Tag Archives: war

Memorial Day lessons in Bruges

Thank God for GPS! We managed to squeeze our rental car through the medieval gates of Brugge (Bruges if you are coming from France instead of the Netherlands) and then navigate the cobblestone streets to our bed and breakfast. Every time we walked out our charming accommodation, I turned the wrong direction, but my phone delivered us. So we found our way to the significant sites where I learned a few stories of what happened in Bruges.

I am not writing this to tell you all about my trip to Europe; you can go to Brugge yourself sometime; Lord knows everyone else does. The city is so attractive, It is like Disney made Main Street, Belgium and dragooned people onto tour buses. With a chocolate store on every corner it’s irresistible.

Memorial Day is every day in Burg Square in Brugge

I’m writing to tell you one little story that seems appropriate for Memorial Day, when we remember people who have died in war. Belgium has been a big battlefield for about 400 years, so it seems appropriate to include them in our remembrance. Today, many of us will remember the valor and convictions of lost soldiers and the nobility of their sacrifice. Even when I think they were deluded and abused, I still respect their honor. Others of us remember how awful and senseless war is on Memorial Day, how it is a cyclical outbreak of evil that proves how much we need a Savior. No matter what it causes, gratitude or tears, I think turning the holiday into an excuse to BBQ is debasing what it means; not protesting the wickedness it signifies undermines our credibility as Jesus-followers; and just ignoring it diminishes our love. So let’s have a moment of seriousness, my friends.

My little story has to do with the war memorialized in architecture on Burg Square in Brugge — a war between church and state in Europe that is one of the many memories that make the church seem like a thing of the past throughout most of the continent.

We stumbled out of the bed and breakfast, disputing which way to turn, until I led Gwen the wrong way and Siri rerouted us. We were headed for Burg Square, the center of ancient Brugge, where we found the landmark (above) which Rick Steves told us would be the best vantage point. I opened my big, blue Belgium book, which flashed a “tourist” signal to the others in the square and began to read. A nice man speaking Dutch-seasoned English came up to us and began to embellish stories we had just started reading. One was about the two towers we could see from our vantage point. One was the tower on the church in the opulent Archbishop’s compound. One was the municipal tower connected to the civic authorities. Word is that the bishop made sure his tower was taller. The guide kind of sneered at the bishop and mocked the civil authorities because their fighting was so absurd. The constant fighting about which power would have the upper hand is embedded into Europe’s idea of the church.

On the same square was Brugge’s medieval claim to fame: the Church of the Holy Blood, in which resides a relic a Crusader brought back from the Holy Land – a vial of God’s blood. Periodically, this treasure is paraded through the streets for general veneration. We soon suspected that our friendly storyteller was working on a commission for being our unasked-for tour guide. So we told him we needed to make our pilgrimage to the afore-disparaged church.

Memorial Day for Billy with Trump, Murdoch, Palin
Billy Graham’s 95th birthday.

This memory sits in my mind like an indigestible bit of foreign food. I studied the investiture conflicts in history classes, but every time I run into the after-affects memorialized in European architecture I get a sick feeling. It is the same kind of queasiness I feel when Franklin Graham calls Trump God’s choice for president, or I hear of a white supremacist in Portland channeling the political zeitgeist by threatening Muslims on the train and then killing their protectors (about which Trump is so far silent, BTW). These kinds of actions are why people desert the church and and despise its search for coercive dominance. Gaining power does not mean justice. The only justice we’ll get is the kind Jesus distributes by the means he chose and chooses. When I remember war and the wars sponsored by the church, I get sin sick.

So, like I said on Friday, i expect to have some tears on my burger along with the ketchup today. It is a sin sick world and the leaders of the church, in general, let’s admit it, have been painfully susceptible to fighting for power in the name of Jesus while Jesus is fighting the powerful in the name of love. God help us to be the alternative.

The saviors I did not ask to receive

On the long ride to the Poconos, the only thing on NPR was the Prairie Home Companion. Normally I can only get so far with the redundancy of Garrison Keillor, but he hooked me with his broadcast for Memorial Day. He was at the Wolftrap in Virginia, near Manassas, the site for two great Civil War battles—and he referenced Antietam, the deadliest one-day battle in U.S. history (on the U.S. side, at least). The show was sprinkled with songs from the American war-song book, but Keillor was singing for peace. He was in sync with President Obama, who remembered Memorial Day by visiting Hiroshima and calling for a “moral revolution” to make a world free from nuclear weapons.

