A Christian case against defence cuts
Forget foreign enemies; the grounds for a larger army lie close to home
Published 19 June 2012 | Julian Mann
A Christian case against the current round of defence cuts by the UK government can be advanced on a combination of both biblical and pragmatic grounds.
First the biblical: the State, according to the Apostle Paul, has the God-given duty to wield the sword of justice against perpetrators of evil. Writing to the Christian community in 1st century Rome, Paul described the heavily militarised Roman Imperial Government as 'God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer' (Romans 13v4 - NIV).
The Apostle thus teaches that in the providence of Almighty God the State bears the sword for a good reason. The secular government is armed in order to fulfill its God-given purpose, that of using effective force against the powers of disorder.
Paul's teaching reflects the reality of life in a fallen world in which maintaining order must be the primary practical duty of government. That is because disorder vitiates the purposefulness of God-created humanity. It undermines commerce, culture and charity.
Which is where the pragmatic argument against the current defence cuts comes into play.
Social disorder is already a growing threat to the maintenance of justice in our country. Law abiding citizens suffer from the evil perpetrated against their persons and their property. That is unjust. The State has the duty to punish those responsible for social disruption and to maintain peace on our streets and in our centres of commerce.
Social disorder is likely to get worse in the UK due to a combination of factors, particularly family breakdown, the collapse of discipline in the home and in schools, and the wider moral vacuum in which the next generation is growing up. The Prime Minister came close to calling in the army during the riots of last summer, because the domestic police service was in grave danger of losing control of our streets.
There is a clear case for a well-maintained and numerically larger army for homeland security.
The need to combat domestic social disorder is most effectively met by an efficient standing army and, depending how bad future social disorder becomes in the UK, a strong case for male conscription to the British Army could be made. The Armed Forces can counter disorder in other ways than simply by military interventions. They can provide a well-structured, disciplined environment for young men in particular, thus turning agents of disorder and evil into servants of order and justice.
Currently there is a compelling case that now is the wrong time to be laying off experienced soldiers.
In addition, the case for increased spending on the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy can be made in the light of the growing global threat from radical Islam.
Christians certainly need to pray for the evangelisation of our armed forces irrespective of the extent to which we rely on them for the maintenance of justice and good order.
For both biblical and pragmatic reasons, Anglican Christians, particularly clergy, actually have a spiritual and moral responsibility to be supportive of our Armed Forces. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England is also head of the British Armed Forces, which is why both clergy and service men and women take an oath of allegiance to the Queen.
That does not necessitate supporting everything our Armed Forces are ordered by the government to do. But it does mean supporting the vocation our Armed Forces have been given by God to fulfill.
It is arguable that a nation that sends its warriors into the battle for justice on a cheapskate basis is in an advanced state of moral turpitude.
Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension , Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire - www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk
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