I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,”dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
The good news is that God’s battle plan in the New Testament is a conversion of evil…. How does God conquer violence? By conversion by the blood of his wounds.
Cost of Iraq War–$468,000,000,000 (and counting)
Today is Veterans Day. Today I want to remember those who have sacrificed life and limb, comfort and stability for a cause. I want to remember and recognize the sacrifice, but I want to reject the Imperial framing-story in which their sacrifice is embedded. I want to take up the sword of truth that calls me to live my life in the framing story of Jesus. I want to confess the ways my life has been complicit with a societal system that is contributing to the brokenness of our world.
Today, I want to remember those who have sacrificed all. But, I cannot remove the subplot of honoring veterans from the larger of script of imperial domination. When we turn a blind eye to the larger framing story that scripts days like this, we are tempted to uncritically equate service to country as service to God. The apocalyptic vision of John sees a weapon wielded by one looking like the son of man. The weapon that Jesus wields is the sharp double-edged sword–not in his hand, but out of his mouth. Jesus rejects the imperial way of domination by the sword. He comes proclaiming the good news–the counterinsurgency of the Kingdom is a peace insurgency. It calls us to the way of non-violent love. Jesus calls us to take up this armor of truth and love.
Today, I honor those who have left family and friend out of a sense of duty. But I reject the framing story of Empire which conscripts men and women into a narrative that is driven by fear. Fear that continues to hemorrage. Fear that continues to chart a course in the world of peace, security, and prosperity through the doctrine of limitless militarization. A course that is taxing the human resources necessary to realize its expansive vision. A course that is eroding the trust of the American people and producing Empire fatigue in the rest of the world.
I lament the price that soldiers have paid because of the failed script of Empire. The wisdom of men justifying shock and awe–the myth of redemptive violence. The hubris that presumes to claim that the God incarnated in Jesus Christ is on “our side.” I lament the bankrupt doctrine of peace through domination that is reflected in the three priorities of the National Security Strategy of the United States:
1. Perpetuate US military dominance globally so no nation can rival or threaten the United States.
2. Be prepared to engage in preemptive military strikes, whenever the US government considers another nation to be a threat to the US, its forces or installations abroad, or its friends or allies.
3. Maintain immunity for US citizens from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Brian McLaren parses these priorities in this way: “In other words, dominate, intimidate, and refuse to play by the rules you expect everybody else to play by–a classic manifesto of the imperial spirit.”
I lament the cost of the war on civilians. I lament the euphemism that is often used to describe this loss–collateral damage. Today, I also remember the lives of ordinary, precious human beings. Human beings like Omar. In January of 2006, Omar was traveling from Mosul to Baghdad with his mother, father, and brother to celebrate Eid. Near Samarra, their passanger vehicle came under fire from US forces. Omar’s mother was killed. The driver and two other passengers also died at the scene.
Omar was severely burned and needs extensive reconstructive surgery. He’s receiving medical treatment in Boston, thanks to the hard work of local volunteers and the generosity of Children’s Hospital.
Today I think about all of this and offer these words of lament as I remember those who have given their lives for the cause. And I pray along with others that we will have the capacity to name a failed script. The power and the will to bring change.
As we commemorate and honor the sacrifice of men and women who have been a part of the military, may we come to terms with the false narrative that has domesticated God. May we have courage to question the assumption that uncritically accepts the script in which veterans have participated is one that God endorses. May we find ways to honor their sacrifice, but not coop the God revealed in Jesus Christ to give our fallen imperial script moral justification. If we are called to give allegiance to the God who is aligned with the interests of Empire at the expense of the way of Jesus…may we have the courage to become atheists.
For veterans whose lives have been tragically wounded as they have participated in a failed script.
Lord, have mercy.
For families who have experienced the loss of loved ones in the war.
Lord, have mercy.
For those of us who have remained complicit, complacent, and indifferent to a system that drives this fallen script.
Lord, have mercy
Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquillity your dominion may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen