Saturday, June 09, 2007

The War Prayer

Recently, Mike Cope made a blog post about saying the Pledge of Allegiance in a worship service. You can read it (and all the comments if you have 2 hours to kill!) by clicking here and finding the post for May 30, "Pledging Allegiance in the Assembly?"

One of the comments linked to this video -- a graphic rendering of Mark Twain's "The War Prayer."

Perhaps we can yet learn to pray for our enemies.

One argument sometimes used to justify killing our enemies is that it is indeed the loving thing to do. After all, since we know that our cause is just and that their cause is UNjust, how loving would it be to allow them to sin by killing US? It is much more just to kill them than to allow them to sin.

This one can make you shake your head like a dog who just got fooled into eating onion. But, it may be the best argument in favor of Christians serving in the military, so it bears some consideration.

The first problem with it is that it assumes that "our" cause is, indeed, just -- i.e., that we're NOT after their oil, that we are NOT all about imperialism, and that OUR lifestyle really represents human good. Uh, I think there are many people who would disagree with all of these assumptions. If our cause is NOT really just, then we should allow them to kill us and assume THAT is righteous or just. In fact, if we prevent them from killing us (and defeating our unjust cause), then WE are sinning.

Second, the argument necessitates the killing of ANYONE who is "unjust." Christians get to become the world's police force to keep everyone from sinning. If this argument holds true, then I am OBLIGATED to keep people from sinning, and if I do NOT keep them from sinning, I have forsaken my obligation and I AM SINNING! Therefore, I am obligated to take up a position outside the strip clubs and kill whoever tries to enter. Oh -- and it licenses me to kill abortion doctors, not to mention tax evaders and jaywalkers. I'm starting to like this! Not.

Need I point out that not even God prevents people from sinning? Why do some people think they have such an obligation? When they argue in this way, and when they act on its basis, they aren't "playing God," they're putting themselves ABOVE God -- doing the "Bruce Almighty" thing by telling God they can run the world better than he can.

One of the things we Christians have always said about Jesus was that he was "perfect," by which we mean he was sinless. I believe this is true, but I wonder if he KNEW this about himself. Could he have told anyone about it? Or would thinking this about himself and/or telling someone about it have been boasting -- therefore sin? Of course, we've all heard someone say: "It ain't braggin' if you can back it up!" Oh, really? I'm pretty sure that "verse" isn't in the Bible, for starters. But then I'm also sure that I've heard people talk about their accomplishments until I'm pretty much ready for the barf bag. And it doesn't matter if they're real or imagined accomplishments. It's still bragging.

In the move The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus is portrayed as saying "I feel so sinful!" It wasn't quite a confession of sin, as I understood it, but a statement of identity with the rest of us sinful human beings -- a statement of how being a part of a sinful humanity made him feel. It is the cinemagraphic statement of the Biblical virtue of humility. If Jesus was truly perfect (again, as I believe he was!), he would also have been perfectly humble, which would have necessitated feelings of unworthiness, perhaps even feelings of sinfulness. To believe otherwise about himself would be arrogant and unloving -- he would be placing himself above the very people he came to reach, inspire, and with whom he claims to identify fully! To do this would have been to place himself outside of God's purposes for his life -- and to fail to "fulfill all righteousness"!

In other words, for any person or group of people to claim that they are righteous and get to judge and execute that judgment on the "unjust" or "unrighteous" is equivalent to being arrogant and unloving -- and therefore placing oneself in the category of "judged." So, the argument collapses of its own weight. No one can take the role of "judge" without simultaneously sinning and placing oneself in the role of "convicted sinner."

And then there is Jesus, who in John 12:31 said "Now is the judgment of this world." What "shape" would that judgment take? He continued by saying: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John then comments: "He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die."

I'm not quite sure what all to make of that except to say that if I am to judge like Jesus judged. . . . I would like this to be true in all of my life: "I pledge allegiance to the cross."

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