Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honouring Veterans with a War on War

Every year at this time I think about war and remembrance, about my grandparents and WWII, about those who gave of their lives to put themselves in harm's way, about those who died so doing, and about those who survived but were never the same. I tremble at the thought of being put in their situation and I am thankful for them. The holocaust is enough of a stain on our past, I can't imagine if it hadn't been opposed.

That said, this time of year I am also conflicted, because I also want to remember that war is the evil result of our failings as a human society. As my past musings on this topic indicate, I am undecided of a position regarding war. Clearly, however, the base Christian posture is opposition to violence that takes the form of a preference to die before killing another.

Obviously, the conditions of war are complicated. I am open to the possibility that war of some kind is sometimes a necessary evil, but it is full of evils even then. From all accounts even the purest of soldiers, the most self-giving of martyrs, spends the rest of their lives wrestling with this ugly reality. This may sound like an unappreciative or even a condemning sentiment toward those in the military. Far from. I think in every generation we all share this complicity in one way or another and have to face these facts as well. And so in the case of the wars fought in the past I think we can remember, and honour, and be thankful for, our country's veterans precisely by remembering along with them the horrors they faced, and by working for a just peace whatever way we can.

But when it comes to describing the ideal nature of that work, Revelation 5 comes to mind as the appropriate metaphor. When the martyrs and saints and angels gather around the throne in the Kingdom of heaven they hear of a lion and see a lamb that was slain by and for the sins of others.

There are different kinds of martyrdom, of course, but the kind commended to us by Christ is in line with "considering others before ourselves," and I think it means trying to take the cost upon ourselves before it should come upon another. I can't be sure what they meant when they wrote it, but I'm thinking of this Wilco song today: "Its a war on war" and for this war to be won "you have to lose, you have to learn how to die." We still have a lot to learn from those who have done just that, but who would have hoped their war was the last. We honour them best by working for just peace; a preemptive war on war.

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