Perhaps Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson will now help the business develop a new line of products to complement Duck Commander and Buck Commander: Turk Commander. In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Robertson responded to the question of “What is the answer?” to ISIS.
Robertson quoth, “In this case you either have to convert them, which I think would be next to impossible. I’m not giving up on them, but I’m just saying, either convert them or kill them. One or the other.”
While Robertson’s sentiment resonates with a lot of people, especially conservatives stirred to outrage by gruesome videos of alleged beheadings and alleged threats to “America,” we must step back for a moment and check our reaction.
On the surface of this quotation, Robertson’s response is little more than the doctrine of the very Islamic “thugs on steroids” he would confront. “Convert them or kill them,” is no different than the classic Islamic battle cry: “convert or die!” Is this really the response Christians should have? Is this what the Bible teaches? Is this even what the allegedly harsh and outdated Old Testament ethic for war would prescribe?
Further, for those who might have immediately arisen with arms and shouts of “Hooah!” to a blanket “convert or die” sentiment, this is not even exactly what Robertson himself was saying. After all, his answer started off with the phrase, “In this case. . . .” What case?
The particular case to which he was responding was Hannity’s scenario: Americans would prefer to live in peace. You leave us alone; we’ll leave you alone. But what happens if they will not leave us alone? What happens if we wake up one day and they’re at war with us, even if we’re not at war with them?
Well, of course, there is so much debatable in hypotheticals such as Hannity’s; and there are plenty of assumptions already loaded into his statements, not the least of which is the fact that he believes they are in fact already at war with us, so, We must act now! Nevertheless, a wise man should view Phil Robertson’s response in light of such a hypothetical: if the United States of America is indeed being attacked, then we need to respond with appropriate force.
The Gospel is the Christian’s first weapon of choice—and always preferable. We should always send missionaries long before bombs. But if attacked (and not just threatened from afar or mocked), the state has the duty to repel the invaders, and if necessary, to kill them.
This is far from justifying imperialistic wars or anything close—even if that was Robertson’s view in the bigger picture, as it certainly is Hannity’s and many conservatives’. But I am willing to say Robertson gets closer to the biblical view of national defense a few seconds later:
I’d much rather have a Bible study with all of them and show them the error of their ways and point them to Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of having your sins removed and being raised from the dead. I would rather preach the gospel of Jesus to them. However, if it’s a gun fight and a gun fight alone, if that is what they’re looking for, me, personally I am prepared for either one.
Right: if it’s a gunfight alone they want, it is wise to be prepared for both. The biblical view would add further conditions to this, but at least this in itself does not support the U.S. traversing the globe into wars that are none of our business in order to eradicate whatever monsters may be out there.
A few people asked me: “So what’s your response, Joel?” I’ll tell you. If they attack us, repel them or kill them as necessary. But when under attack, there is not even an option for “convert.” On the other hand, when you have other people’s wars “over there,” the response is to mind your own business and jurisdiction.
And I am sorry, as gruesome as it may be, a journalist is not “The United States of America,” nor do they represent the nation in any way that could allow even these heinous acts to be construed as acts of war. They are private individuals who chose on their own free will to enter a dangerous war zone. I feel for their families, of course, but the blood and treasure of the nation should never be put at risk because of the decisions made by a handful of private individuals.
What, then, of those with that popular sentiment of outrage over such acts? They can, of their own free will, travel abroad and join whatever militia on whatever side they like, and fight “evil” in their own liberty. Then they will simply be private mercenaries, not the United States of America. Calling, however, for the blood and billions of others to be commanded by the state to do it, when it is biblically none of our business, is to promote slavery and murder.
There is, of course, much more to say on the issue if war from a biblical perspective in general, and ISIS specifically, but I hoped to keep this post short this morning. For those who wish to pursue further for now, see the article, “Bahnsen on War,” and my book The Bible & War in America.