A Sleepless Night and a Gentle and Powerful Morning Reminder

In Matthew 19 Jesus welcomes little children to himself, (gently) touches them and prays over them. The disciples, in contrast, seem too stern and busy to feel the is important kingdom work. The story tells us:

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

It is easy to rebuke the disciples in this story. But perhaps we have this wrong. Could it be that love made them desire to protect Jesus and seeing he was tired and drained (they had seen multiple miracles of healing, great teaching, etc.). It is likely they were concerned for his well-being. After all, he was now talking about a cross, which puzzled them. I think the tension in his heart and mind would have been evident to men so close to him day-by-day. It would thus be normal to think that at this time little children were a  bit of a bother. William Barclay rightly says, “We must not think of the disciples as rough and hard and stern; we must not condemn them.”
But the real point of the story is Jesus. He was plainly the kind of man that children loved. The famous Scottish writer George MacDonald, one of my favorite souls in the history of the church, said that no person could be a follower of Jesus “if children were afraid to play at their door.” The point he makes is rather basic I think. Jesus does not see any person, man or woman, young or old, as unimportant or not worth his time and interest. No one was a nuisance to him, no one. Doesn’t that encourage you friend? It does me. I laid awake last night and had a restless time. I found my mind racing over many, many faults in my sixty-eight years of life. I felt a deep sense of anguish and loss. I had a long list of ways in which I have failed the Master. I even experienced some condemnation. It was not fun, to say the least.

William Barclay says something about this passage that I needed this morning:

“There is a strange difference between Jesus and many a famous preacher or evangelist. It is often next door to impossible to get into the presence of one of these famous ones at all. They have a kind of retinue and bodyguard which keep the public away lest the great man be wearied and bothered. Jesus was the opposite of that. They way to the presence of Jesus is open to the humblest person and to the youngest child” (The Gospel of Mathew, Volume 2, page 234).

Jesus concluded by saying these children were closer to God than anyone else. Why? The simplicity of the child keeps them near to God. It is a tragedy of age that we so often grow away from God, or feel ourselves unworthy of being close to Jesus. This morning I sought to recall to mind the mercies of God from the earliest years of my life. I am tired after a hard night’s unrest but I am refreshed in knowing he draws near to those who humble themselves like little children and come to him. “Lord, I come!”

How Does Jesus Speak to Our Modern Religious and Social Context?

I am currently reading, rather slowly I confess, through the Gospel of Mark. It is a fast-paced narrative a rooted in oral tradition, something easily forgotten by modern readers. At the beginning of the second century CE this Gospel was affirmed in several texts as the work of Mark. It was also attributed to Peter, who was his companion. Because this writing was based on oral texts it was rooted in stories about Jesus passed around from community to community. But Mark wrote for a definite type of community: Christians of non-Jewish and pagan origin. He desire is to show them the mystery and glory of Jesus. His way of doing this is to relate the words and deeds by which Jesus revealed himself as the “Son of God” to humankind.

Mark’s Gospel does not include an infancy narrative nor does it relate Jesus to Jewish scripture or tradition the way Matthew does. It begins: “This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Boom! Here it is: the good news of Jesus!

The writer then makes a reference to Isaiah 40:3 and speaks briefly of John the Baptist. Then, almost immediately, he introduces us to Jesus and his first disciples.

Today I read Mark 3 in my morning hours. Jesus cures a man with a withered hand in the story we read in the first six verses. The point, however, is not the healing of this man but the issue of the sabbath. Chapter 2 had just ended with this verse (28): “So the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.” To prove this is true Mark relates this healing story. Mark says that Jesus asked the crowd if “good deeds” can be done on the sabbath? No one would answer. They knew the religious leaders were listening and watching very carefully. Mark then gets to his primary point: “Jesus was angry as he looked around at the people. Yet he felt sorry for them because they were so stubborn” (3:5). The story concludes with the Pharisees leaving in order to “start making plans with Herod’s followers to kill Jesus” (3:6). Mark thus tell us very early in his story that Jesus would likely be killed for his provocative actions and claims to be “Lord of the sabbath.”

