This came forcefully to my mind several years ago when talking with a veteran.
It was really important to him that we remembered. But a few things bothered him:
It bothered him how war is sometimes glorified.
It bothered him how soldiers are glorified.
And it bothered him when we don’t talk about the anguish many veterans went through (and go through)—whether because of their faith or another reason.
Many veterans struggled with (and struggle with) the how and why of war. He told me about the soul-searching anguish of fighting in the day while reading his Bible at night that told him to “love your neighbour” and also your “enemy.” How do those apply in the context of war?
These were serious things. They are serious things.
If we remember too simply and avoid the complexity, are we doing anyone any favours?
Complex might be an understatement.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is widely known as someone who resisted the use of violence. He was a humble and wise German pastor who wrote in his well-read classic The Cost of Discipleship that “Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence.” And yet, when he saw the extent to which evil reared it’s dark head, he engaged in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was eventually found out and executed by his own government in April 1945.
Then there is Karl Barth, perhaps the most influential theologian of the past 100 years. Fewer know the gravity and depth of Jesus’ teachings about love. And in a Time Magazine article in 1941 he called the opposition to Hitler an act Christians should participate in calling him “evil.”
Love can be a ferocious thing. And I don’t know all the answers. And I don’t know all the angles.
But back to my conversation.
I was a minister-in-training at the time and I asked my new friend: What should we preach about on Remembrance Sunday?
He said: “Preach about peace.”
Don’t speak of glorious battles, they were horrid. Don’t speak of things after the war going back to “as they were” because things never returned to “as they were” and continue to tremor with haunted memories and illness and strange feelings. Don’t speak of freedom unless we know the gravity of the cost. War is not a celebration; but a loud trumpet to the world of our brokenness.
Speak of the peace for which many died. Speak of the peace God wills for every man, woman and child regardless of what ‘side’ we are on. Speak of peace for our great grandchildren and generations we will never see in the face.
Whatever you do, speak peace. For that is the will of the Prince of Peace.
“…he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…” (Revelation 21:4)
Photo by Janwo