In last week's Journey with Jesus blog post, Dr. David Clendinin wrote:
The fourth of July will see many jet fly-overs at parades and baseball games. I find these displays of military might technologically awesome but morally repulsive.
His article went on to ponder the nature of war, its effects on the human spirit and the obligation of the church to proclaim the peace of the Gospel.
Reading this piece reconnected me with my ambivalence about the United States Military. I grew up in Spring Lake, North Carolina. Our town was bordered on the east by (what was then) Pope Air Force Base; it was bordered on the south and east by Fort Bragg Army Base. My family was full of men and then women who served in the Army and Air Force, not because they were interested in war mongering, but because they wanted to further their educations, feed their families and travel the world; serving their country seemed like a good way to accomplish all of that.
I have fond memories of growing up in a military town. My world was far more multicultural that most small town girls'. My neighbors spoke German and Japanese. Our public schools were top notch and exceedingly diverse. My class pictures show a rainbow of hues from ethnic combinations the likes of which I've not seen since leaving (e.g. Thai-Mexican, African-American-Taiwanese, Scotch-Irish-Panamanian-Korean). The culture was tight and appreciation for the freedoms of the United States of America expected. We were taught early on: no matter what our country gets wrong, what it gets right is worth fighting and even dying for.
Still, it is hard to overlook what our country has gotten wrong. And it is hard to overlook the horrors endured by those who have pledged their lives to "defend" it. It has taken years for the African-American veterans of WWII to receive the honor they deserved. And as I talk to my relatives about their difficulties (the time spent fighting in Vietnam, the difficulties of being a woman in the most macho of worlds, friends lost in service and in suicide, my picture of military life acquires much darker hues. While there is pride, honor, and valor, there is also sacrifice, pain and death in a soldier's life.
Living with 2 Samuel, it is hard to miss the exorbitant price of maintaining the empire. The price is paid with blood and war, with conquest and victim. If we the people of God are to be people of peace, we cannot procure that peace by being the one with the biggest club (bomb, or military). Real peace doesn't come from war; it comes from God. Real peace means trusting in God's might more than our own
As I watched 4th of July fireworks with my children, I experienced my usual ambivalence about my country and its economic and military might. I have seen the numbers. From the Revolution to Afghanistan about 1.5 million Americans have died in war (militaryfactory.com). And we haven't counted the victims or the collateral damage. And we haven't counted the dollars spent that could have been used to improve education and poverty levels. War is expensive. And I am clear that war is death. I wish I could be as clear as Dr. Clendinin in my feelings about my country and its military. But on July 4th I found myself missing the flyovers.
(For more of Dr. Clendinin visitwww.journeywithjesus.net.)