Wired for War?
Written by Mike Bennett
Are men wired for war? Are violent games and modern military technology reinforcing that wiring? How can we rewire for peace?
American Civil War General Robert E. Lee once said, “It is good that we find war so horrible, or else we would become fond of it.”
But in our modern age of first-person shooter games and technological warfare that is eerily like a game, are the horrible realities of war being forgotten?
The battle of the war games heated up again this holiday season, as millions of men and boys found games under their Christmas trees.
Battlefield 3, EA’s first-person shooter game, made Google’s top 10 list of fastest-rising searches in 2011 (see the Google Zeitgeist 2011). It sold 5 million copies in its first week! Searches were even higher than for the record-selling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game.
Both games are rated M (Mature) for strong language and intense violence, but few players (or parents) seem to pay much attention to the warnings.
Conflict in the 21st century
Boots-on-the-ground soldiers know the horrible realities of war, but a whole new class of warrior is emerging in this technological age. In Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, P.W. Singer describes the new warriors controlling drones and robots while hundreds of miles removed from the battlefield.
“As the air force colonel who led a Predator squadron explains, the younger troops flying drones may be more talented, but there is a cost: ‘The video game generation is worse at distorting the reality of it [war] from the virtual nature. They don’t have that sense of what is really going on.’ He believes that the virtual nature of the games makes the consequences seem unreal. ‘It teaches you to compartmentalize it.’ Because of this, he said, ‘I don’t like my [own] kids playing those [violent] video games’” (2009, p. 367).
Wired for War addresses how technology is shaping future wars. But it also hints at a deeper question: Are men’s brains wired for violence and fighting? And is the technology just reinforcing that wiring?
The Bible clearly says, “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:15-17). And that is not a recent phenomenon. The Bible is no stranger to the world of war craft.
Epic battles of Bible days
Everyone with even a passing familiarity with the Bible has heard of David and Goliath, an epic battle if there ever was one. Young but fearless David took on giant Goliath with only a slingshot and five stones. The first stone found its mark on the giant’s forehead, and he toppled to the ground to suffer beheading with his own giant sword.
David was a valiant warrior, but his real faith was in God. He said, “The LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).
God was pleased with David’s faith, but was He happy with David’s seeming love of battle? Note that God wouldn’t allow David to build His temple because “you have shed much blood” (1 Chronicles 22:8).
Obviously the Bible shows that God helped some men in some battles, but was that really what He intended?
What God intended
God told His people that He would fight for them, as He did at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:14, 30). If they obeyed God’s laws, He would “be an enemy to your enemies,” even sending hornets to drive out enemies (Exodus 23:22-28).
But the Israelites disobeyed and had to fight for themselves (Numbers 14:44-45). They chose the way of war, though they occasionally sought God’s help in their battles (Numbers 21:1-3). (See our Frequently Asked Question “Why Did God’s People Go to War in the Old Testament?”)
The way of peace
Jesus Christ made it clear that He wants His followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). He wants us to hate war and the horrors it brings and to pray fervently for the Kingdom of God to come to end man’s ever-more-deadly love affair with warfare.
Real men are brave and strong and fearless. But that doesn’t mean they are vicious, violent and bloodthirsty. God wants real men with the courage to stand up to the devil and persecutors and human enemies without flinching. He wants men with the self-mastery to take a blow to the cheek without lashing out in anger. He wants men who use His spiritual armor to protect themselves and their families without violence.
God wants men who can use His Spirit to rewire their brains from the way of war to the way of peace.
Learn more about the way of peace in the post “Peacemakers, Peacekeepers and the Search for Real Peace.”
Mike Bennett coordinates the blogs for cogwa.org. He and his wife, Becky, and their two daughters attend the Cincinnati/Dayton, Ohio, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.
For more about war and peace, see: