Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mercy Not Sacrifice: The Idolatry of War

2,000 American Soldiers now have died in Afghanistan.  The suicide rate for our soldiers has reached nearly one per day.  The momentous number of fallen soldiers is the culmination of 3,900 days in Afghanistan.

Every time a son or daughter is brought home in a box, tears are shed, hearts are broken, and the ubiquitous phrase "she/he paid the ultimate sacrifice" is announced as a word of comfort.

I am growing weary of this "sacrifice."  I have become infuriated at the idea of us proudly sending our children across the world.  Boys and girls who ought to be busy going to college, starting families, building community are given rifles, an enemy, and a paycheck.  This is an impossible life that has claimed 2,000 soldiers in this war.

Today is Flag Day, and many homes, businesses, and churches will wave the banner of our nation high in patriotic pride.  But this flag is drench stained with so much blood, the gore has made me ill.  I feel dirty and guilty every time we sell the idea to our children that people must die so we can have the freedom to vote for indifferent politicians who break apart families by sending them to war.  Too many have returned home dead.  Too many have returned home severely injured.  Too many have returned unable to cope with the things that no man or woman or child or soldier should have to see or do.  Too many unable to cope with the evil drown their lives with liquor, drugs, or other self-destructive tendencies.  Other's cannot cope and end their lives.  This is the "ultimate sacrifice" we are willing to accept for our lives of "freedom."

The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel saw terrible acts of sacrifice happening in their day.  Mothers and Fathers were actually sacrificing their own children to idols.  Ezekiel cries out

"You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols" (Ezekiel 16:21).

Can you imagine such a heartbreaking image?  What evil can manipulate parents to surrender their children to the temple flames of a grotesque god?  Yet, we participate in the very act today.

While none of us may physically put our children in a fire, we put them on buses and planes and send them to distant lands, knowing their life is in the hands of the United States.  We do this in the name of freedom, in the name of democracy.  We believe that freedom cannot exist if the flag fails to fly.  We are willing to have our children die so a government can continue to promise us what only God can give.  Is it not Jesus who brings freedom (Luke 4:19)?  What god then are we trusting when we sell our children to war?

We sacrifice our children, then go to church singing God bless America and Ezekiel says,

"On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house" (Ezekiel 23:39).

We believe that guns and missiles will ensure our God given rights when 2 Corinthians 10:4 says the weapons followers of Christ use are not weapons of the world.  We believe we can have peace and freedom by sacrificing our children when 2 Corinthians 3:17 says freedom comes from the Spirit of the Lord.

I know many who are enlisted and on active today.  I pray that they may not have to encounter violence; I pray that they may come home safely, but I most earnestly pray that we stop relying on our children to do what only God can and has promised to do.  The ultimate sacrifice is not our children, the ultimate sacrifice is Jesus Christ upon the cross, through him we have freedom, peace, and life. 

1 comment:

  1. Powerful words Ben. Unfortunetly it seems this is not the message of the mainstream evangelical church in America. The church and Christ followers should be the leaders of the anti-war movement, yet twistedly and sickly many prominent evangelical leaders simply parrot the rhetoric of the war mongering politicians. You can't be pro Jesus and pro war. Nonviolence was kind of a big deal or him. Since when did love your enemies become kill your enemies. It makes me sick.