Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When Men Become Expendable – Part Four


"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." Luke 6:35

"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Matthew 24:7

I’d like to preface this part of the series with the fact that I don’t believe it’s accidental that this part is being posted on Veterans Day. I did not plan it that way at all as this article was written in its entirety a couple weeks ago. Perhaps some will feel that posting such an article on this patriotic holiday is in poor taste. Please understand, the issue is not who is patriotic or not – it is much deeper. What is within the next paragraphs in no way overlooks or takes for granted what so many have sacrificed and gave their lives for. However, the issue is why? For what? Does it fit the calling to set up the Kingdom of God that has nothing to do with kingdoms of men?

If what I've brought up so far has brought any sort of offense in you to the surface, you'd better buckle up because this next topic is much more likely to rub many the wrong way. This subject is a broad one and I will only barely even scratch the surface here.

What about all of these wars that the US fights in the name of God? We're blasted with all of the images melding Christianity and war. The Cross of Christ overlaying American flags, "God Bless Our Troops" as they go off to fight in wars that they don't even understand. Sermons and hit "Christian" songs that praise this great nation as self-proclaimed crusaders for God abound. So many are riddled with a patriotism that states that God is somehow pleased with our slaughtering of one another all over the globe. We fly in, kill, get the leaders to kneel to us and we leave - all in the name of freedom. And this somehow is equated with God as people stand and cry over fighter jets flying over as "God Bless America" blares over the sound system. I, in all honestly, do not understand this whatsoever. I have tried and tried but just cannot justify it and connect the two.

I understand that people get all warm and fuzzy about it all, but I urge you, before you get all riled up, step back and look at it from a kingdom of God standpoint and please explain to me how this fits any godly agenda. We've been duped to believe that this somehow "Christianizes" other countries or something if America goes and establishes "order". It's all about us getting what we want – period (oil anyone?). If it were about the "innocent civilians" that need our help, then why aren't we in all of the other third world countries raging wars against the regimes bent on slaughtering entire villages in one week's time? Because what would a place like Rwanda have to offer us? Nothing. So let's let some people make some commercials that guilt us into sending them some lunch money now and then. I'll turn the spotlight on me for a moment. Why aren't I doing all that I can to aid in the feeding of the starving and clothing of the naked? Why do I have a refrigerator full of food that may or may not even be eaten before it expires? Because I'm too often self-centered and too often see my own need first. This must change.

One of the most frustrating things to me personally is how we rally as a nation to send innocent young men and women into battle in order to further an agenda that they have nothing to do with. Over the last five years, I have developed a dear relationship with a Vietnam veteran. Each and every time I have ever got together with him, without one exception, he brings up his experiences there. What he has seen, done and carried with him for the past forty years is far from patriotic. There were no hymns playing and flags waving beautifully in the wind in the war that he lived. You see, that's all for show for you and I back here in our comfy living rooms. What did he experience in the name of patriotism and justice? Holding comrades as they bled to death in his arms, women and children pulled from grass homes and slaughtered, arms being blown off by enemy gunfire, stacks of bodies of the fallen… I could go on for hours and barely explain what he has told me over the years. Please, anyone tell me what my God has to do with any of this! Please! Explain to me how the things that have tortured this man since he was twenty years old had anything to do with carrying out the will of the LORD as a "Christian" nation! We have somehow justified whatever we (the US) want to do as righteous and some high calling that God somehow approves of. Who decides this? Who is it that hears the LORD give such commands? It must be some personal revelation because the Bible that I study instructs me to live much differently. Of course verses are thrown around that the LORD spoke to Israel in the times of the Old Testament. But I have a news flash, the US is not the Israel of the Bible and therefore using these types of passages to justify "defeating our enemies" is pure hogwash and complete misuse of the Scriptures! (GW Bush was the best at this in recent years.)

So if people want to throw up images on "church" big screens that have verses overlaying images of war, perhaps they should look into the teachings of Jesus. What do we do with Scriptures that say we're to "overcome evil with good" or "bless those who persecute us"? What about "don't repay evil for evil" or the simple, yet somehow discarded as childish and impractical, "love your enemies"? Instead we misuse the Word of God and use verses that have nothing to do with the US as some executive order from God to America – conquer the world and annihilate your enemies! It is not justified and this country has no more right to stand up and declare itself as "God's nation" than any other, outside of Israel.

To me the deeper issue is, in light of what the Word of God tells us, why do we want to kill our enemies? It absolutely opposes the kingdom of God mindset and order!

So much of this warring that the US leads across this globe is seemingly all about the furthering of this form-of-godliness Nation, placing its stake on more and more property in the name of doing global good. It's nonsense and it places no value in human lives. The civilians? Expendable. They're just the innocent bystander of an ugly situation. The enemy soldiers? They're not like us, right? They're just animals – ruthless tyrants who, in our arrogant minds, somehow deserve to die… in the name of freedom of course. Our own soldiers? Well, it's just their duty - a sacrifice that must be made. We'll tie some ribbons on trees and make sure their bodies get counted for the nightly news reports. I ask, for what? The ones we label as "evil terrorists" or "oppositions of peace" are living and breathing people with souls just like you and I. The men and women, who daily wake up to fight and do as their countries tell them have value, they have purpose, they have life – they are all, no matter what “side” they are on, all men and women created in the image of God. They are not expendable.

The conclusion will be posted Friday.


Shawn said...

You know, when I started reading this, on veterans day nonetheless, I started getting kind of angry... at you. But I can't seem to ignore the many verses that I know that oppose the apporach that the US has regarding war and violence against other nations. Do you personally think that one could ever be a Christian and serve in the military? It would seem tough.

Joel Spencer said...

Shawn: While I do support our troops as they go out, condoning why is an entirely different issue. In my generation, few join the military to go overseas and kill. They get schooling paid for, they receive training and gain skills to use in the "civilian" workplace. While I understand that this is not true for everyone who joins the military, I would assume that, for the majority, it is the case.

Again, I want to delve into the deeper issue - should we, at any time, under any circumstance, kill another man?

Self-defense, justifiable or otherwise, is it what one who lives as Christ is to do? Of course you could throw "what if someone was trying to kill your wife?" scenarios and such, but it seems to me that a commandment is a commandment. We do this with practially everything - we attempt to "bend the rules" and justify our breaking the laws of God with our "yea, but's".

To answer your question directly, of course one could be a Christian and be in the military. However, one who is truly adhering to the teachings of Christ must surely have a rough time when confronted with taking the life of another man made in the image of God. I would hate to have to decide between God or country. I choose God.

Great question!