Monday, April 24, 2017

Moral Injury

Last week I pointed out that over the last 30 years or so, the US has killed around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East. Now, I’d like for us to think about what we’re doing to our own sons and daughters. 

A Vietnam veteran and dear brother in Christ shared this affecting video with me a couple of weeks ago.


The soldiers…they just wanna go home.

It’s a great line delivered by a great actor. And I’m sure it’s very true.

Yet many of them don’t get what they want. They don’t go home.

Thankfully, most of them do. But here’s the thing: the soldier who goes home is not the soldier who left home.

There are physical wounds. There are mental wounds. Some heal, some don’t.

And then there’s suicide.

We may quibble over how many and why veterans are killing themselves. Still, it’s alarming that,

Suicide rates within the veteran population often were double and sometimes triple the civilian suicide rate in several states. . . . Almost one out of every five suicides committed nationally is a veteran. . . [yet] veterans make up only about 10 percent of the adult population in the United States.

Something’s wrong.

That “something” is what Robert Meagher calls moral injury.

“Moral injury” has most commonly come to mean the transgression, the violation, of what is right, what one has long held to be sacred—a core belief or moral code—and thus wounding or, in the extreme, mortally wounding the psyche, soul, or one’s humanity. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. 4)

Meagher’s thesis is many war veterans are morally injured. They suffer not only from what they’ve seen, but also from what they’ve done.

He shares a scribbled note from Noah Pierce, a veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Mom, I am so sorry. My life has been hell . . . I am freeing myself from the desert once and for all. . . . I am not a good person. I have done bad things. I have taken lives. Now it’s time to take mine.

Noah then shot himself in the head.

Two questions, dear reader:

1) Why is the US killing 3,000,000 people in the Middle East?

2) What’s it doing to those doing the killing?

Think about it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Killing For Peace

Making war has apparently become as addictive to American political leaders as crack cocaine or heroin. ~Jonathan Shay 

War is big business and under our new businessman-in-chief, business is absolutely booming.


 Using poorly paid professional soldiers for profit is old hat. We all know this.

But did you know that the US has been waging war for 222 out of the last 239 years?1

Please, take a moment. Let that sink in.

Here’s something else to contemplate.

The Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study [in April of 2015] concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million. . . . In Iraq alone, the US-led war from 1991 to 2003 killed 1.9 million Iraqis; then from 2003 onwards around 1 million: totaling just under 3 million Iraqis dead over two decades.2

So, over the past 3 decades the US has slaughtered around 3,000,000 people in the Middle East—I’m guessing the vast majority of them civilian.

Again, take a moment. Let that really sink in.

Dear reader, this is the way of empire. It’s the way of “the thief” who comes to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

This is not the Way of Jesus who comes to give abundant life.

Here’s my concern…

How can people who claim to follow Jesus support the savagery of empire?

Evangelicals who self-identify as “pro-life” and yet shamelessly vote for warmongering politicians are deluding themselves. They may be anti-abortion but they’re certainly not pro-life.

I confess that I was once among this crowd—the “Christian Right.” But as I walk with Christ (I speak only of my own walk, not yours) He is leading me in a different Way.    

Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

Yes, and they’ll be called lots of other things too.

Even so, killing our way to peace doesn’t seem to be working, does it?

__________________________


Friday, April 7, 2017

"Just War" Or Just War?

Please note: These thoughts (and others) were first published on September 13, 2013 (see here). So, no, I’m not picking on Trump. I’m simply observing that some things never change.

Dear reader, the appetite for war is voracious.

**************************

Something to consider: How would we Americans feel if the top leaders of a country (a country we never threatened or attacked) assaulted us with missiles? 

This is precisely what our leaders did to Syria. 

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. And as is the case with many civil wars it can be more than a little challenging to know who—if anyone—is wearing the white hats. 

Furthermore, like all civil wars, innocent non-combatants are caught in the middle. (Hence the “noble rebels” are fond of fighting Assad by murdering Christians.) 

Speaking of Christians

The 16th century reformer Pierre Viret said, “There is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ nor which is less suited to their profession [than war]” (Joel McDurmon, The Bible & War in America, p. 29). 

Yet oddly enough, it seems American Christians are often eager to beat the drums of war (especially if the President is a Republican). After all, what’s wrong with killing people when one is always on the side of the angels?

But are our wars “Just” or are they just wars? 

Reflecting on the unconscionably high rate of suicide among US veterans, Robert Emmet Meagher observes,

Every war is just, from the perspective of those waging it, and every killer is a hero, to the side they are on. That is the wall our veterans still run up against today. They are expected to deny their own pain, ignore what war has taught them, and take up their civil status as heroes. (Killing From The Inside Out, p. xv)

Jesus calls His followers to a different Way.

He says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). 

When He speaks of the blessedness of peace-making, I don’t think He has blowing up Syrians in mind. Do you? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fear & Trembling

Fear is a powerful drug.
It’s a fantastic political tactic.
It’s a wonderful manipulator.
It’s an effective motivator.
But it’s a really lousy religion.
~ John Pavlovitz

Have you ever thought about how fear is routinely used to manipulate or motivate us?

