Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day

I have a weird relationship with national holidays that honor soldiers. I am the grandson of a soldier. My father's father went up Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944 and many, many of the people that I have loved and respected in my life are or have been soldiers. On the other hand, my grandfather on my mother's side was a pacifist. He DIDN'T participate in World War 2 because of his convictions.

I was out a few weeks back and saw a U.S. Marine bumper sticker that said, "Pacifism is a luxury paid for by warriors." And to be perfectly honest, I don't disagree with that. The idea of pacifism, to me, implies inaction. Someone unwilling to take action. And hence, it's easy to be a pacifist in a world where you never have to stand up for that belief.

What is NOT paid for by warriors is nonviolent resistance. The role of nonviolence is one that I've thought about before and to me it's one of the bravest things a person can do. Someone committed to nonviolence is committed to changing their world, but has decided to do it without resorting to violence. The reason I consider it brave is because someone who does this has decided that they are willing to suffer the consequence of their lives for it.

I know there are people who disagree with that and I am grateful to live in a country where people can respectfully disagree, or even not so respectfully at times. But in a place where we have that benefit, I hope others will not see this as a lack of respect for the sacrifices that soldiers have made to give me and my family that right, but a commitment to the way of Jesus over and beyond that. Through his life, he exemplified what it means to resist nonviolently, even to his death, knowing that his death wasn't the end, but that there was victory over death, a release from fear of death. And that to me is what hope is about.


Tony Arnold said...

One thing that is an absolute fact, Phil, concerning non-violence resistance is that if everyone did it, violence would absolutely be eliminated.

If everyone that was attacked practiced non-violence resistence, we would cut violence in half.

This is just a fact. So if a person's goal is to reduce violence in the world, then the best way to do it is to individually practice non-violence. You cannot control others, but you can eliminate violence enacted by yourself.

Mrs. Osipov said...

I just turned 50. My feelings have changed drastically over the years. I want to believe I'd have the courage to act on my beliefs. I'm not sure at all that I could be involved in the military. However if I was, and saw injustices being carried out, I want to believe I'd remove myself from it. Even if meant being dishonorably discharged and even jail. I've read stories about how the current Pope was "forced" to be in the Nazi party when he was younger. He did have another choice - jail or death. He didn't chose either. I think he made the wrong decision. If I chose to go along with a wrong, something I realize is wrong, can I then turn around and ask forgiveness? Willfull sin? I struggle with these thoughts.

Rev. J said...

Phil, great post. It is very difficult to live in a war culture and follow a faith that is supposed to be abut nonviolence. There are many people right now in Iraq looking down a barrel of a gun who call themselves Christians. Soldiers are people of bravery but I think the truly bold, like you said, are people who stand up in nonviolent ways against evil. Those people pay the price with their lives but their lives affect the world. MLK, Bonhoeffer, those involved with the Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, are simply two that come to mind in recent years. Although, "Pacifism is a luxury paid for by warriors", pacifists change he world in dramatic fashion and truly change the world for the better.

Brian said...

I like to think of myself as a non-violent person, indeed a pacifist, but I'm not so sure its as much about religious beliefs (even though I would like to think so), as the fact that I'm averse to pain (mine). So instead of being overtly agressive, I've developed the equally damaging habit of being "passive-agressive" especially to those I love the most.

If my wife was being attacked (and I was present and able to respond), would I be non-violent? I don't think so.

I don't have any kids, but if I did and the same situation applied, I'm definitely sure that I would intervene with any means available.

So you can call me an armchair supporter of non-violence.

Stushie said...

Memorial Day Sonnet

If Liberty means anything to me,
I will remember what my freedom cost,
By those who gave their all to keep me free,
Whose lives were sacrificed, but never lost.
I will remind myself of what they did,
And keep them dearly cherished in my heart;
Their honor never from me shall be hid
And I will know they always did their part
To save our nation and its people here,
To pledge their lives in defense of our ways,
To show that freedom always outlives fear,
And sacrifice is hallowed all our days.
If Liberty means anything to me,
I will remember those who kept me free.

© John Stuart 2008
Pastor at Erin Presbyterian Church,
Knoxville, Tennessee

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