I guess that a lot can be said for the state of the world. Just last week saw a plane full of innocent people blow-up, an escalation of the Israel/Palestine war, even images of police brutality in this country. I’d like to say that this is a new thing, but it is not. Every few months it seems that somewhere in the world the ghost of war rears its head and people are killed. Like many of you, I am sick of this and I have been for a while.
The change for me came at the start of our re-involvement in Iraq. The mental gymnastics and logic for that war was so obviously flawed it made me question a lot of what I saw coming from the government. If you remember the war came on the heals of an economic downturn. We still were not making much way in Afghanistan, Enron had collapsed and the tech bubble was bursting. If you listened through the commentaries, there were many who made the point that war would be a good thing for our economy. War a good thing. . . hmm…
This is the problem with war, fights, and the like: they are rarely about noble reasons, and when they are, often the results are mixed at to what has really changed and if they had positive impacts. Yes, people can and do point to wars like WWII, possibly the Civil War and things like that, but those are more the exception then the rule when it comes to war.
War, battles, and fights are what keep our country moving. Direct military spending represents roughly 19-20% of the federal budget. And many civil corporations derive at least some of their income from military spending. Though I say this, I have to say that I do not think a military is a bad thing, especially for protective purposes, but the active engagement in perpetual wars, which are hard to justify, seems to be far more about the game of war than an actual objective. And it is accepted because war is accepted in our culture.
We see the war mentality starting early with games. Even kid’s sports like soccer and baseball turn from a fun activity to a battle for supremacy, not even to mention video games and the like. I know the arguments saying that this is good, it helps people work through those emotions, and so on. But in and not too uncommon discussion, I remember a couple years ago going out with some friends who were stockbrokers at the NYSE (back when they actually had them). It was amazing that almost every discussion they had when it came to their jobs was somehow militant. “I’m gonna kill this deal” even “We’re going to war with . . .” were not uncommon. Though that language switched when we began discussing other things, it was amazing to see how ingrained that war language was and how easily it came.
I often worry about these things because I see it permeating society. I read the local “Nextdoor Neighbor” site for the Rose Garden community. Most of what is on there is interesting and informative about what is going on around the church, but every other week, or more often, someone stages a war. Often it is nothing more than a battle of wits, but a war none-the-less, and it shows how when war happens, the community cannot, because war is about winning, not compromising or even understanding. As a football coach once said to me, “there is winning, there is losing and that is it, we are at war!” I gave up on football soon after that was said. But regardless, life is not a sporting event, and most often the best solution is not a win/lose thing; it is about learning how to better be the community.
I would argue that the problem with the world right now, and for most of its history, is that we have adopted an understanding of social Darwinism that allows us to justify war with an understanding that, well, the strongest and most intelligent will survive and the other, well . . .. This is part of all justification for war. The unfortunate thing is that when most wars end the world is no different than it was when it began, and people just gravitate to the next war.
I do very much care about what happens in the world, but to be honest, there is very little, if anything, that we can do to create global peace in a macro way. The locomotive engine is on a runaway track with that. But we can teach and bear witness to peace in our churches and communities. We can spend time relearning how to dialogue and listen, and most importantly, be examples of setting ourselves aside for the search for and discernment of God’s will. Only when the church does this will it truly be able to make a strong statement in a macro way showing the world a better way, a way that is not about the win or loss, but a way that is about living into God’s call for us to be His community.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen