Monday, May 26, 2014


The Good News from Jesus that we strain not to hear—loving, and killing, your enemies are completely incompatible.   Everything that Jesus does and says proclaims God’s love is unconditional and nonviolent, and ours is to be the same.  This is particularly hard to bring to mind and acknowledge, when we are celebrating the real courage of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, or when a country is under threat and being marshaled towards impending wars. 

Saying attributed to Osama Bin Laden -- Not the Gospel, but should be an admonition to us all.
Art work by Jack Comstock

Yet to fight and kill for God and country are not the Way of Jesus, and His courage went to the cross, death and Resurrection—showing us the only method to truly conquer evil.  There have been many who’ve risked their lives under threat of death, to struggle for what is right, without taking up arms.  During World War II many, yet not enough, refused to fight for Hitler, or resisted his persecution of the Jews.   A significant number of these moral heroes paid with their lives, for not being willing to kill for the cause, or turn over others to be killed.  I hope to write more of their stories in the coming years.
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, d. Aug 9, 1943

Otto Schimek  d. Nov. 14, 1944

Some people overseas [their side and ours], and here in the U.S., were not willing to fully enter the hell of war.  The last U.S. soldier executed for desertion, and refusal to follow orders, was Eddie Slovik of Detroit, in France on Jan. 31, 1945.   His story is well worth reading, and viewing [more references below].

There were a few conscientious objectors in the U.S. also, who because of their faith conviction not to be trained in violence, were sent to prison.  A great many of our soldiers in World War II, 75% in a study [apparently more anecdotal than statistical] by General S.L.A Marshall the army's official WWII combat historian, admitted to firing their guns over the heads and inaccurately at the enemy.  Although specific records weren't kept, the conclusion was that even in the midst of battlefield chaos, soldiers did not want to kill their foe when they could see them--fellow human beings.  Focused efforts have resulted since, to include dehumanization of the enemy in combat soldier training.

We are told in the Gospels not to judge individuals.  This is very important.  But we must come to recognize what constitutes Christian courage, what are we striving to live up to, as we move towards the heavenly kingdom.   Can we find the way to be soldiers of Christ who fight evil by every courageous means that does not employ violence, taking the risk of loving enemies -- or do we further invest in our modern system of trained warriors embedded in an industry of war that often uses and discards them?

From the final words of last week’s Gospel {and John Pilch in his commentary, The Cultural World of Jesus, cycle A}  ---
“ ‘The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…’ John 14: 12   The works of Jesus are the works of God: to give life, and to restore meaning to life or enrich life’s meaning.  Already at creation God called us to take dominion over evolution {‘to till the garden and keep it,’ Gen 1:26-28}.
       This is our challenge to engage in life-giving activities rather than death-dealing ones.”

You can’t hug your children with nuclear arms, nor truly protect them with any weapon.   Let’s remember on Memorial Day, God’s call, so difficult for us raised amidst the world’s most advanced war technology, to put away the sword.

Deserter's execution remains vivid for Whitehall man – Pittsburgh Tribune
The Example Of Private Slovik – The American Heritage Magazine
The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) – TV film starring Martin Sheen

No comments:

Post a Comment