The people of God are on the losing side of war, as they always have been.
By Isaac Willour
People view war through tribal lenses, and for obvious reasons. The unstable elements of the international community often combust along religious and ethnic lines. Yet, our ability to derive meaningful insights from our tribalistic inclinations often gets hampered by our human tendency to only focus on the kind of sufferings that we relate to. The current moment illustrates this dichotomy perfectly. In a world facing two major wars in Israel and Ukraine, the lines between aggressor and aggressed are fairly clear in point of fact, although we can certainly have discussions about the driving forces behind both conflicts.
In my experience, American conservatives seem to empathize a lot more with the Ukrainian/Israeli sides of these conflicts, and I’d argue there are good cases to be made for both. Yet I worry that these kinds of binaries are distracting us, from the disturbing reality of the situation on the ground. War is pushing Christians, the people of God, onto the losing side.
This became immediately apparent in talking to a friend from Ukraine—he told me about how Russian soldiers have begun targeting Protestant churches, first, under the guise of rooting out Western influence in the regions Putin targets. There is nothing that meaningfully separates us from Ukraine’s Protestants save distance—our fellow Christians are being targeted for their faith by a dictator half a world away, even as Russian Orthodox priests bless the soldiers striking churches and seminaries with missiles.
In the Middle East, the oppression of God’s people has come along with the rising temperature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once upon a time, Gaza was home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world—a community Hamas never stopped trying to persecute. Now, that Christian population is further shrinking as war sweeps the region. One evangelical pastor in Bethlehem painted the future in stark terms: “Within this generation, Christianity will cease to exist in Gaza.”
The People of God
There’s a great deal of talk right now about how attacks on Israel jeopardize the safety of God’s “chosen people.” They’re right. But let’s not mince words about what that means. We, the followers of Christ, are God’s only chosen people. No one else gets to control that label. Christianity, in the non-decadent non-West, is under amassed threats. Whether intentional or otherwise, the political/military actors driving current conflicts are effecting the slaughter of the world’s Christians.
The people of God are strangers in strange lands. No color, class, gender, political affiliation, or nationality connects us—all are one in Christ. We must remember this connection. We must remember, even if only in prayer even as we handle difficult questions about the meaning of war and its exacerbating factors. Christians are no more immune from systemic targeting than any other group. We should see this as a special kind of warfare. Although political in nature, it contains a spiritual edge: the attempted annihilation of those for whom Christ died. It’s about destroying a people—and Christians are a people too.
About the Author
Isaac Willour is a marketing fellow at the Institute for Faith and Freedom and the editor-in-chief of Checkpoint News. An award-winning journalist and political science student, he has covered topics ranging from Florida’s death row to the war in Ukraine and has published more than a hundred pieces in outlets ranging from The Gospel Coalition to National Review to The Wall Street Journal. He has also contributed to interviews on the state of American politics for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and The New York Times Opinion. He blogs about culture, religion, and Generation Z at The Unafraid on Substack.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grove City College, the Institute for Faith and Freedom, or their affiliates.