The Pharisees considered it lawful to work on the sabbath if it was a question of saving someone in danger. Jesus is pushing this understanding beyond their comfortable norms and saying that for him to not do good is to do evil. To not cure this man is to not love and thus to be indifferent, uncaring, even evil. As I read this I thought of the modern social order of the West. Jesus did not denounce a particular social form or ideology, such as socialism or capitalism. (Frankly, neither one is addressed by Jesus in any obvious way!) What he did denounce was human prejudice, especially the kind of prejudice that prevents us from giving and doing good for those in need. I can expand this to say that he denounced the kind of choices that would prevent the world from becoming a better and more just order. 

People often have the means and capacity to better their condition, if leaders will allow and promote it. The problem is that leaders often refuse to positively help others, or they passively hold back those who need help from outside sources. Thus leaders remain the prisoners of their principles (albeit religious ones) and politics, refusing to practically help others in great need. They debate “sacred” social and political ideals while they miss the multitudes left in great difficulty. They would rather win a political debate than make a human difference.

I personally believe in free markets and community-based expressions of compassion. For me they are both right. (I do not arrive at this position by proof-texting from the Bible though I think we can draw help on these matters from scripture.) I also believe genuine human freedom will allow people to develop their skills, sell what they make and by this transaction earn a fair profit. In turn, this will create jobs and can lift people. If you want proof of this claim go to China or India and see for yourself. But markets without compassion, and the freedom that seeks common solutions that go beyond strict human ideologies, will always be barren. We must learn from Jesus that rules and regulations, as well as our carefully developed ideologies, may actually keep us from serving those who are in the greatest need. This is why, for example, I do not want to see the United States adopt a health care program that denies Medicaid assistance to those who need it. We are talking about real lives and real people here. These people are quite often in real need, just like the man with the paralyzed hand in Mark 3. The “Lord of the sabbath” has freed us to do good, not evil. We are especially free from those religious principles, that are part of our human traditions, which keep us from “doing good to all mankind.”

War: The Most Dreaded Enemy of Liberty

During the course of my lifetime (b. 1949) America has fought many wars. In fact, we have been engaged in foreign struggles and combat for almost the entirety of my lifetime, with the exception of the four years of President Carter’s administration (1977-1981). This simple fact got me to thinking recently about an anniversary of a historic document in American history that is 222 years old tomorrow, April 20.

This statement goes as follows:

 

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both.

No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Those truths are well established. They are read in every page which records the progression from a less arbitrary to a more arbitrary government, or the transition from a popular government to an aristocracy or a monarchy.

It must be evident, then, that in the same degree as the friends of the propositions were jealous of armies, and debts, and prerogative, as dangerous to a republican Constitution, they must have been averse to war, as favorable to armies and debts and prerogative.

War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it.

In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.

The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

James Madison, April 20, 1795

How Could Tyranny Destroy Our Democracy?

Political scientists and historians are increasingly expressing profound concerns about the future of democracy in the West. I have been asking, as an amateur historian of America, “How and why do democracies die?”

The study of democratic backsliding, though around for a long time, is becoming more urgent as we watch events unfold so rapidly it creates deep concern in many of us. In the mid-2000s, the global spread of democracy, after 200 years of expansion, clearly began to stall. Perhaps it was the Iraq War and the events in the Middle East but however we understand what happened since 9/11 populist movements in the West began to arise and grow in number. This new form of Western populism, joined with a growing passion for nationalism and a seriously distorted form of exceptionalism, are now impacting America on a daily basis. This feels a lot like something we’ve seen before, in other places, but I do not think mosts of us are paying attention.

This new expression of Western populism bears more than a passing resemblance to Latin American populist waves that turned authoritarian very quickly. (Perhaps this is why Pope Francis is so open about his warnings to the West!) One columnist wrote today, “The warning signs for Western democracy are flashing red!” At the risk of being the little boy who cried wolf day-after-day, I profoundly agree with this concern.

