After reading Mark Tooley’s article “Is God Against Drones?” [original/repost], I wish he had actually answered the question in the title of his article. It is a good question. Instead, Mr. Tooley creates and attacks “The Religious Left” and ultimately argues “a Christian’s gotta do what a Christian’s gotta do in an imperfect world” (my paraphrase). I am not sure expediency in the name of national security is the best answer for a thoughtful Christian.
Mr. Tooley raises two good issues. Is God against drones and how should Christians navigate an imperfect world. The question about God’s feelings on drones should probably be broken down into two further points of query. Is God against the existence of drones and is God against our use of drones as a nation?
In trying to discern God’s feelings on the existence of drones there are at least two issues. Are drones the best use of our environmental resources given that God has entrusted us? Given the Biblical mandate to love our neighbor as ourself, are drones the best use of our economic resources?
Thoughtful Christians might come to different conclusions on this issue. Cases can be made for and against God’s feelings on drones depending on what you prioritize in terms of values and how you frame the issue. Drones might be broken into sub-categories. Some drones are designed to kill people, others are not. Surveillance drones might be a better use of our resources and more loving towards our neighbor than using human assets on the ground or in the sky. If you believe God would want us to use resources for surveillance purposes.
While it might be hard to discern God’s feelings on the existence of drones, I do think God cares about how we use drones. In my mind, the big issue is whether we are using drones justly. Most Christians believe God cares about justice. When I read the prophets, I see that God cares about justice. As I look at the New Testament, I see that God cares about how we treat each other.
God’s concern about justice goes beyond our actions as individuals. The other day I heard a preacher preach from the beginning of the 58th chapter of Isaiah. What struck me about the sermon was the the preacher missed the point of the passage. God was unhappy with the Israelites religious observance because they were participating and perpetuating unjust systems. Part of Jesus critique on the religious leaders of his day is that they too were participating and perpetuating unjust systems.
Is the use of drones unjust in God’s eyes? Does God care if kill people with drones? While there is a lot we do not know about the American drone program, there are a few things that seem clear. People are killed without trials. Americans have been killed without trials. Some of the people killed probably had no desire to hurt the United States.
While it might be expedient to kill people without a trial, and it may even be better than some other options, I have trouble seeing how a God who cares about justice could approve. It seems rather unjust to kill people without a trial. Now I realize we live in a complicated world, but the way we navigate complexity is our priorities. What we value will guide our actions. If security at any cost is our highest value, it will guide what we do. If justice at any cost is our highest value, it will guide what we do. As Christians what values we use to navigate the complexities of life speaks volumes about our faith and relationship with God.
How should Christians navigate an imperfect world? I would argue for discernment. We need to discern what God is calling us to do. Discernment is dynamic, we are always discerning. Each situation, requires prayer, meditation on God’s word, holy conversation, and humility. When Christians find that they are perpetuating and participating in an unjust system, they should try to discern how God would have them act.
We live in a world full of unjust systems. There is virtually no way to not participate in them. Still we should not just sit on our thumbs either. We cannot look at injustice in the world and say well someday God will take care of this mess. United Methodists believe we participate, by the grace of God, in God’s process of salvation. We use words like sanctification, Christian perfection, regeneration, Social Principles, and we have a history of naming injustice and standing against it.
The bottom line is that God cares about what we do. We cannot teach about judgement, sin, and grace and believe otherwise. Putting worldly values above God’s values cannot be justified in the name of national security or contending that the world is complicated. Yes, we live in an imperfect unjust world, but we are called to be witnesses to the Good News found in Jesus and the kingdom of God.