In the waning months of 2015 and early 2016, a number of the presidential candidates as well as print columnists spoke and wrote in strident terms about the “military might” of America. They fervently maintain that we must always be about strengthening our military. Many of them disparage the apparent lessening of military emphases over the past 5-10 years. For some, “making America great again” means reclaiming our presumed military might over the rest of the world.
How does a Christian leader respond to this call for greater military spending and readiness?
Richard Rohr writes, “Retributive justice and violence are the lazy and quite uncreative way to approach the problem of evil. Restorative solutions require much more from us, and not just others, and thus bring about transformation in both ourselves and in the world.”
So what might happen if we—as a nation—decided peacemaking required us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless? Perhaps in our own land? Or, perhaps in the land from which refugees now flee? Or at least some place in close proximity to “home” for most of them? What would happen if we diverted many (most?) military dollars in a restorative and healing direction?
A columnist in the UK recently wrote, “The war on terror is now in its 15th year. And yet things are demonstrably no better. Why? Because we still have no vision of what peace might look like.”
We are told that Jesus wept because his people did not know the “things that make for peace.” Does he weep for us as well? Paul writes with a certain passion, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) Can we believe and boldly act on that principle?
What distresses me the most is that (presumably) evangelical Christians advocate the loudest for revenge, for war, for bombing “them” into the Stone Age? Do we trust God’s “Kingdom way” or not? Is Jesus a naïve and hopeless idealist? Am I? Is Jesus the one who is the way and the truth? Or not? Am I silly to think such an alternative thrust might work in today’s world? Is such a posture absurd and impossible? Where does the Christian church stand or advocate in all of this?
I wrestled with these questions in the first “Gulf war” more than 20 years ago. I wrestled when we invaded Iraq a second time after 9/11. I wrestle with these questions now each time ISIS (or some other anti-West entity) strikes a blow. I wrestle with what we should/could do if Syria or Iraq does become a full Islamic state. Can we simply refuse to let it happen with military solutions? Or, can the people of The Way, the people of Jesus, “heap burning coals” upon the heads of those who would terrorize and kill in the name of God (Romans 12:20)? Can we really overcome evil with good? Can the church lead in all of this?
I would surely like to try. I’d like to risk being one voice for a different and creative way. I’d like to be one voice for an alternative “greatness” for America.
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