**WARNING: This post contains photos of war, which should be disturbing for many.**
“In Flander’s Field the poppies grow….” is a poem I immediately assosciate with hot, summer sunshine, sweat pooling on my back, when as a child, year after year, we attended the Memorial Day service in my small town. Some years I marched in the parade with other Brownies and Boy Scouts. Others I was content to sit on the grass and listen to the speeches, the 21 gun salute, and the simple, solemn notes of taps. During taps it was always so quiet I could hear the wind moving softly through the trees, swaying it’s own salute to the fallen.
I went to a Memorial Day service every year from birth to 18. In a home with a career-Air Force grandpa, how could it be any other way? I grew up knowing that when the flag is being lowered or raised, you stop, and you wait. When the national amthem plays, you stop talking, not matter who you are. Gratitude for our nation’s soldiers and what they’ve sacrified for all of us was instilled in me from any early age. I am so grateful for those lessons learned on hot May afternoons many years ago.
So please don’t misunderstand me when I say that I hate war. I destest, despise, and recoil from it. I love our soldiers, and respect their deep desire to do what’s right. I recognize, as heart-breaking as it is to admit, that sometimes the only way to stop unjust agression is with stronger agression. I can recognize that sad fact of living in a fallen world, but I do not have to like it, and it does not give nations carte blanche to do whatever they’d like to one another in the same of “security and freedom”. Our Church has a beautifully articulated just war theory, one which nearly every war fought in the last 100 years would fail to meet the criteria for. I so wish that this well-thought out reasoning, rather than baser instincts, was the basis for our foreign policy.
I hate war because it’s hell. I hate war because it takes good men and women and forces them to make hard choice after hard choice after hard choice, putting them in dangerous situations where moral reasoning often goes out the window and gut-level survival instincts kick in. I hate war because it destroys God’s creation in ways we will never fully understand. I hate war because it divides, destroys, and devastates anything left in it’s wake.
War is hell. To embrace war, to hold it close like a lover, rather than stiffly, at arms length like the repulsive destroyer it is, simply teaches people and societies that it’s acceptable to use violence to acheive one’s ends. I don’t know about you, but that is not a message I am prepared to get behind. In fact, it grieves me to no end to think that war is really a denial of Christ. That war, in all its ugly manifestataions, is a subtle denial of our assertion as Christians that nothing other than the blood of Christ can or will truly change the world for the better.
On this Memorial Day, as on every other, I pray fervently for the souls of those men and women who have given “the last full measure of devotion” for love, for honor, for our country. I respect their sacrifice, and I grieve for their loss, for their family’s loss. I grieve for the loss of every innocent person whose life has been ravaged by war anywhere in the world. I pray, perhaps naively, that I shall live to see the words of the prophet come to pass:
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.” Isaiah 2:4