Laurence M. Vance
There came out of the woodwork after George W. Bush’s immoral, unjust, and unnecessary invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq certain groups of Christians—many of whom wear cross and flag lapel pins or American flag lapel pins in the shape of a cross.
I have identified them as Christian armchair warriors, Christian Coalition moralists, evangelical warvangelicals, Catholic just war theorists, reich-wing Christian nationalists, theocon Values Voters, imperial Christians, Red-State Christian fascists, bloodthirsty Christian conservatives, nuclear Christians, and God and country Christian bumpkins.
With the advent of the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History in 2012 and the movie American Sniper in 2014—both about Chris Kyle, “deadliest sniper in American history”—there has arisen another class of Christians that many in the previous groups have joined as well: sniper theologians.
Typical is Richard Phillips, the “senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C.,” who, “prior to entering the ministry,” “commanded tank units as an officer in the U.S. Army and later served as an assistant professor of leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.”
“Rick” Phillips writes articles and blog posts for Reformation21, the online magazine of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. One of his recent blog posts is “Should Christians Praise Snipers?”
Phillips “decided to go see the movie American Sniper because by all accounts it thoughtfully delves into the moral contours of warfare and killing.” By all accounts? I beg to differ.
But what really caught my eye was his “balanced biblical view” of snipers:
Given the popularity of the movie, the question is raised as to whether or not Christians should celebrate snipers. That is, should we approve not merely of faithful military service in general but also the brutal specialization of killing humans one deliberate and well-aimed shot at a time? In short, my answer is Yes. In my view, a balanced biblical view calls us to praise snipers for their courageous and skillful service in defending us from evil.
Phillips then worked through his answer in five points:
1.As we praise and thank our faithful warriors, let us look forward to the day when there will be no snipers, just as there will be no terrorist armies.
2.The New Testament clearly states a Christian’s duty to “be subject to the governing authorities.”
3.We should also note Jesus’ own care in fulfilling his duties to the secular authorities.
4.Those concerned about the praising of snipers do, however, raise concerns that we should consider.
5.As we praise and thank our faithful warriors, let us look forward to the day when there will be no snipers, just as there will be no terrorist armies.
Phillips thinks that soldiers are like Christ: “Military service against blood-thirsty enemies” is akin to “Jesus’ own violent actions in cleansing the temple from those who were exploiting the poor in Jerusalem.”
Phillips believes it is “quite in line with the Bible to believe that Jesus gives a positive verdict to faithful Christian snipers: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
Phillips maintains that since Jesus paid “his taxes to the wicked Roman government,” it is hard to see how he “would condemn an American citizen who faithfully answered his country’s valid call to military service.”
Phillips concludes that since “the day has not yet come when our swords and sniper rifles should be beaten into plowshares,” we should for now “gratefully praise the faithful soldiers who have defended us as snipers, and as tank crewmen, fighter pilots, and artillerymen.” But even that is not enough, for Phillips wants God to “send us many more snipers to defend us with courage and skill until Jesus finally comes and relieves of us the terrible burden of war.”
Since Phillips is not alone in his “balanced biblical view” of snipers, I thought I would list some of the characteristics of sniper theology in general rather than just focusing on his article.
Sniper theology considers all American wars to be just and all American snipers to be justified.
Sniper theology views all U.S. soldiers as heroes, but especially snipers.
Sniper theology leads Americans to display bumper stickers reading “God Bless Our Troops, Especially Our Snipers.
Sniper theology glorifies long-distance murder, as long it is committed by American snipers.
Sniper theology thinks American snipers committing evil are defending us from evil.
Sniper theology considers it the duty of American snipers to kill whomever the current occupant of the White House says to kill.
Sniper theology believes that the more people American snipers kill the better the sniper.
Sniper theology pleads falsely that American snipers kill in self-defense even though they are the invaders and occupiers.
Sniper theology ignores what American snipers say about killing because they enjoy it.
Sniper theology considers the killing of women and children by American snipers to be necessary.
Sniper theology condemns as cowardly the killing of U.S. soldiers by snipers from other countries.
Sniper theology denies that American snipers who get killed reap what they sow.
Sniper theology feels that foreigners who resist U.S. invasions and occupations deserve to be killed by American snipers.
Sniper theology denies that American snipers are merely government-costumed killers.
Sniper theology supposes that Jesus will tell American snipers: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant for dispatching another jihadist to the lake of fire.”
Sniper theology violates the First Commandment when it encourages the hero worship of American snipers.
Sniper theology says that the Sixth Commandment prohibition against killing doesn’t apply to American snipers.
Sniper theology has an unholy desire to legitimize American snipers killing in unjust wars.
Sniper theology accepts without reservation whomever the U.S. government designates as “the enemy.”
Sniper theology applauds movies about American snipers even though they are laced with gore and profanity.
Sniper theology deems it a great thing when Christian young people “surrender” to join the U.S. military to become a sniper.
Sniper theology thinks that American snipers who kill in U.S. wars of aggression are heroes instead of murderers.
Cursed be sniper theology. This unholy, anti-biblical heresy is pervasive in too many American churches. Stamp it out wherever and whenever you can.