Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Personal Example From the Vietnam War

A Look At Prophecy In The Gospel of Matthew

Despite Our Just War Theories


God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.


Despite Augustine and Aquinas

Despite the profound thinking and arguments of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas and the following development of a theology and theory of Just War, the saying of Jesus will not be abridged.

Jesus says, "God blesses those who work for peace" and it will be so!

Those who work for and propagate war will answer to an Eternal Judge and like those who teach in the church carry a double burden. They also, as the great warrior David illustrates, carry a present restriction and judgement by God. Remember, David was not allowed to build the temple of God precisely because he was a man of war, a man with blood on his hands. We really need to ponder and meditate on this example God included in scripture. It contains a warning for those who favor Just War over peace.

Likewise the example of the Early Church, which prohibited participation in war and was painfully pacifist, should not be as easily dismissed as it is by the churches today. Divine guidance beyond intellectual engagement always must be given first place. To argue intellectually without spending three times or a hundred times more time struggling with God in prayer yields disastrous decisions and millennia of consequences.

Now I recognize this is a difficult and often divisive issue. A few pronouncements here do not settle the issue nor clarify an answer of how to proceed in difficult times. I myself find myself with a divided mind as I struggle with what is divinely required of me.

A Personal Example From the Vietnam War

I was a child when American first began engagement in Vietnam and the first bodies began coming home. I was in Junior High School when we acknowledged that, despite what was or was not on paper, Vietnam was a war and the anti-war movement developed turned violent. I was in college when the draft lottery was instituted.

In Junior High, I remember being thankful that the war would be over before I graduated. Yeh, right. But it set me on a mental and spiritual journey exploring whether I was a conscientious objector. Even when I decided I was, that still did not answer the question of what God wanted me to do. In college my draft number was so high I did not need to worry, but I kept feeling crushed by the awareness that so many men were being drafted, and despite previous promises, being sent directly from initial training into bloody combat in a war they did not believe justified and without volunteering. 

Too many of them were dying or coming home seriously injured and psychologically scarred. And yes, I could see that long before a diagnosis PTSD was legally possible. What did the Lord require of me? What response should I give? Do I be thankful I did not have to worry about going? I was married by then. Do I volunteer in a pacifist role such as as a medic? Was it right these men were forced to go and I did nothing? After all, I had a second exemption by then, a ministerial exemption.

In the end, God led me join the military as a way to support those who were involuntarily being savaged. I joined to become a Chaplain's Assistant in the Air Force and stayed seven and one-half years - long after the Vietnam action had ended.

Was I right? I've long had peace about it. Should others do the same? Only God can answer that question. Do I still feel pain over those who go into combat even though we have an  all volunteer military? Yes!!  And I hold a grave concern for their struggles and well being upon return. I did not serve in combat, but my emotional engagement with these issues leaves me unable to visit the Vietnam Memorial. It is the living who keep me unable to go search for the names of the dead.

But This I Know

We are called by of Savior to be peacemakers. It is not an option. Having decided to go to war does not relieve us of the duty to be peacemakers even while engaged in combat. For it is the peacemakers who will be called the children of God. And equally true, when the church is faithful, the children of God will be called peacemakers.

How are we lining up today, cooperating with, and living out this reality in our world at war?

Photo Credits:
UConn to Fly POW/MIA Flag On Key Dates

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