Here are my thoughts for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost.
In many ways, 1969 was not a good year for me. Not only was I having difficulty in college but I was getting into trouble with my family with regards to my developing political beliefs. First there was the card that I passed around my Sunday School class during a visit home.
The card was a version of the statement by the Greek historian Herodotus that “in peace, children bury their parents. War violates the order of nature because it causes parents to bury their children.” At a time when the majority of my classmates and their parents were still supporting the Viet Nam war and military service was still an honorable profession, such an attitude was not a popular one to have.
Then there was the necklace that I gave my mother for Mother’s Day that year. It was a necklace from “Another Mother For Peace” and read “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” Though my mother accepted it as a gift from her oldest son, she was not thrilled that I would be thinking in those terms. Interestingly enough, some thirty-seven years after the fact, this same group is still active and has its own web site, http://www.anothermother.org/index.html.
We still haven’t learned what war is about or what it actually accomplishes. We will learn that the world is turned upside-down, filled with tragedy, impious, unethical, and terrible when we choose the path of war. (1)
The Old Testament reading for today (2) is David’s lament on the loss of Saul and Jonathan in war. I don’t believe that this passage supports war but rather argues against war, for how can a nation be successful in any endeavor when its young and its leaders are killed in the process of war? Should we remember what Robert E. Lee, on observing the carnage, death and destruction at Fredericksburg, VA, said, “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow fond of it.”
There really can never be a justification for war. Too often we use wars as a means of equalizing things or solely for the oppression of other peoples and nations. Never is the outcome of war good for those who are the defeated will never truly accept their defeat.
Yes, there are things that come out of war that benefit mankind. The use of the helicopter in the Korean and the Viet Nam wars allowed trauma medicine to develop where injuries that were once life-threatening now are treated rapidly and with less loss of life. It is possible that hospitals in this country and around the world would have discovered the use of the helicopter for medical transportation without war but war only hastened its use.
The use of nuclear reactors for power generation came about because of the research on the atomic bomb. But we do not use nuclear power in this country as we could and should because we fear the terrorist who might try to destroy the reactor. And we are not willing to give up our cheap coal, oil, and gasoline in face of the price of managing nuclear wastes.
War is just another way we seek the resources and the benefits of society while denying others the same resources and benefits. We crowd around Jesus seeking his attention and wondrous touch. But as we crowd around Him, we prevent others from doing so as well. Fortunately, Jesus knows who is seeking Him and He is aware of those who seek to briefly touch His cloak. (3)
But how many people in this world do not have the opportunity or the wherewithal that the woman in the crowd had? Too many times countries that are denied resources seek those resources through war because the countries with the resources are not willing to share. But Paul points out that those who have the resources should work with those who do not have the resources. (4) As he points out to the Corinthians, our giving leads to more abundance for us all.
But are we willing to give so that others have what we have? If we are not, then we will be denying the very act of Christ whose act of sacrifice insured that we would gain. What do we gain through war?
War gives us nothing yet takes away everything. We willingly send our young people off to war in the hopes that they will come home. Maybe, just maybe, many years ago war had an outcome that was best for all but that would have been before mankind was around. What good comes out of war? Why do we even think of war as a first option?
Should we instead give up the study of war and begin, not the study of peace, but rather that act of peace? Should we follow the lead of Christ who gave of Himself so that all can share in the rewards? Maybe we should remember the words of the old spiritual to gather down by the riverside, lay down our swords and guns, and study war no more?
Adapted from http://www.umilta.net/trojanwomen.html
(2) 2 Samuel1: 1, 17 – 27
(3) Mark 5: 21 – 43
(4) 2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15