Over the weekend I watched Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, make some bold and fearless connections between the history of the 1930s in Europe and modern American history in 2017. Snyder is the author of a new (readable and small) book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Random House, 2017). In this book professor Snyder lays out twenty simple, short, readable warnings about how we can lose our democracy to tyranny. He says it can happen so fast we may not even realize it when it comes. If we, for example, saw another economic collapse then the likelihood of tyranny is much, much higher. (Start reading your dusty copies of Arendt, Orwell and other similar writers.) Of the twenty lessons Snyder gives here is but one:

Be alert to the use of the words extremism and terrorism. Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary. 

Since 9/11 the constant threat of extremism and terrorism has so gripped our nation that some of the most faithful Christians among us are terrified. They seem focused on this as the gravest danger of all to the church. Not so! The gravest external danger, especially for Christians, is the use of patriotic vocabulary with our Christian vocabulary and then the simple equation of American exceptionalism with the real progress of God’s kingdom. (Read my sentence again, slowly.) Why do I make this argument? Because I have read Dietrich Bonhoeffer for fifty years and he saw this happening in Germany and understood it with remarkable insight. We are NOT Germany but the same forces can arise here and the same patterns can emerge. One key is to see how we speak and debate our current time. This Snyder’s “Lesson Seventeen” above.

I have said again and again I am not deeply partisan about supporting one of our two political parties. I do not think they are as different as most think they are. In fact, the only “wild card” in the last election cycle was Donald Trump. (Who knows what his “real” party interest is since he has no clear ideology?) What I do think is this – people feel voiceless and besieged on many fronts and they want change. They did not carefully consider, since they hardly ever do, what this change would do to them but they wanted change more than leadership and character. At their core they wanted to be protected because they were losing their jobs and/or they feared they would die in a terrorist episode. For Christians they bought the narrative since the 1950s that the pagans were stealing their country from them and they honestly hoped Trump would take it back and thus “Make America Great Again!” (It is highly unlikely that within the U.S. terrorism will be the cause of your death. In America, more people will die this week from opioid abuse than will die in the next year from terrorism!)

Our Founding Fathers tried to protect us from threats they profoundly understood. They knew that tyranny had historically defeated democracy, as far back as ancient Greece. This is why they gave us a constitutional republic. That republic has now lasted longer than any such government in history. Is it’s future guaranteed? The founders knew better than to assume a positive answer. They deeply feared that we would lose the republic when we no longer understood it or saw see how to protect it. I think we face a time when we understand our republic less than at any previous time in history. The continued moral breakdown of our culture is a factor but it is naive too think that this is the singular factor, as many pietistic conservatives think. Snyder is right, “We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.” I earnestly pray: “God in heaven, may it be so.” A nation that will not humble itself and learn will fall from within. In the 1950s I listened to communists tell us “America would fall from within.” I think they understood this danger better than everyday Americans did then or now. Nikita Krushchev once said “We will bury you.” He was wrong. But he also said we would “bury” ourselves. He could be proven right on this front. Will we preserve our way of life politically? The jury is considering the outcome now. It is too soon to tell. May God grant us wisdom to know what is just, good and right. Micah 6:8 somehow seems to apply more than ever.

Pondering the Syrian Context on the Day After Our Nation Launched Fifty Tomahawk Missiles

Late late night I read the first news reports of our president’s authorization of the launch of fifty missiles on Syrian air bases. (He warned the Russians in advance so their soldiers would leave, wanting to avoid a direct conflict with Russia.) It appears this morning that we hit military targets and human casualties will be small, perhaps even none. The reason for this attack was the outrage felt by our nation, and our president, upon seeing the helpless children who had died at the hands of President Assad through the use of chemical weapons. (Of course, Assad is denying he was behind this and blames the rebellion for the use of such weapons.)

I am deeply troubled by these events. Let me explain why.

Is this strike a one-time military action? If not, what is our strategy going forward? If there is “no red line” that Assad can cross to lead us into a “hot war” with him (which Mr. Trump promised for months he would not do) then why did these photos of dead children prompt this response and why now? Is there a policy for follow-up? As I understand the military the development of “war games” scenarios are routine. Military options are always on the table for every president to ponder. So, in all fairness, the president decides that something must be done and the military gives him his options and he seeks the counsel of his advisors and then uses his power to choose one of the options.