One of the songs the cast sang was a soulful rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Keillor led the crowd to join in. Everyone seemed to know it, since this very–religious song is still taught in school. It was, quite appropriately, sung at Ronald Reagan’s funeral, who I lately accused of misleading the public to think that the United States military power was God’s instrument of policing the world, right down to calling new missiles “peacekeepers.”

This hymn, written by a staunch abolitionist, saw the Union Army as God’s instrument of bringing about His judgment on the evil of slavery (as even Thomas Jefferson concluded was inevitable). Julia Howe’s allusions are all to Isaiah 63 and the book of Revelation, which promise that the day of the Lord will not be pretty for the disobedient. Her song assured the army that the Civil War was a foretaste of the wrath to come.

My problem is not with God’s judgment. I rely on the fact that evildoers will receive what they have been committed to achieving. My great problem is with the rest of the theology she promoted. I think if you ask a random Christian, they will, most likely (and unfortunately), still be headed in the wrong direction she was leading the troops. The problems are in every verse. For instance:

Verse 1: He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

The leaders of armies have been telling soldiers that God is on their side for as long as I can remember. Right now, Daesh is the evil. It was added on to drugs, terror etc. The Union army was told it was God’s sword.

Verse 2: I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damp

Very few soldiers saw their camp fire as one before an altar I am sure. But the allusion reminds us that Christians reinstituted an altar worship when Constantine installed Jesus at the center of every town in the Roman Empire, right where the altar to the false gods once stood, often in the same building. But, in truth, Jesus made the body of Christ the temple; altar worship is obsolete – not merely the Jewish altar, but the very idea of needing a place of mediation where men make sacrifices to please God.

Verse 3: I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

I gave you the whole verse. By now, you get it. The song assumes the gospel uses violence for its ends. It teaches that violence redeems. Regardless of the Lord’s own example of nonviolence, the powers that rule the world convince noble-minded women that 13,000 men should die, be wounded or go missing in one day at the battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam and those losses should be considered holy, and even the fulfillment of the spirit of prophecy.

Verse 4 — He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;

In the song, the “sifting” is about the latest war. It is not about being in God’s kingdom or another’s; it is about being on the right side of the nation’s history. As you notice from the most recent era of polarization in the U.S., people are still sifting and are still ready to condemn those who align on another side. But unlike what Howe teaches, in truth, Jesus is not presiding over the animosities which run the United States and which threaten to loop us all into an endless cycle of judgment. Jesus died and rose to end that cycle.

Verse 5 — As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free

This is where most versions of the song stop (even though Howe included a last verse). It is an appropriate climax for the song, and it is the apex of its wrong theology. The “sacrifice” the soldiers are preparing around the “altar fires” of their encampment is supposedly like the sacrifice of Jesus. The thought is the 10,000 casualties at Manassas will be worth it because the cause is one with the Lord’s.

The problem is that Jesus died and rose so that we would no longer be sacrificing animals or one another to save the world. The old is gone, the new has come. The very thing she is exalting is exactly what He brought down. Yet in the name of Jesus, Howe is celebrating the sacrifice soldiers make to His “truth” that is marching on – they are to believe that this war is for that truth.

Every war song since has said the same thing—dying for country, dying to preserve freedom, dying to protect your brother soldiers, dying to protect American interests, making the world safe for democracy, protecting the homeland from communism, extremism, from people who would destroy our way of life. It is always justified with the most serious, even majestic tones. I have often been told that I could not do things like write this blog unless the sacrifice of brave men had made my freedom possible. Yet I am not free from their sacrifice. I honor their courage and devotion, and I don’t think every choice we need to make is as easy as writing a blog post. But I don’t worship at their altar. They are the saviors I never asked to receive. I don’t believe my true Savior asked them for their sacrifice on the altar of preserving His rivals who continue the way of sin and death—and put it to music.

[I found out that Garrison Keillor wrote the song that moved me most in the show. It is called Argonne. Here are the lyrics.]

Memorial Day: Yes, John Fogerty and James, the rich are still exploiting us.

Memorial Day weekend just came to a close. I spent most of it with my delightful family, in a delightful place with delightful weather. The other part was spent with the delightful people at Circle of Hope Broad and Washington. Nice.