Fear is used to sell virtually everything: cars, tires, and life insurance are classics. But, clever marketers also use it to sell breakfast cereal and deodorant. As a result we purchase all sorts of things that a generation ago were considered unnecessary. . .

But it’s not just marketers who use fear to control others: doctors, politicians, newspersons, preachers, parents, peers…the list is lengthy. Sometimes it’s warranted. Many times it’s not. It’s the latter that concerns me.

Like never before, we need to recognize and reject fearmongering. To be sure, propaganda isn’t exactly new. But with the unparalleled influence of today’s social media, discernment is sorely needed (as is an “off” switch).

Jesus once told a weary crowd: “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Maybe today He would invite those with anxious minds: Come to Me and I will give you peace.

“Why are you so afraid?” He asks (Mark 4:40).

It’s a piercing question: Why do the things that trouble me so, so trouble me?

Think about it, won't you? 

Jesus is no scaremonger. He says, “Don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

You see, the Kingdom of God is governed by something far greater than fear: Love.

Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. ~1John 4:18

Would you like to walk peacefully with Christ in the Way of perfect love? You certainly can.

But you’ll have to leave the fearmongers and their fearmongering ways behind. 

That’s the deal. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Something's Missing

As I catch snippets of news, Facebook fights, and sometimes actually talk to people; I’m finding that lots of folks primarily think of evangelicals as people who: 1) hate abortion, 2) hate gay marriage, 3) love guns, and 4) vote Republican.

Dear reader, what do any of these things have to do with Jesus?

Now, we can debate over who is more to blame for how evangelicalism in America is perceived—the media or evangelicals themselves—but what seems beyond dispute is that this perception is very real and widespread. (Personally, I believe it is real, widespread, and deserved.)

A philosophical question: Is evangelicalism—divorced from Christ—a meaningful or logically consistent term? 

I don’t think it is.

Evangel is defined as “the Christian gospel (good news).” When evangelicalism is no longer rightly or truly associated with Jesus—the only Evangel—it’s simply another failing “ism.”

We [evangelicals] proclaim to follow a man who chose to affiliate himself with the poor and dispossessed, who called the political and religious leaders of his day to account, who saw and loved people whom others had discarded. . . . When “evangelical” starts to sound like very bad news for very many Americans, it has drifted far from its roots. . . . I can’t defend my people [evangelicals]. I barely recognize them.

Perhaps when Jesus says, “apart from Me you can do nothing” He means it.

The culture needs more Jesus. So does the church.

Maybe you and I can work on that. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick, The Humble & Fearless

Once again, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. While we commemorate the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, we should pause for a moment to thoughtfully consider: Who was this man?

Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.

Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland, Cumberland, England, or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold.

After six years, Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. . . . His great desire was to proclaim the Good News to the Irish.

In a dream vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. Despite opposition from those who felt his education had been defective, he was sent to carry out the task. He went to the west and north, where the faith had never been preached, obtained the protection of local kings and made numerous converts.

He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission.

In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.1

I like the opening observation that he had two “solid qualities,” viz. humility and courage. Oh, that we would have such solid qualities of heart and soul!

It is further observed,

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. So complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission, he feared nothing -not even death.2

Here we discover the bedrock of his exemplary character: love for, total devotion to, and complete confidence in God. This is not the way of the world—and look at the rotting fruits of godless living and thinking!

But Jesus calls us to a different Way than that of the world. He says, Follow Me.

Will we do this? Will we trust Him and His Way in every aspect of our lives? I assure you, following Jesus and His Way is the greatest privilege we will ever have in this life or in the life to come.

I leave you with a prayerful verse penned by St. Patrick.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________________

1http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1325

2http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jesus & Other Emperors

I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. ~attributed to Napoleon 

Jesus is a different sort of king with a different sort of kingdom. Even Napoleon (Bonaparte not Dynamite) could see this.


Not only does he acknowledge that Christ is incomparable to all others, but he readily concedes that all emperors—himself included—and all empires are inferior to Jesus and His Way.

Napoleon can see it. Can we?

David Gornoski thinks we cannot.

We believe in the way Karl Marx and other counterfeit Jesuses in history have offered: violent power is the highest good we should desire. Might makes right. Majority rules. The Public Will can sacrifice a misfit who objects. All those crusty, stinky, stupid barbaric mantras are shortcuts to heaven that lead to hell.

Did you notice how Napoleon and Gornoski speak of force and violent power? These are the ways of the kingdoms of the world. Everyone is striving for power over others.

Our King—King Jesus—shows us the way of power under. His is not the way of coercion but of persuasion; not of sacrificing others but of laying down our own lives for the sake of others.

Jesus invites us to come and die—not go and kill.  

“Take up your cross and follow Me,” He says.

Thus, an early follower of His writes: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh [i.e. their sinful nature] with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

We are called to love. This is the highest ethic of Christ’s kingdom.

Will you join me in taking a quick look inside?

Our motives, desires and aspirations; the way we think about and interact with others: Who do we truly emulate—Jesus or other emperors?

I wonder if the folks who know us best would agree with our assessment. I wonder if Jesus does.