Why am I concerned? Assad is an evil man and has killed his own people. He has also used chemical weapons before this week. This civil war was has been ongoing since 2011. During the so-called “Arab Spring” Syrian opposition groups, allied against President Assad, formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and seized control of the area surrounding Aleppo and parts of southern Syria. Over time, several factions split from their original moderate position to pursue an Islamist vision for Syria. In 2015, the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) joined forces with Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, and some Turkmen groups, to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, while most of the Turkmen groups remained with the FSA. Both Russia and Hezbollah engaged militarily in support of the Syrian government. In 2014, a coalition of NATO countries began launching airstrikes against what is called ISIS or ISIL. Turkey, and others, still lobby for airspace that is free of Syrian planes. President Trump has been focused on forging an alliance with Russia, and others, for the purpose of defeating ISIS inside Syria, at least until yesterday. Time will tell what happens now regarding Assad and his government forces, who were oddly enough thought to be our allies against ISIS. 

International organizations almost universally agree that human rights violations and vast massacres have occurred inside Syria. As a result of this long civil war at least 4.8 millions people have fled Syria, which is the largest such refugee crisis since World War II. Inside of Syria another 6 million people have been displaced from their towns and homes, often destroyed by Assad’s forces. All of this makes Syria the most tragic war in the world since the 1940s. Over the course of this civil war several number of peace initiatives have been tried. In March of this year the United Nations tried again but the fighting against Syrian people by their own president only ramped up again over the last few weeks. Then these brutal photos were seen globally and America acted when our President was sickened by what he saw. 

Isn’t our response a no-brainer, you ask? Well, yes and no. I suggest peacemaking requires further, and more broadly based, attempts to solve the problem before we kill many more people, intended or otherwise. I am not suggesting avoidance of the problem, just the opposite. I am also suggesting that we need context. I am particularly reminded of the strategy that Pope Francis proposed to the government of the U.S. regarding our use of military force:

  1. He urged our government to face hard facts.
  2. He urged only an proportionate use of force if necessary.
  3. He urged us to acknowledged that military response alone cannot succeed.
  4. He urged us to scale up our humanitarian assistance to refugees.
  5. He urged that we accept resettlement where return to Syria is impossible.

It seems this morning that only number two has been seriously attempted by the U.S. government in the last three months. Time will tell if this is really the case.

Before this Syrian Civil War there were 22 million people inside Syria. 2 million of these Syrians were Christians. Syria has been historically very tolerant toward Christians. (By the way, Syria is a historic and important land to Christianity. After all, the famous city of Damascus is in Syria!) Historically Christians and Muslims lived peaceably in Syria for centuries. The truth is that this is not a conflict between Christians and Muslims at all. Syria has long been a repressive state and long denied basic human rights, at least since the modern state was formed in 1947!

Why is Russia involved so deeply in Syria? This is a complicated question but it has to do with Russian political interests in the Middle East as a counterbalance to Israel and the U.S. I have come to believe, based on listening to Christians who live in this region explain this conflict, that it also has to do with the influence of some Christian leaders inside Russia. These leaders have urged Putin to support Assad because they have their own interests in the region. This might not be true but I see many reasons to believe that it is so. This some Christians have complicity added to the number and horror of human deaths inside Syria by playing partisan politics. (This should make us all consider the role Christians have in supporting nationalism under the banner of Christ!)

Around 45% of the Christian population of Syria has fled or died. About a million Christians now remain. Here is a simple observation, again supported by Christians in and near Syria. Our Christian divisions have uniquely hurt our witness and hindered our efforts to work for peace. Ecumenism really does matter. In this instance it has a direct impact on the world around us.

Here is my concern about our actions taken last night: There no easy response to suffering and the use of chemical weapons. Launching missiles will not stop this carnage in itself. (See numbers 1-3 in Pope Francis above.) Unless we follow this action of last night with the other four proposals of Pope Francis we are not going to make a real difference in Syria for lasting peace. Entering this civil war is not appropriate. The president said so for months. So what next? “Pray and work for peace, period.” Urge lawmakers to read the pope’s list and respond accordingly, with balance and actions. If force must be used make sure it is appropriate and well-thought-out (in advance) and make sure there is a more holistic response behind it.

