Lesson 14: Choose Productive Nonviolent Vocations

Nursing-home-photoAs I write this lesson, politicians are debating whether they would have invaded Iraq, if they knew what we know now. The discussion began as a question from the press to see if they could connect Jeb Bush with his brother. When his answer was controversial, they began asking many candidates the same question.

As the conversation developed, I found myself more and more disturbed, not by the answers, but rather by the casualness with which everyone spoke of sending young people to war. Candidates were judged according to their prudence in taking conventional positions designed to get them elected, rather than their wisdom in addressing issues involving declarations of war. I got the impressions they felt human life was just another resource at their disposal.

I found myself thinking of my aunt’s definition of sin. She would observe that we begin doing things we do not want to do so often that we become people we do not want to be. Perhaps we take constant war so much for granted, we have become comfortable with killing. Perhaps we think power and violence are the only ways to solve conflict. Diplomacy has certainly been given over to the military. Politicians insist we should not talk with people or nations who do not accept our policies. The NRA’s absolute statement, “The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun” is taken as a truism.

I am also disturbed that the political debate refuses to acknowledge the great sacrifice made by the young people we send to war. Our leaders make a great show speaking words about “heroes”; however, they refuse to care adequately for those who return with mental and physical injuries. You get the feeling few leaders have any idea about the trauma of living in fear that you will have to kill or be killed.

So what does it mean to choose a nonviolent vocation? In her first 300 years, the Church refused to participate in the military. A number of the martyrs were soldiers who were executed after becoming Christians and refusing to kill any more. Our tradition still proclaims love is God’s way rather than power.

However, in our penultimate age there is surely a place for defending our people against evil. Indeed, some military are among the most compassionate and thoughtful people I know. They understand violence is always problematic and entering into war must be a last resort.

It is nearly impossible to choose a vocation that in some way does not support the militarism prevalent in our society at this time. Christianity offers no obvious and clear concrete political proposal. However, we can provide a witness that might incite a more realistic discussion.

My favorite example of this was made by one of our regular readers who used newsprint to post huge numbers on her front porch. When questioned about what was going on, she would indicate this was the number of those killed in the combat in Iraq at this point. If the conversation continued, as she hoped it would, she would indicate each day she took time to recite each name and read something about their lives. She did this at a time when our government tried to sneak our dead warriors home without any publicity or recognition. Her witness forced those around her to acknowledge the real horror of war.

If sin is doing things we do not want to do so often we become people we do not want be, then salvation enables us to be the kind of people we are meant to be– lovers who care for one another. Christians must proclaim warfare and violence are opposed to God’s will. They must call society, as best they can, to nonviolent ways to solve our conflicts.

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