Even though I was having the perfectly-divertive, potentially-numbing weekend (like everyone else was trying to have), the reason behind the holiday kept running through the back of my mind. I was reminded on Sunday that Memorial Day is for putting flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. What’s more, as Jerome said in our meeting, it is for mourning the meaninglessness of war and the tragic loss of lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then, on the way home tonight, I was listening to Sound Opinion on NPR. They included a section called Memorial Day: Songs from the Front Lines. It gave my mind a chance to get free of my commitment not to think so much for a while as the music critics collected their most-respected war songs in honor of the holiday. They re-minded me and took me back to some places I need to stay.

The rich send the poor to fight for them

Wars always elicit songs. In my lifetime, American wars have increasingly spawned protest songs. One of the songs from the show took me back to the Vietnam War (when I was fifteen). Creedence Clearwater Revival sang a protest song that Jon Fogerty has been singing ever since called: Fortunate Son. It is about how the rich send the poor to fight battles to maintain their wealth. That’s a truth that has only become more true since the sixties. What’s worse, is that today’s young, unlike Fogerty, have much less hope that a song will change anything. They seem to be sure that the “powers that be” will just reduce their passion to a ring tone or a jingle and sell it back to them. They act like their only hope is to sell their soul for a lot of money, not just a little, since they’ll be selling it one way or another.

fogerty

Fogerty was not the son of a Senator or millionaire. So as a young man he felt very afraid that he would be drafted into the secretive, fruitless, and divisive war in Southeast Asia. Because he was not rich, there was no way out. Because he was not connected to the oligarchy that ran the country, he had no power but his song. So he sang it hard:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”
Oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no Senator’s son, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one.

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, don’t they help themselves, y’all
But when the tax men come to the door
The house looks like a rummage sale, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war.
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Oh, they only answer, more, more, more.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no military son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one

When Bruce Springsteen covers it, we fellow-locals need to sing along. There are still prophets out there! We grow them ourselves — Raleigh Booze will give it a go for you, too — just ask him (or ask  him to sing)! We can at least sing, “It ain’t me” hard — even if we are only going to sing.

share of total income

We Christians  should be singing along with Fogerty and Springsteen, but that’s hardly the best we can do. We don’t have to thumb through the Bible very far to be reminded that they are singing our song. We could, for instance, “sing” along with James and plan some fearless resistance with him. For one thing, he’ll remind us that we are all poor in the eyes of the Lord, whether we write hit songs and fill arenas or not. And he’ll remind us to forgive our exploiters for the sin of their corruption even as God has forgiven all our sins — but not by overlooking them. Our faith unleashes radical forgiveness but also releases  prophetic love-anger over what needs forgiving that the world so desperately needs:

“ Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?” James 2:5-7.

Yes, James, they are exploiting us and we elect more millionaires to do it.  They dishonor the poor and we wring our hands. They blaspheme Jesus and we are afraid to tell them the truth. Forgive us. Sing us the old song again. Help us to sing along and at least make the right kind of noises.

America Bashing in the Movies for the Fourth

I was treated to two America-bashing movies over the Fourth of July.

The first one I viewed was by invitation of Shalom House. I was not surprised that a movie they liked went after our war-fueling government! Watching a truth-telling movie with the peacemakers ended up feeling like an extremely appropriate way to observe the Fourth of July in 2013.

dirthy warsDirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield [NPR review] chronicles the quickly-expanding role of the secret wars the White House wages out of our scrutiny — even scrutiny by Congress, it appears. Jeremy Scahill is the investigative reporter/star who is extremely cool and extremely helpful — we need some reporting beyond the usual Kanye updates and courtroom dramas we usually see masquerading as news. Scahill is the National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

As soon as I mentioned Scahill (who had been previously unknown to me, which might disturb him), Joshua popped up on my FB and said, “Jeremy Scahill and I were together for about a month in Iraq back in ’02. Good guy and his work has really blossomed. The film looks good, too.” Then Sarah Grey said, “Saw him speak and chatted with him a bit at Socialism 2013 last weekend– he introduced Glenn Greenwald. Two of the best journalists working.” So if you need him stereotyped, my very with-it friends can give you a feel for him. But even if he skews the facts and you are tempted to stand up and shout “You lie!” I just want to say — if only half of what he says about JSOC is correct, then everything you think about the Fourth of July might be in jeopardy — unless you think “freedom day” means that the “secret president,” Obama, has the freedom to fight a world-wide war on “terrorism” without any public knowledge, much less accountability. If that’s your idea of freedom, you are living in your preferred future.