For me personally, pray for the peace of Syria! And work for the rescue and resettlement of those who are fleeing death. Mr. President, please stop hindering the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

I shudder to think we launched missiles at several military sites but that we will do almost nothing more to save the lives of people inside Syria, and fleeing it every day, where we can and should act with compassion and sacrifice. If we do nothing but cheer and then beat our chests, saying “God bless America,” then nothing will really change. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

America Divided: Why Christian Unity Matters More Than Ever

 

There are very few historical personalities with the magnetism of the famous Augustinian monk Martin Luther. Make no mistake, Luther has been praised and vilified. For some he bears specific blame for dividing the church. For others he remains a hero because he recovered the gospel and opposed massive church abuses. Love him or hate him, Martin Luther gets a response.

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Some Protestants are aglow with celebration, while others would rather not talk about it. Catholics are more interested than ever, even open to new dialogue about some of Luther’s burning concerns. Pope Francis himself marked the anniversary October 31, 2016, with a historic trip to Lund, Sweden. He met with leaders from the Lutheran World Federation to celebrate a document titled: “From Conflict to Communion.” The document does not pretend to solve all the disagreements between Lutherans and Catholics. It does something more important by seeking forgiveness for our multiplied divisions. The pope and the Lutheran leaders look for greater celebration of our differing gifts while they long for a time when unity might reign in the midst of our amazing diversity.

Luther’s internal journey began with a deeply personal question that vexed his soul: “How can a sinner find mercy with a just God?” He discovered the answer in Romans 1:17: “The righteous live by faith.” God’s mercy alone was his only hope in life and in death.

Over the course of a dark and divisive political debate last year Americans are more polarized than ever. We have a traditional motto: E pluribus unum (“One out of many”). This saying has run through our society as an expression of great unifying force. We are the land of diversity united in the common pursuit of freedom. But something has happened in the last few decades. The unum (oneness) of America is disintegrating. My friend Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin spent two decades abroad before he returned to serve the diocese of Indianapolis. He says he found our American divisions “shocking and distressing.” I agree.

What do Luther, and the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, have to teach us as we draw nearer to the precipice of social and religious demise? Throughout history the church has grown and declined. At times the influence of Christianity has shifted from one region, or continent, to another. But now our “shocking and distressing” divisions can be seen in our everyday life. There seems to be a harsh and persistent debate that marks us. We argue over politics, race, gender, marriage; and we still debate doctrinal issues that are neither confessionally essential or Christ-exalting. The sad legacy of Luther and the Reformation, with our resultant division, remains. But it seems now we are reaping what we have sown at a dizzying pace.

What should we work and hope for at such a time as this? Most of us know that elections do not turn cultures and churches into safe havens for love and charity. In the sixteenth century, when great moral and spiritual darkness covered Europe, the words Job 17:12 reminded many that the light would always be found nearest to darkness. The Latin phrase Post tenebras lux (Light After Darkness) became a Calvinist motto in Geneva. This idea was subsequently adopted by the entire Protestant Reformation. The Reformers believed the gospel was the light that would arise in the midst of pervasive darkness.

Through five centuries the church, both Catholic and Protestant, has experienced great times of gospel transformation when the good news has changed people and cultures. Luther’s great vision of mercy has, at our best moments, overcome the darkness of our divisions.

The signs of our times call for a recovery of God’s mercy. We need the light of the gospel, not more division.

Luther can again be a model, for both Catholics and Protestants. He is right: only God’s mercy can heal us from deep wounds. The pressing questions remain: Where can we find mercy for today and bright hope for tomorrow? The answer is exactly where Luther found it, in the good news. God’s mercy can heal our hearts, restore our love, transform our homes, rebuild our churches and visibly unite us in the love that leads us to serve our neighbors. Could the divisions of the sixteenth century actually lead us to fresh discovery of unity in the twenty-first century, a unity rooted in God’s mercy? I pray so.

Breach of Trust: Has Our U.S. Policy Lost Its Way?

Our American commitment to perpetual war now seems fairly self-evident. We have been engaged in some kind of military conflict, almost without significant pause, since the end of the Vietnam War. Our current military action in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the wider Middle East) is nearing fifteen years and there is virtually no reason to see a real (final) end in sight with the election of an aggressive military advocate now in the White House. The president is surrounded by generals who believe in the goals and commitments of our present time in military history and thought the strategic use of force might change I am not convinced it will bed for the better. Let me explain.

Warmongers and militarists talk about bombing North Korea, or at least increasing our presence on their border, if necessary. They also talk about intervening in the Syrian civil war. We continually talk about “defeating ISIS” by “bombing the hell out of them” through using the full power of our vast military power to destroy them, a prospect that has no chance for lasting success. President George W. Bush sought to redefine America’s heroic role in the world by winning a war fought simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama has continued to make war, through he ran against the Iraq War and did end major troop deployments. While Obama drew down the number of “boots on the ground” he upped the use of drone attacks and established a significant military presence for eight years that is designed to train others to fight “for” or “with” our American goals. Now we have no clear idea what the new Commander in Chief will do with our military.

The problem, according to esteemed author Andrew J. Bacevich, is our acceptance of “perpetual war.” This is a condition fostered by our great distance from the conflicts that America has continually waged beyond our homeland. As a nation we are detached from the real cost of war and yet we want safety and security so long as someone else pays the price for it. Our military services are a professional warrior class. Says one, “[We have traded our shared investment in service] for the civic virtues for [feel good] flag-waving.” We celebrate our heroes in commercials and at ballgames, standing and cheering as if we vicariously are involved in a great struggle for freedom, while those soldiers far away “defend” our freedom to remain removed from any great national sacrifice. We even fight these wars on the cheap, running up a growing debt that has no end in sight.

I was reminded of these facts last week by reading Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (New York: Henry Holt, 2013), by Andrew J. Bacevich. Bacevich is a professor of history (Boston University) who served as an officer in the U. S. Army for twenty-three years. Bacevich says there is a yawning gap between America’s soldiers and the society in whose name they serve and fight. Even our former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has acknowledged this reality by saying armed conflict has become an “abstraction” and military service “something for other people to do.”

Bacevich’s book takes stock of the damage done to our nation and its role in the world by sowing what this disconnect has brought about. He argues that national defense should be the world of “we the people.” Unless we take our responsibility much more seriously he warns that we will continue to fight “endless wars” for our security. We have hired a “foreign legion” and the fiscal price is considerably higher than we can afford over the long term.

The military’s professional ethic is historically threefold: “Duty, honor, and country.” It seems quite clear that the majority of us have no sense of obligation to such a creed. Alternatives to this present professional soldier model include various forms of required national service that do not obligate everyone to serve in the military, especially if their conscience forbids it. But these alternatives would require all, both rich and poor, to serve their country. Bacevich concludes: “The all-volunteer force is not a blessing. It has become a blight. Americans can, of course, choose to pretend otherwise, but those choosing such a course cannot be said to love their country. Nor can they be said to care about the well-being of those sent to fight on the country’s behalf” (196).

I am not a pacifist. I am sympathetic with the pacifist tradition as it has been defined and defended within Christian ethics. I did personally train in an ROTC program in high school. Many of my classmates went on to become officers. But with this background I have opposed every American conflict in my memory, from Vietnam to the present battles and advisory roles that we conduct in the Middle East. I want to “secure” our nation but I fear that those who talk the most about this security have little idea what is involved and even less commitment to how this can be done. We are so inured by our constant wars that our troops who die, even to this day, are almost forgotten by the general public. Did you notice that a Navy Seal team carried out a mission in Yemen last week that appears to have been botched, at least from the early reports? Did you know another U.S. solider died? Do you care? When will this “breach of trust” stop?

My Story: An ABC Chicago Television Special

 

Several years ago a special ABC Channel 7 Chicago program was done on my life and mission. It appears on our resource page inside the ACT3 site but I share it here for those who are new to this ministry and have not yet seen it. This is 28-minutes long.