The war god has gone by many names. Every civilization has named him, honored him and made sacrifice to him. Mars, Ares, Odin, Anhur, and Belus are to name a few, and though his name changes, the sacrifice remains the same. Money and liberty are hard to quantify, but are a consistent loss. More notably however, are lives.
Lives lost has long been a point of measure for the victor and the conquered. A conservative estimate of deaths caused by war is over 365 Million. Be that number low, high, or surprising, for the Christian it should be solemn. Each number is an individual, made in the image of God, but as an aggregate, becomes nameless and faceless. We could spend much time examining the cause of these wars, the nature of the armies, or intent behind each nation. Indeed there are a countless amount of books that debate or document those things.
One point that is less examined is the absolute atrocity that is the loss of life. Even as this topic may appeal to our compassion, its interest pales in comparison to the review of the destruction as a momentous event, further confirming our depravity. Though that would be fair, others are incentivized by keeping war lifted up or its cruelty ignored. After all, as Randolph Bourne points out, “War is the health of the state,” which is unquestioningly laid out in Smedly Butler’s classic, “War Is A Racket.” Economists have long pointed out the net loss that is war. Bastiat’s essay on the unseen consequences deliver’s a simple and accurate account of examining loss. Henry Hazlit wrote, “Complications should not divert us from recognizing the basic truth that the wanton destruction of anything of real value is always a net loss, a misfortune, or a disaster, and whatever the offsetting considerations in a particular instance, can never be, on net balance, a boon or a blessing.”
The economists are right, war in all its destruction is “a misfortune”, “a disaster” and “a dead loss.” But often times, they are speaking of valuable objects, resources and commodities. A Christian that thoroughly understands this concept of loss should include life itself as something of “real value.” That value is recognized in the executions committed to deserters of war. The 1914 Christmas Truce drove more fear into war makers than facing down hordes bent on their nations’ destruction. Even of more recent peace opportunities, Ron Paul exclaimed, “They’re terrified that peace was going to break out!” Lives are indeed valuable to the war machine, to the war god.
But why are lives valuable to Christians?
Most Christians identify as pro-life, and readily have scripture to support it. Genesis [1:26] recounts God’s words, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” The next chapter gives us a little bit of insight into the creation process as God, “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The unfortunate aspect is that this very strong case for the Christian usually doesn’t apply further than an American womb.
Applying what we know from Genesis to people in other countries is not a thought for today’s church, especially if that country happens to be a current adversary. The justification and logic for killing an enemy is not only first, but more aggressively defended than loving and praying for your enemy.
The God of War, written by Rev. J. J. Taylor presents another loss of life rarely considered in war. As the war god feeds on the death and dying of combatants, he is also sustained by the influx of new life to the grinder. The demand of sacrifice is common through any religion, and no matter how humanistic or secular the veneer we place on war, the fear, honor and loss to sacrifice remains. Taylor paints a vivid juxtaposition that should resonate with any parent or child.
“A hen gathers her chickens under her wings. A tigress that tears living flesh and laps warm blood has natural affection. A hyena that digs into graves and desecrates the cold forms of the dead holds fast to her offspring, and does not willingly give them up to the spoiler. Naturals affection forbids the sacrifice. But the power of the war god blights natural affection, and causes men to sink down to a depth that dumb creatures have never reached, where they are glad to offer their children in sacrifice to the god of war.”
We’ve stripped away much of the religious overtones to the affairs of the State.
Where we had satiated gods, we now have well oiled machines, but the requirements of public offerings remains. People still react to the requirement of life, giving and taking to create peace. As Christians we no longer need to be bound to this desire. A sacrifice was made once, for all. Hung on a tree for all the world to see. We can not make any greater offerings. We can not take our hopes and fears of safety to a god that will never be satisfied.
More on J.J. Taylor:
“Man Of Peace” from Laurence M. Vance