Monday, May 30, 2011

A Memorial Day Post Possibly Irreverent in the Eyes of Some

Okay, three posts in two days must be a record for me. But actually, I'm the least busy . . . just for a moment . . . than I have been for a year. I'm starting a new clinic. The opening day is Wednesday. I've worked my butt off to get to this point. But now, everything is in place and I actually have a moment's peace. It's like a big Broadway production where everyone knows their lines, the props made and now . . . there's nothing to do but wait.

What I want to say has a very good possibly of being misunderstood and equally the risk of pissing off a lot of people. I know that if I wrote this in the local paper or, God forbid, in the Church's newsletter . . . I would probably have death threats. But here goes. I will see if I can communicate what's on my heart, that if really understood shouldn't offend anyone.

I watched a Memorial Day story on the news last night. It was about the quarry in Vermont where virtually all the tombstones of Arlington National Cemetery are made (not to mention about every memorial in DC). This story moved me deeply, but not in the way the producers intended.

My sister lived, literally, on the edge of Chickamauga Battlefield. Since she was over 12 years my senior, she was something like a second mother to me. I used to spend weeks at her house in Georgia during the long hot summers. I spent many hours playing in Chickamauga. As I grew too old to play, it became my jogging route.

Besides its big cemeteries it also had random tombstones scatter throughout the grounds, presumably where the blue capped, or more likely, gray capped young man had fallen. As I would stop and look at the worn out tombstone I would feel a connection to the soul (or the remains of) beneath my feet. The tombstones, made of local limestone, rather than Vermont marble, showed their age. Under the influence or wind, fingers of those passing by over a hundred years, and acid rain the stones looked like a sick of butter left in out of the refrigerator too long. But between the grey-green lichens and the worn out letting, you could still read the dates. Many of these men were in their teens, early twenties . . . and a few my present age. On Memorial Day, the local boyscouts put flags on each grave. I think they use to put Confederate flags over the heads of the gray-capped bones . . . until that was considered politically incorrect.

Being a Southern, we were often told glorious narratives about the necessity of the Civil War. We had to show the North who we were so they would respect us . . . or something like that. But that has been true of every war that has ever been fought . . . since Cain slayed Abel.

It is estimated that 700,000 American men and boys died during that war, more from disease and malnutrition than bullets, as if that mattered.

My family, like most American families, have known war. My grandfather, who died when I was a kid, crawled the trenches of WWI. My dad lost a chunk of his soul on the beaches of Normandy. That day took part of my dad away that I never got to know. My cousin was in the Korean conflict. My brother cruised the Mekong River for two, long years. I hate to even mention the fact that I served during the first Gulf War (I hate to mention it because I never left American soil during the brief conflict).

I do deeply respect those who have died. They are all heroes in my book. The fact that they even went to war makes them a hero. It must have been terrifying. I have no problem with that. I feel their loss and I would not hesitate to place flowers or even a flag on their grave.

The man I'm closes to at my new church has said to me twice, that his biggest struggle is the fact he has two sons in the Navy Seals, both have seen lots of time in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . many tours I may add. His frustration is that other Christian families have not given their sons like he has. When he says that, I never know if he is directed it towards me or it is just me being paranoid. However, I do have four sons of military age . . . plus a daughter. None of them have served. I haven't prevented them . . . except maybe in attitude.

Here is the issue. In my perspective, there is no good war. There never has been nor ever will. War is the climax of sin in this world. Human souls, created in God's image, being turned to meaningless meat. Now, I'm not saying that we never should have entered into any conflict. I feel that WWII was clearly justified. Who else would have stopped Hitler? If anyone was trying to hurt my family, I would probably take up arms. So, I'm not a pacifist.

But, every nation, which has ever had an army (since Babylon or before) must create a super-narrative of glory to justify the total waste of decent human life. Good guys Vs bad guys. Fighting for freedom. Fighting for America, God's nation . . . thus fighting for God.

But war is Satan's Mardi Gras. War is his dream fulfilled . . . God's creatures hating and killing each other.

I am troubled when I see the Church buy into this narrative. I think Evangelicalism is by far the worst for it, far more than the mainline denominations or Catholicism. They have wed the glorious notion of God, country, military, fighting the sinners and doing God's will around the world.

I love my country. I love our freedoms and our rights, which most of the world doesn't have. However, American Nationalism is a secular philosophy, just like any other secular philosophy. When you mix Jesus with ANY secular philosophy, it is horrible.

There is more I wanted to say, to clarify my point, but I must continue on another day. I will end by saying, when I see those graves of those young men (and women) I feel grief of what could have been but what was lost by the horrors of Satan's reign of a brief time and place on this earth. I sense no glory.


Jaimie said...

I have tried to stop standing and clapping when the military is recognized in church. At best, it's praising one career choice over another and nearly completely arbitrary. At worst, it's glorification of violence. I don't see any kind of positive spin on it...

Yeah, the Nazi regime was evil, but that was 70 years ago, and most if not all of the wars since have been political money grabs.

America is awesome, but we're in church, specifically to worship God who doesn't care about nationality.


I'm glad your son is okay.

Recovering Alumni said...

"War is the climax of sin in this world. Human souls, created in God's image, being turned to meaningless meat."

Wow, well said.

Michael Snow said...

I appreciated your post and the comments here. You might find the story of the WWI Christmas truce interesting. I'd be glad to send you the pdf of Oh Holy Night: The Peace of 1914.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your website on a link from I-Monk. I am someone who grew up in a traditional "peace" church and I guess I would consider myself a pacifist but at the same time I think you expressed in this article much of what I beleive. Being a pacifist for me isn't about protecting or no protecting my family (who knows what I would do in any given situation) but it is about announcing the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. I can proclaim as you did that war is "Satan's dance" and that God's kingdom is now because death has been conquored. We live in this world but our reality is God's Kingdom Now.