in memoriam: the way of jesus remembered

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Monday, May 31st, 2010

in memoriam: the way of jesus remembered

UPDATE (5/31/10 5:49 PM): i’ve come across several great posts regarding the crossroads of memorial day and jesus. one that particularly stood out was diana butler bass’memorial day: perspective from church history, in which she includes an excerpt from her recent book, a people’s history of christianity. i thought a piece of it was worth adding here as a bit of an addendum. she writes:

Christians were not allowed to fight. No record exists that Christians served in the Roman army before 170. The strong consensus of the early church was that war meant killing, killing was murder, and murder was wrong. In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage noted: “The world is going mad in mutual bloodshed. And murder, which is considered a crime when people commit it singly, is transformed into a virtue when they do it en masse.”

truly, these are words to remember as we reflect on a day like this.


today—memorial day—is a day in which we reflect on and honor all the men and women who have fought and died for the sake of the united states of america. their sacrifice has been enormous. to willingly lay down’s one life for his or her country is a sacrifice that is truly unfathomable.

it’s a sacrifice, quite frankly, that i am unwilling to make.

well, let me offer a bit of clarifier to that statement: to engage in violent combat is something that i am unwilling to do.

you see, for people who follow in the way of jesus, today should be an emotionally dissonant day of remembrance. on one hand, we certainly do live in a reality in which we’ve reached our current global/social standard largely due to wars that helped to ensure our security and freedoms. on the other hand, we live in a reality in which jesus called people who follow in his way to be radical cheek-turners and people who seek out ways of peace, rather than violent encounters.

war simply isn’t compatible for christ followers.

it’s worth asserting that, in spite of a jesus-driven opposition to war and violence, we do, certainly, honor the lives of those who have died. if this day does nothing else, let it be a bloody, cemetery-filled reminder that life means so much. when people die for country, for glory, for freedom, for anything, god’s heart is broken. when americans, iraqis, koreans, afghans, vietnamese or any person from anywhere loses their god-breathed life, god’s heart is broken. this is what we should remember on this day.

we often become short-sighted on this type of national day of remembrance. certainly, this day focuses on the lost lives of our nation’s soldiers, but there are many, many other people who have courageously and peaceably gone before us to ensure not only our freedoms, but our faith and cultural values.

over the last couple days, our favorite moose hunter and former alaskan governor sarah palin made the news for plagiarizing a poem, via twitter, by charles m. province. the poem, it is the soldier, over-simplifies our country’s greatness:

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

certainly, we understand the overarching point of this poem, but it fails to recognize the great strides our country has made in peaceful, non-violent ways. the soldier, quite frankly, hasn’t assured freedom of religion. people of faith who bravely sought a new land and who now carry on the banner of faith do this. the soldier hasn’t assured the freedom to protest. incredible men of god such as martin luther king, jr. have carried the flag of peaceful marches and refused to let violence stand in the way of victory. the soldier hasn’t assured the right to vote. the men and women who have upheld the value of every human being and championed a spirit of democracy have done that.

many, many people have blazed a peaceful trail of freedom and faith and equality and humanitarianism. and many of those people subsequently lost their lives so that we can now enjoy these things.

today, we honor the soldiers who have lost their lives, but not just because of our country’s pursuit of power at the expense of human life. we look back and honor their lives in great mourning and sadness as we look ahead to a time in which the last shall be first. we look ahead to a time when we are slapped on one cheek and turn the other. we look ahead to a time in which the wolf will dwell with the lamb.

on this memorial day, we lift up life. on this memorial day, we reflect on the way of jesus that one day, hopefully, will demand a day of peaceful joy, rather than a day of reflective sorrow.

as i’ve written this, a couple songs have played in my head repeatedly. both seems like fitting songs, so here they are.

joe pug / bury me far (from my uniform):

derek webb / my enemies are men like me:


  1. erniebufflo says:

    When I saw that poem, the thing I wanted to add was that the soldier doesn't GIVE us any of those freedoms. As our very constitution says, we are endowed by our Creator with those inalienable rights. All of our freedoms are given to us by God. Others may defend them, but they do not give them.

    Great post, man. My husband and I have both become increasingly pacifist in recent years.

  2. mckeetr says:

    I am currently under duress about this country's founding, and further actions, because we have this "free" land at the cost of so many others lives. The Native populations that inhabited this land before any white man came (for land, trade, religion or politics) have had their freedoms stripped away and been devalued as humans simply because others wanted the land. Genocide has been the name of the game for much too long here on our own soil, with our own government.

    As a christian, it is embarrassing to talk of religious freedom when our own pursuit of it has been the downfall of so many. I know it is impossible to include every thought and viewpoint in a simple blog post, and the point is taken about hypocritical criticism of those who stick up for the non-violent truth of Jesus. But the quote, "people of faith who bravely sought a new land," feels a bit too dangerous to me.

  3. mckeetr says:

    BTW, as evidenced by the post here, I have fixed the cookie problem that I had before. I def need to comment more on music posts. Seriously, great taste!

  4. Anonymous says:

    "the soldier, quite frankly, hasn't assured freedom of religion. people of faith who bravely sought a new land and who now carry on the banner of faith do this."
    Really?? Sure it was the "pilgrims" who crossed the ocean to create a new world where they could have religious freedom, but without the Revolutionary War, we would not live in a country where we can practice the religion of our choice. It was soldiers who fought and died in that war. Being a pacifist is not what Jesus is about. You have to take a stand and not just turn the other cheek. I'm not for going to war just to go, but we do need to defend ourselves.

  5. mckeetr says:

    "Being a pacifist is not what Jesus is about. You have to take a stand and not just turn the other cheek."

    I don't see how this can be true. Jesus told Peter in Matt 26:52: "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

    I honestly don't think you are taking Jesus at his word when he talks about the ways of this world and the ways of the kingdom. just because it makes sense from this world's standpoint doesn't mean that war is what Jesus called for. And I'm not certain that he would call for it ever. 70×7 to forgive? Give them all your clothes when they sue for your coat? Remove the plank from your own eye before looking at the speck in others? none of these sound like defending yourself when being attacked.

    Plus, the pilgrims were just one of the groups that came over here. Missionaries were coming over here quite a bit and destroying those who actually lived here already. These indigenous people cannot practice the religion of their choice, and are not granted the pursuit of life let alone liberty or happiness. So tell me, who needed to defend themselves in this situation: the taxed ones or the ones who were actually being killed?

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