Thursday, 25 April 2013

That They Will Not Kill Each Other

Every year I get to Anzac Day and write a blog. It's the same message every year.

1. War is evil and should be opposed.
2. It's terrible theology to take John 15:13 and apply it to soldiers.

And even though I've said it before, I need to say it again today. Anzac Day at its worst is drunken forgetfulness in the name of Lest We Forget. It's a woeful celebration of "our" heroes; people who became heroes while fighting people who were heroes for someone else. We need to remember more than the lives of the people who died in war, we need to remember the horrors of war and the evils of war. When we forget that horror we are too keen to send more people to war.

Jesus' message to us was to turn the other cheek when we are struck, to carry the load an extra mile when oppressors force us, to be peacemakers. He preached all of this while Israel was occupied by a military force. Roman soldiers patrolled the streets. They executed political prisoners in order to maintain their control. Even in the midst of this environment he told his followers not to resist. His way is the way that doesn't recognise state boundaries, it serves the needs of the neighbour. His disciples resist the occupier by being compassionate, not by being violent. There is a qualitative difference between them.

And as for John 15:13? Here it is.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
Can we honestly say that Jesus meant for this to apply to the soldier? Let's follow the logic.
No one has greater love than this, to take another's life for one's friends.
Can we really suggest that killing another human being, as soldiers do in war, is the "greater love" that Jesus preached? That is the kind of evil that war brings out in us, that we would kill each other and that we would justify it by insisting that it was Christian love that motivated us to do it.

If we are to hold days like Anzac Day as national holidays of remembrance then we need to remember war in its entirety. It is evil and brings out the worst in us. If we remember one thing from days like this we must remember to never again go to war.
"A modest proposal for peace: Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other." - Stanley Hauerwas
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