i’m in the lord’s army, yes sir

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Monday, June 30th, 2008

i’m in the lord’s army, yes sir

bible wrapped in the american flag

yesterday morning, christen and i visited a church that i have chosen not to name (just because it wouldn’t serve a productive purpose). for anonymity’s sake, i’ll call it The Country Club (cc, for short). at cc, they were beginning a new sermon series called god strong. it played off the army’s ad campaign of army strong (can you believe that we church people actually ripped off someone else’s original concept and jesus’d it up??). 🙂 in essence, the sermons revolve around military and warrior imagery to make points about truth and other biblical concepts. for the series, the large stage has been adorned with all kinds of military garb, graphics match the army strong graphics and the sermon featured some guy from the local national guard who was in full combat gear including a training assault rifle and 9mm.

so, i don’t want to have a holier-than-thou moment or just dump on this church (because i’m sure there are a lot of great people who contributed to the idea of this sermon series and its planning), but it really made me go back and shore up some of my feelings concerning the church and the use of military/war imagery. i deeply feel that these two things are simply not compatible or appropriate. i’m not necessarily anti-military and i’m not just an obama-loving anti-war protester or anything, but i strongly feel that the message of christ is bastardized when paired with images of war or violence.

one of the most beautiful images of christ is the messiah who came not with a sword as a political overthrower, but as a peaceful savior who radically taught his followers to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies. it wasn’t that jesus was some kind of weakling who cowered away from the military and political powers of his day. it was quite different, actually. jesus understood that fighting fire with fire wasn’t the best way to radically change culture and the current political climate. throughout biblical narrative, it’s fairly clear that the use of power to rule over others or to violently control others isn’t compatible with the story of god. god consistently used the weak and disenfranchised to spread a message of forgiveness and peace and love. so when we, as the church, continue to use images of war and military power to illustrate jesus’ radical message of love and peaceful resolution, it doesn’t do a service to a world who has seen violence and misuse of power in the name of jesus throughout the last couple thousand years.

in this day and age, these realities are even more pertinent given the unnecessary war that in which our country is currently engaged. my assumption from knowing a little about cc’s mission and vision as church is that there sunday services and sermon series are directly targeted to invite and reach out to nonbelievers in their community. why engage a war analogy sermon strategy to reach a world who has been daily overwhelmed with images of violence and war for the last several years?

my goal with this stream of thought and point-of-view isn’t to simply point a finger at cc and be critical of what they’re doing. rather, it’s a plea that i’ve been making for quite some time for the church to reconsider not only the use of war and military imagery to illustrate jesus’ message of mercy and love, but to also reconsider the overarching church-goer view on war. by and large, people who call themselves christians are the biggest war sympathizers and supporters. i simply do not understand this. it’s time to retap the true message of christ and commit ourselves to engaging in acts of mercy, offering reconciliation to our enemies and forgiving the people who have wronged us and our country.