Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Build a Bigger Better Bomb

Last week I finally sat down and watched the 1930 film rendition of Erich Maria Remarque's anti-war story, All Quiet on the Western Front. Some of you might be wondering what took me so long.  All I can say is my life's riddled with imperfections, one of which is the tendency to overlook diamonds lying out in the open in the tall grass of life.  Remarque's grim tale certainly falls in the category of a rare gem.

It had been said that WWI was the war to end all wars; AQOTWF should've been the story to end all wars.  Sadly, both prognostications have long since been obliterated by an unrelenting barrage of ordinance of incalculable quantity.  Since the days of WWI, when millions of faces of pawns had been sent up against dispassionate walls of machine gun lead to no purpose other than pride of might and nationalism, the slaughter has continued unabated.  Only, today we are more sterile in our execution; we launch missiles from aircraft deployed hundreds of miles away from a target.  We watch the unsuspecting target via satellite as the rocket surgically incinerates human beings--nameless faces of both the guilty and the innocent.  And we congratulate ourselves because, as one person explained to me, "If we don't destroy our enemy, our enemy will destroy us."


In this week's issue of the American Chemical Society news magazine, C&E News, I read about the extensive research being conducted to build the bigger better bomb--that is, chemists are working to improve upon the ever faithful explosive RDX by synthesizing a new explosive of equal or more explosive power, less sensitivity, and--get this--less toxicity to the environment.  I can only comment as the physician did at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai while witnessing senseless and futile carnage unfolding around him: "Madness. Madness."

It may be the old Prussian idea of soldiering as essential to completing a man has largely died out; but clearly other drivers such as nationalism, prejudice, and fear live on.  Don't be fooled, though; as misdirected as these motivations are, governments have institutionalized them in order to more easily goad the taxpaying public into war.  People willingly leap in front of bullets for some vague sense of justice contrived by their leaders, who we have to suspect are actually in it for self-interest and power.

Did I mention power?

Power belongs only to our creator God to wield and allocate, because only God is Good.  And the only path to the justice and peace we all claim to want will be through the proper dispensing of this power according to God's kingdom principles of love in holiness.  Only through the consistent extension of mercy in the face of opposition will we ever hope to see the end of war.

Some have suggested I want a free ride on the backs of those willing to risk their lives for my home and country by going off to war.  But war has never bettered the world, and it never will.  War cannot solve the problems of human society because it contradicts what is truly human.

Of course, war is here to stay until Jesus returns to fully establish His kingdom; so I know all too well Christians must be a part of this ongoing tragedy.  But we must do this by giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, and giving to God what is God's.  Walking with Jesus in His kingdom juxtaposed with the kingdom of this fallen world is a both/and proposition, not an either/or proposition. Thus, Christians must not sit in the bleachers; instead, they must willingly sacrifice themselves by first working in their local spheres of influence to relieve the poverty, injustice, prejudice, and fear fueling human conflicts;  Christians accomplish this without trying to make the people they minister be something the people are not--that's God's job to do--but by encouraging them towards the eternally satisfying condition they can find only in God's kingdom.

And, yes, Christians, must enter the battlefields--no free rides; not to kill, but to pick of the pieces, mend the wounds, and grieve with the mourners.  The actor who portrayed the main protagonist, Paul, in AQOTWF became a pacifist during WWII, to the detriment of his career.  Yet he bravely risked his life countless times as a medic during the many raging battles.  I don't know if he did this for Christ's sake, but his actions illustrate the both/and concept I'm advocating here.

Understand, I am not judging my fellow Christians who have taken up arms for their country; that is not my intent, nor do I even have any right to pass such judgment. C.S. Lewis, the premier Christian thinker of the twentieth century, fully embraced war.  He spoke glibly of how two Christians on opposite sides could kill each other one minute, and be laughing together in heaven the next.  It might be convincingly argued, as well, that the only way to stop a Hitler is to kill him.  Certainly, Chamberlain's brand of pacifism--peace in our times--wasn't up to the task.  But are we really confident that a third non-violent approach wouldn't have worked to bring down the Nazis?  We'll never know.

In any event, so-called just wars such as WWII are rare exceptions in the long course of bloody human history.  In one sense it doesn't matter.  Should the day ever come, I will without hesitation use any lethal source at my disposal to protect my family, friends, and neighbors against a clear and present danger.  But only because I lack the faith to defend them the right way.

If we profess Jesus as Lord, then our Master demands us to address injustice in this world through means contrary to this world's methods.  We are to love our enemy, pray for those who persecute us, and never repay evil with evil, but repay evil with good.  All of which requires us to be living sacrifices through the renewing of our minds.  And whether we live or die in the process, we live; because our King, Lord, Master, Jesus overcame death on the cross.


Anonymous said...

One tidbit for you: for every shell lobbed at the Germans the French and English deposited a royalty in a bank account for the German firm krupp who held the patent rights. Krupp also got a royalty for every German shell. Madness indeed. On a Christian note I am very conflicted because I feel a duty to use all means necessary to protect the innocent but I also know every person is precious to God... I will say AQOTWF did fuel a lot of the pacifist feelings in France and England and contributed to the lack of will to stand up to Hitler when he could have been stopped before all out war. Not that pacifist lgic is wrong its just that pacifistism without Christ is as bad as warmongering without Christ...

Jon Kokko said...

I'm reminded of the verses:

Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand? Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
(Job 13:14-15)

Anonymous said...

Based upon your comments and observations, you probably would be interested in this book, released last year:

Blood Guilt: Christian Responses to America's War on Terror (New Covenant Press).

It's worth checking out for answers to some of the issues that you bring up.