The second movie was Gwen’s pick. I did not expect any America bashing from Disney. I just had gift card and nothing to lose. (I discovered we had used up the card at Tandoor, but we went anyway).

lone rangerI was surprised. The Lone Ranger: Ride for Justice (or more likely, The Lone Ranger: Jonny Depp Looking for a Franchise) [multiple reviews] is a pretty dumb, long movie — but that does not usually stop people from seeing what Jerry Bruckheimer is up to [personal fav]. This film has all the usual superhero formulas in it accomplished with trains and horses. But it also takes surprising swipes at all sorts of American conventions, pointedly noting how the Asians and Native Americans were mercilessly exploited in settling the Southwest (Monument Valley inexplicably standing in for Texas).

What surprised me most was one of the main themes of the engorged, lumbering plot. You will not likely see this film (and shouldn’t), so I will tell you. They keep asking the Lone Ranger, “What’s with the mask?” and Tonto, less frequently, “What’s with the bird?” Their answers have to do with their complicity with railroad barons killing and exploiting their way into silver country in order to buy the United States. That is a good theme to ponder while singing God Bless America!

It turns out that Tonto helped them find the silver and the dead bird he wears on his head is a sign of his grief and guilt. This makes him an outcast. Also, the Lone Ranger thought the rule of law would save the land and his mask is his recognition that the only appropriate response to the lying powers-that-be is to be an obvious outlaw. This makes him lone.

At one point the railroad man/silver magnate (also with a secret army) plummets off a destroyed bridge with his trainload of silver. The audience is treated to the vicarious satisfaction of the rich being destroyed. Wow! Happy July Fourth! Being complicit, grief-stricken, guilty, cast out and a bit lone are all appropriate ways to spend the national holiday, at least if Jesus is  any example. And He is.

I see no evidence that any of the prophecy being crammed into the media these days has any impact on the rulers or the general population. It is possible that presenting the truth by film blunts any actual human response. Movies artificially stimulate the brain and leave people doused with natural opiates [Bonus: Ted talk warning about kids and media]. Perhaps we all watched so many Power Ranger episodes as kids that we can’t keep our mind on the problems the prophets are noting — I did think both films kind of dragged, I must admit.

Maybe we can’t focus on what God says either. Too bad. Even the movies are echoing the Lord. As far as both these American-bashing movies go, this is what we should be listening to, over and over:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8

Can’t you just hear Jesus saying that? You can certainly see him doing it.

Exodus 15: God’s changeless love, intervention and development

We had a couple of perennial questions arise at our cell last week. We were reading Exodus 15, which is a great paean to victory. God intervenes on behalf of the escaping Israelites and drowns Pharaoh’s army in the sea — the women dance and sing.

When certain Old Testament tales are considered, three questions regularly arise:

1) You are always talking about love. The God of the Old Testament hardly looks universally loving. What’s with that?
2) A big change seems to have taken place between the Old and New Testaments, what am I to think about God and the Bible?
3) I’ve been taught that God never changes. If God has actually developed a new kind of love, isn’t that wrong?

Lately, it seems like I have become audacious enough to attempt answers to giant questions in a blog post. This is another of those attempts. I won’t get too far, but I want to stay in the dialogue.

Let’s talk about God’s love

What people call love these days is often social tolerance (“Love me, love Slovenia”) or consumer preference (“I love Cheetos. I am part of the Frito Lay community”). People think God loves like they do  and then get mad at him for being out of line. Given the way a lot of people think about “love” these days, when God intervenes in anyone’s life with any kind of judgment or strategy that seems WAY out of line.  So Exodus causes problems.

Intervention looks like intolerance. People might ask: “Why would God be on Israel’s side?  If the Pharaoh’s soldiers were just doing their jobs, why would God kill them for it?” Their questions are based on a “democratic” idea that love is protecting someone’s right to be themselves.

Intervention looks like a denial of choice.  People might ask, “Why would God get in the middle of people making their choices and be so domineering?”  Their questions are asked assuming everyone is a consumer following the invisible hand of the marketplace, not the personal hand of God.

We’re all about expertise and politcs, these days, but God’s passion for the redemption and health of creation is more complex than social and economic theories. His love is not subject to such theories. But that doesn’t mean we can’t understand him; God’s purposes are hardly secret. God is well known and her plans for humanity have even been written down for about 3000 years. His invitation to love has been consistent. Should she violate the most recent philosophy that has arisen to oppose him or debunk her, that would not be unusual.

