My pastor tread on sacred ground this morning. Sacred because it's a subject I struggle with in the privacy of my own vehicle or during some sleepless night, having been kept awake by two cats under the influence of a full moon. It's one of those subjects I fear, because it forces me to confront many of my beliefs, some I've held since my youth.
The subject dealt with the continual build up of arms, nuclear and otherwise, by this nation that I hold dear. The pastor stated that this build up, in our nation and others, is done on the backs of the poor. I bristled at that statement. After all, the U.S. doesn't allow it's citizens to starve while funnelling trillions into a military build up with the intention of invading a neighbor.
Not directly, anyway.
After reflecting upon some of my previous reflections, I've always known that any funneling of a nation's resources for military purposes is a drain on the economy. And any drain on the economy, whether a useless government program, a recession, or military build up, always hits the poor the hardest. That's the natural way of economics, so it's logical. Imagine what we could do if the trillions of dollars that has gone into the military could have gone back to the taxpayers. Think of the humming economy that would emerge from that situation. Jobs for everyone. Billions of additional income for charitable causes. Our one nation could literally feed the world.
Yes, I know what you're saying. And I'm saying it, too. That simply would not happen. If we were to hit the "off" button on our military and simply lay our guns on the bar, we'd be overrun by our enemies. In fact, if we'd followed the directives of Christ 200 years ago, we may not have even taken up arms against England. After all, we were told to submit to authority.
So the million (or trillion) dollar question is this: is it the Christian's place to remain passive and accept whatever oppression comes with it? Let's be realistic now. If we follow the commands of Christ to the letter and listen to what He's saying, the church would always suffer persecution. Or has America found the magic solution? We can worship Jesus and be free of any persecution. Freedom of religion. That's America! Except that the church in America enjoys this freedom from within a wall of nuclear warheads. Ouch. I mean, really, ouch.
If we are perfectly honest with ourselves and not use our highlighted bible (you know, the one where you've highlighted all the verses that apply to you and your way of life), we have to come to the conclusion that there really is no such thing as a Christian soldier, not in the literal, secular sense anyway.
And if we are perfectly honest and not use the John Wayne version of history, this country did not win it's freedom without committing certain atrocities, those same atrocities that we fled Europe to avoid. Ouch again. Darn, this is getting hard.
In fact, if we follow this long trail of tears for several thousand years, we'll find that the only country that can say it's free of any guilt is...none of 'em. Not a single nation on this earth exists without horrific abuse of another people's basic human rights. As another matter of fact, the only nation that has been mentioned in the Bible as having received God's special blessings is Israel. Ain't that a blip? If we were to vote on the country most likely to be wiped off the map in the last sixty years, and the next sixty, it would be Israel. So if God allows that kind of pounding to be continually prescribed to His chosen people, what makes us U.S. of Americans think we're getting off with a free pass?
Are we destined to be a persecuted lot? Has all this freedom come at the cost of our own humanity? Believe you me, I'm not suggesting I've got the answer, nor did my pastor. His job is to make me step outside the old comfort cube and take a good hard look at myself and my beliefs. Doggone him, he's doing a good job. I love him, but he can be really annoying that way.
And here's the punch line: If we do come to that conclusion, that we are to remain passive and accept our fate, we know, at least we should know, that we will still find absolute joy in the fact of our salvation. Because, we know in our heart of hearts, that we are sinners, just as much as the guy holding a gun against our temple, demanding that we renounce our faith. After all, the guy with the gun is sending me home at last. Unless we manage the world's quickest evangelistic maneuver and get this guy on his knees, he's the one in trouble, not us.
During the sermon this morning, then during a long walk outside my home after the sermon, and while I've tapped out this blog, I've managed to answer zero questions and plant a couple hundred fresh questions, each one of which could result in a blog posting of it's own. Each one, no doubt, resulting in another large planting of questions. The harvester, the guy with the answers, unfortunately, is still biding His time, waiting for the moment when He's pretty sure that not one more soul will be saved.
Until that time, I'm afraid, we'll continue down this trail of tears. Killing so we won't be killed. Our enemies killing us so they won't be killed. We can all agree to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we just can't agree on who will go first.