Study War No More

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,

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

(2) 2 Samuel1: 1, 17 – 27

(3) Mark 5: 21 – 43

(4) 2 Corinthians 8: 7 – 15

15 thoughts on “Study War No More

  1. I agree totally with you. But sometimes, when I defend this position I’m asked by people how do I propose we respond to attacks on us, genocide, holocaust, and other atrocities. Do we maintain peace with these countries which are killing us and others? I’d be interested in your reply, for my own personal understanding. Thanks.

  2. For Richard,
    I will be adding more to the notion of how to maintain peace with my posting for 16 July. This will be a sermon that I am giving at Holmes UMC.

    For John,
    You are possibly correct but why did we allow such “-isms” to even develop? Should we not have done things which prevent war, not simply wait until they occur and then fight them?

  3. … when military service was still an honorable profession …

    Sir – I am a uniformed member of the armed forces. Are you impugning my honor?

  4. For M. Lewis,
    Those who have read my blogs know that I am the son of a career Air Force officer and the grandson of a career Army officer. I hold those who serve in our Armed Services in the highest regard. But in 1969, my view of the military as a profession that one could follow changed. Despite my family background, I felt then that joining the Air Force was no longer a viable option. Hence, my implication that military service was no longer an honorable profession.

    It seems to me that those civilians who guided our armed forces during the Viet Nam war and those who are guiding it now have perverted the role of the military, changing it from defenders of freedom to enforcers of ego-centric political and economic objectives.

  5. Since I received my commission in 1990, I take it then that you believe my service has been dishonorable.

    It’s funny that we’ve taken different paths. In 1969 I still had a bucket of Eugene McCarthy buttons in my drawer at home. Through the 70s I had pictures of the Berrigan brothes on my wall. In the early 80s I attended SANE-Freeze meetings and learned from Clergy and Laity Concerned how to coach draft registration resisters to lie.

    I eventually decided that Christians must be participate in both military and poice forces. While such forces are sometimes misused or misled, they are necessary in this world. Chrisitans can’t sit back, enjoy the fruits of an orderly society and leave the morally repugnant dirty-work to someone else. If someone needs to do it, Christians need to do it. Hopefully we can add a little salt and light to a world that can get ugly. That’s not to say that we can make war pretty. It’s not.

    In our society, the government is you and 300 million of your neighbors. You decide how we are used. My brothers and sisters in arms are paying a great price to serve the people of this nation and uphold the highest and best of its values. Please don’t spit on us.

  6. You are possibly correct but why did we allow such “-isms” to even develop? Should we not have done things which prevent war, not simply wait until they occur and then fight them?

    Sure, that would be great, Tony. But if it’s 1939 and the Nazis are rolling across your border, what do you do? Just keep saying that you should have done something sooner? That’ll be a big help.

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