If your issue is, specifically, how God’s love and Old Testament violence goes together, a nice piece on what God is doing in relation to all the violence in the Bible can be found here: http://fromhousetohouse.wordpress.com/war-in-the-old-testament-a-journey-toward-nonparticipation/

God in the Old and New Testament

Merely comparing and contrasting pieces of the Bible, is not listening very carefully to the Holy Spirit; it is more like Sesame St. characters trying to teach us that “one of these things is not like the other.” I think it is much better to think of the scripture in more relational terms. We should think of God as a parent, like Jesus does, not as an abstraction, like modern science might  (or like Greek philosophy, for that matter).  Then it is easier to understand how the scripture relates to us.

God is not a static thing, and human undeerstanding of how to relate to God is growing. Creation was designed to grow and change, and God is responding accordingly. The scripture notes all that movement and variation. Talking to different eras of the world, as scripture does, is like talking to different cultures today — Nigeria is not Thailand, but believers are having a fine time with God in both places. What’s more, you are probably reading this paragraph with a different emphasis than someone else. If we wrote down all the different emphases, that wouldn’t mean that I was different.  What is consistent, among many things,  from the beginning to the end in the Bible, is the theme of being freed from slavery to people, to sin and to death. That goal is fulfilled in Jesus — there is not a difference, but there is a development.

God is love. But God’s goals are not necessarily for everyone to feel loved. The creation is tested by sin and is facing death.  The goal is salvation. The need is redemption. We may often be like toddlers who need basic convincing that we are safe; I think the Lord is all for that. But we are designed to grow up into our fullness as embodied spirits, which includes seeing history as God sees it and finding our place in it. Seeing the Testaments as a flat study in character development rather than a testament of God’s work over thousands of years of history is too tiny. Testing the material to see whether God can be trusted, rather than seeing how God has shown his passion for us again and again, is too small.

Does God change?

Clark Pinnock wrote a controversial book not long ago that I liked. He debunked the Greekified notion that God is Aristotle’s unmoved mover. Instead he posited that God’s covenant with us made him the most-moved mover.  Relating to God as if he were an element on the periodic table is strange.

God’s character and goals are consistent. He actively, personally holds the universe together. He can and will create and end time as we know it. He has developed in relationship with us as a species as we have developed. He changed the universe when we were created, which changed his experience, as well. Reducing God to a predictable, changeless definition, rather than a living, generative Spirit, may be comforting in some small way, but it is not true enough.

These thoughts probably don’t go far enough, but I am convinced the Holy Spirit of God will enlighten us if we keep in dialogue with God and his people. In our Men’s meeting last night, we were talking about what wisdom we might have to offer to the next generation. We had a lot to think about. But one thing was for sure — this generation is passionately engaged with principles that are not revealed as God’s way; they are fairly ignorant about God’s cross-bound love. No matter how inadequate we feel to speak back to the onslaught of antichrist thinking, we need to stay in the dialogue, and pray. God will amplify what little wisdom we have. I hope this little bit helps with the development.

He had a shrine to death in his backyard

Pundits are working overtime on the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, and I certainly do not intend to become another one. But as a leader in the church, I think it is important to help people think through what is going on in the world.

Forced into privacy?

So often, these days, the church has a “private” sphere of existence to match the privatized faith of its members. Christians in the United States do not generally practice the conviction of Anabaptists and consciously stay separate from the godless ways of the world. They are more likely to be driven into privacy by the unacceptable nature of their “views” and the supposed irrelevance of their faith. That pressure is reinforced by legal and public-school teaching that faith is just a personal choice or preference and has no objective value.

I told the congregation last night that they may be increasingly called upon to have objective value in a society that is increasingly frayed at the edges. When the society is committed to domination by violence — as the U.S. has been for over a decade in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, when the policy of the government is to flood the country with guns in the name of “freedom” and “rights,” when the political discourse is about winning and not about the common good, where the police are increasingly militarized death dealers, expect the forces of evil to be more bold.

Will Loughner’s death worship wake up the powers?

I hope Jared Loughner’s attack results in some common sense governance. If the government bans hand guns and stops the revolving door treatment for mental patients that will be great. I am not anticipating the U.S. government to abandon deeply entrenched convictions, however.

As for the church, I hope the attack wakes us out of our general acquiescence to the spirit of the age, drives us out of our preoccupation with arguing about human rights and nonessentials, and convicts us to speak the truth in love to a fearful and endangered people. We followers of Jesus have a lot to say and demonstrate in relation to this attack to a population subject to death.

