Yesterday was Memorial Day. I spent it doing chores around the house, eating comfort food and generally lounging about. I did not visit a cemetery, see a parade or fly an American flag. I don’t even own an American flag. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I am an American. Life is hard enough – imagine growing up in any number of countries where some of the basic things we take for granted (amenities, freedoms, opportunities) are luxuries at best and often completely unavailable. I wouldn’t say I’m proud to be an American. Pride is so universal, so while I am proud of some things Americans do and have done, there are other things I would rather not be associated with.
My dad is a veteran. My grandfathers were both veterans. My mom’s dad was a POW in Germany. I respect their service. My dad was drafted, and I am proud of him for fulfilling his obligation as an American male. Had I been drafted, I would have done the same.
I don’t believe we should be rid of the military. John the Baptist doesn’t tell the soldiers in Luke 3 that to repent, they must leave the military. This leaves some assumption you can live a godly life and be in the military. In Romans 13, Paul seems to grant that governments can use force to restrain or punish evil and that by doing so, they are a minister of God.
That said, I don’t at all believe that participating in war will lead to peace. I believe the only freedom it secures is tenuous and limited to a narrow point of view.
In spite of some propaganda to the contrary, I don’t believe there is any Christian agenda left in the American government, so defining “evil” gets complicated when we go to restrain or punish it. I fear that some of the agendas existing in the American government have made us and will continue to make us the perpetrators of evil (but that is for a whole different blog post for another day).
I just don’t know how to appropriately celebrate a day that is set aside to remember the deaths of (mostly) young men far from home. Celebrate seems like a terrible word when we are talking about the loss of fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, friends.
I long for a time when Memorial Day is unnecessary. I long for time when there is no war. I long for there to be no necessity to restrain or punish evil.
I long for a time where individually and institutionally, we view others as image bearers of God, even those who oppose us.
Next year, and throughout the year, I will be praying for those who have lost people to war and doing my best to love and comfort them in their grief. I will be praying for those who perpetrate evil that they would know what love is and turn away from evil. When or if I encounter someone set on evil, I will do my best to show them and tell them what grace is.
I will continue to be unprepared for violence. I will continue to turn my cheek, walk an extra mile and give away my coat.
I will continue to long for the day when there is no violence, no evil, no war, and no Memorial Day. I await the day when every tear is wiped away and there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain.