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Scattered and random thoughts on Ecclesiastes, war, and perspective

September 4, 2006

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn’t already exist long ago? We don’t remember what happened in those former times. And in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

Again I observed all the oppression that takes place in our world. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and the victims are helpless. So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. And most fortunate of all are those who were never born. For they have never seen all the evil that is done in our world. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

The word of the Lord…

We are a week away from the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On Friday evening, I watched On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report. It is difficult to watch the disturbing images and relive the tragic losses of that day…to grapple with the meaning of what was unfolding.

Time moves on and history provides a different vantage point–PERSPECTIVE. I am so glad Ecclesiastes made it into the canon of Scripture. I think it is becoming one of my favorite books of the Bible. The savvy voice of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem provides a welcome reality check for any saccharin, rose-colored reading of history…for any simplistic formulaic answer to the human condition. Christianity preoccupied with the future and unwilling to look at the dark side of the human condition. No delusion here. No 10 step program to a better life. The Teacher sees past the facade, the spin, the appearances of things. He is willing to look at the tough issues.

Several news items have caught my attention in the last few days. The recent pentagon report that paints a gloomy picture of the situation in Iraq. The Sojourners feature article on U.S. Soldiers who have joined the growing movement against the war in Iraq.

I think back to the discussions I would have with students in my Japanese class in the run up to this war in Iraq. One student in particular who was confident that America would ride in on a white horse and clean up the mess (Saddam, WMDs, terrorist networks, etc.). And his usual sentiment was that if all else failed…we should just bomb them off the face of the earth.

I think about the holy war that dominated almost 800 years of the history of the Iberian Peninsula. Christian kingdoms agains the infidel Moor from North Africa. Then it was not Bin-Laden, but rather Ben Yusef.

Questions persist…

Is this nation more secure than pre-9/11? It seems like arrests are being made every other week involving would-be terrorist plots.

What about the situation in Iraq? Has the U.S. presence ameliorated or aggravated the stability of the Middle East and the stability of the world? What is the meaning of increasing sectarian violence and the looming possibility of a civil war?

What is the end-game? Was the U.S. approach to the Iraq war short-sighted and simplistic? When will we face the lessons of this tragic war?

It is not being disloyal to the United Stated to ask the hard questions. Asking these questions does not discount the good that has been done by the military. Humanitarian projects, strengthened infrastructure, a democratic form of government (one could ask however, if the conditions were right for this to be put in place).

Nevertheless, we cannot bury our heads in the sand, keep recited the same tired mantras, and believe that things will change. Rather, we need to look at the overall ineffectiveness of the war in achieving the original goals and ask…


Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world grant us peace.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    September 6, 2006 1:38 am

    “…the good that has been done by the military. Humanitarian projects, strengthened infrastructure, a democratic form of government…”

    Just happened on your blog… this jumped out at me. I have to wonder why Paul failed to mention these purposes of the government in Romans 13… seems like he had the idea that the primary purpose of government is to use the sword against the evildoer… as opposed to building roads…

    Don’t get me wrong I am a nonresistant Christian (I’m not actually sure whether there is another kind); I am just faced with the dichotomy of the church and state which God has, according to Paul, ordained… Therefore I do not have much to say to the government per se but rather I would call individuals in or out of government to follow Christ and renounce the use of violence… rather than just come home and build roads I would say come home and build the kingdom as a Christian… let the work of the state to those who have not sensed a higher calling…

    Just a few thoughts

  2. Brian Miller permalink
    September 6, 2006 1:48 am

    I appreciate your comments and perspective. I think that what I was attempting to acknowledge is that while we may critique military activity from a theological standpoint…there are efforts by individuals acting within the powers of this world that are attempting to do good. I do not want to categorically deny that there are those who are serving in the military that do not share my (our) theological perspective, yet are attempting to do good, to restrain evil, to build a society in the best way possible given a flawed game plan.

    I really appreciate the spirit in which you shared your ideas. May your number increase in the Christian church.


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