Loughner's shrine to deathApparently, alongside his other problems, Jared Loughner was religious. He had a shrine to death in his backyard, according to the Daily News. Police investigators had seen the symbols before. Parts of the media and Arizona Republicans are rushing to label Loughner in scientific terms as “unstable” and dampen down his ability to make a rational choice. That is likely to prove true. But along with being influenced by his psychological issues and the political maelstrom our leaders have created, he was apparently influenced by evil quite directly.

Lead us not into temptation

One of the main benefits I derive from being a Christian is that when I pray, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” I can expect a reply. Loughner was apparently praying the opposite. He had already given over to temptation and was assigned to deliver evil.

We won’t be able to overcome evil with evil, as is the general policy of the government and domination system. We won’t be able to overcome evil with scientific explanation – especially when the government won’t contribute enough to mental healthcare to respond to the explanations. We will have to overcome evil with good, or it will not be overcome.

That’s where we come in as followers of Jesus. The system dominates us and explains us away, too – and who knows when the millions of guns may be turned on us! But we have the response of God to our cries, seen in Jesus and resident in His Spirit, to help us receive good and to offer good. I hope this incident helps wake us up to how necessary we are.

Just owning our value as God’s co-workers makes a difference. Acting creatively to speak the truth in love in troubling times makes even more of a difference. Whether we have a cogent commentary to offer about current events or not, we can certainly tell our story about Jesus and the reality he has revealed to us. He said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

A Psalm for Memorial Day

A simple psalm to spur some thoughts of love on the day we mourn for all the people who have died from the lack of it. 

Even in the room with the wedding
there were conflicts worthy of a Memorial Day.
The wars of the world
are personal bad blood writ large
and the blood we carry
is the war in the world writ small.

So even on the weekend of remembrance
it is not dishonoring to remember
the wars in our souls,
even though no one may spill our blood
and the injuries we cause
are hidden, internal bleeding.

What shall be our memorial?
It can certainly start with Jesus
and that should lead away
from memorializing our wars:
the slight, the snub, the stolen power,
the theft, the hate, the wasted hour,
the stealth ill-will before which we cower.

We can choose better memories,
like Jesus choosing to forgive us.
And that could lead toward
memorializing our blessings:
the hug, the laugh, the spoken love,
the gift, the note, the look above,
the moments we feel we have enough.

The toxins we carry would like to marry
each moment, until each remembers them,
and a statue to war
is on each corner of our daily path
and the blood of Jesus
is an unused way, a memory.

Afghan War Anniversary

At least someone was out on the streets on the anniversary of the Afghan War yesterday.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/100709_protest_marks_afghan_war_anniversary

In the past few years, it has been fascinating to watch the country be muzzled by the new “no news” news which makes every issue a postmodern discussion of equal, red state/blue state opinions. More and more people now get their news from random internet sources who all have a point to push. Dialogue is dead. Everything is marketing.  

Meanwhile there was nary a peep of outrage around here yesterday, on the anniversary of the Afghan war — no lament over the fact that the government is still pouring billions of wasted dollars into the war and still wasting lives in their hopeless cause of domination. I am feeling sorry for Obama, since the previous regime alienated everyone who might have helped (like Iran, Russia, China) and decided we had enough wealth, power and the all-important juevos to fight a perpetual war on terror on our own. They propped up a fake, corrupt “democracy” (again)  and decided the dirt farmers of the Afghan hills would cower before their faceless weapons. Now what does a president do? A fabulous lack of wisdom, a tremendous act of godlessness (in the name of all that is good, of course) is hard to follow.

My sympathy notwithstanding, I am feeling a bit Jeremiah today, as my prayer book lead me to chapter 6:

I appointed watchmen over you and said,
`Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, `We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, O nations;
observe, O witnesses,  what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth:  I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words

While I do not think we have responsibility for what the country does, no matter how many times they try to convince us that this is a democracy in some remote representative way, I DO think the people of God have a responsibility to tell others to “listen to the trumpet” and to blow it ourselves at appropriate moments of dire warning. I find it kind of scary when we don’t seem to be “feeling it.”

I suggest we take off our muzzles, slough off our apathy, renew our resentment of godless domination, stoke our concern for people languishing in ignorance of God and their plight, and make sure (at least!) to say a few words of outrage to people who need to hear them today. It might be a good idea to remind a few people that our government has sent soldiers to Afghanistan for eight fruitless years, now; and they are still adventuring in Iraq. Politically, it is disastrous; spiritually, it is hard (even on our least-Jeremiah-like day) to even imagine a connection to Jesus.