In the argument against Christianity there is often reference to "all the wars that have been fought in the name of religion." Occasionally it will be noted that this is applied unfairly, as the argument is seldom used against the proponents of other religions - not to their faces, anyway - but seems reserved for kicking Christians. Conservatives, even those with no particular affinity for Christianity, will sometimes point out that Communism and Fascism, those secular gods of the 20th C killed incomparably more people.
But the base fact is not often challenged. I challenge it. Christians go in for persecution much more than war. As in my previous post, that is not spiritually very different for the individual. As a consequence, the distinction has been largely unmade even by the church. For the purposes of our souls there is equal danger, or more. Also, Christians have had some specifically religious wars, fighting over which religion or denomination would hold sway in an area - even whole nations. It looks shoddy and evasive for Christians to try and worm out at that point for three reasons:
1. We have done it sometimes.
2. Persecution is also evil, so there is no spiritual difference.
3. We have used Christianity to justify our non-religious wars.
The three reasons taken together give a strong impression that Christian participation in all those "wars of religion" which have killed so many is pretty much the same thing as Moslems, or Zoroastrians, or Hindus and their wars or religion.
Yet when we take them one at a time, we find that there is a considerable practical difference. To have done something evil sometimes is less damaging than doing it a lot. On this score, looking over the last two thousand years we don't find Christians invading somewhere specifically in order to convert them or displace their religion happening very often. The Crusades come quickly to mind, but those wars were sharply limited in purpose and destruction caused. Our Moslem opponents in that series of wars were far more the Crusaders than the Christians.
Next, persecution is an evil thing, but it is not the same thing. Sometimes it is worse, as when Communists tried to not only conquer kulaks, but eliminate them, or Nazis not merely force Jews out but exterminate them. But it is usually a far lesser evil. Oppression is bad, but it is not genocide. To the Huguenot merchant killed with all his family there is no practical difference between persecution and war. But to the Huguenot merchant who flees with his family, there is enormous difference.
The third reason gives the most surprises, however. As long as it was associated with the other two clearly evil reasons it seemed evil itself. Yet once we pull it out and make it stand on its own, we see that this is quite varied. Some Christian justifications of non-religious wars are clearly hypocritical and evil. We want something, we kill the people who have got it, and we say God gives his blessing. Pretty shoddy morality.
But what of wars of defense? They may not be religious at all - the people invading may have entirely mercenary motives, so that the Christian going to war is "only" defending his family, or his property, or his culture. There are Christians who would forbid even these, but most Christians ant most times have understood that God might allow such defenses.
What of the wars of rescue? Is it a mere rationalization of our faith to prevent the slaughter of innocents? Is it lawful to go to war to enforce justice? If not, what does "caring" about injustice mean?
I have made sharp divisions, though the events of the real world are more mixed. Wars can be part justice, part defense, part rationalization, and part thievery all at once. I don't mean to overlook complexity or give sanction to any battle a Christian might fight if he can but find a small actual justice in it somewhere.