Kevin’s Conversations: Ready For War?
While I am far from the first one who is looking for a fight or eager to go to battle, I do believe that war and violence is necessary at times. Although I am sure there are varying iterations of such, I would subscribe to the basic ideals of the Just War theory. I would apply similar principles when it comes to the state’s subduing of criminal activity and also of personal application when needing to protect oneself or those around them from a violent threat.
Someone with a more pacifist bent could raise some arguments against my beliefs and could potentially be grounded in some substantial Scriptural or ethical or reasonable basis. For those inclined to debate, this could be quite the sizable and worthwhile topic. But my intent in writing here is not to deliberate Just War versus pacifism versus other positions on war and violence.
Rather my concern in writing is when I see people, most especially my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who are seemingly eager to go to war or get excited thinking about the possibilities of such. I have observed this type of behavior at varying times over the years and it was brought to mind again last week. As President Trump upped the aggressive rhetoric with North Korea, he had a cheering section who gleefully applauded his hubris and seemed quite enthusiastic about the prospects of attacking North Korea and/or taking out its deranged leader, Kim Jong-un.
Now I do think that North Korea and Jong-un are significant problems and a threat to international security, let alone what they do to their own people. The world would be a better and safer place if the existing government and leadership of this hardline communist country could be significantly constrained or even changed. Therefore, in no way am I advocating support for the current regime of North Korea.
However, at the same time, I am perplexed and frightened by those who are fervently ready to attack. War is a terrible thing. Yes, I believe it is sometimes necessary, but it is still terrible regardless of the circumstances. Thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of lives are lost. These lives are those of men and women who go off to serve, never to return to their spouses and children and family and friends. How terribly agonizing and heartbreaking it is when a wife learns her husband has been killed in combat and then she must also tell her children that daddy is never coming home. And beyond lives lost, how many more suffer physical and mental and emotional and psychological afflictions and trauma? I have never been in the military and so I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to serve in battle. A veteran with combat experience could describe the enormity so much greater than I ever could. And even beyond those who serve in war, how many more innocent civilians are collateral damage and end up losing their lives or having their living circumstances torn asunder?
Is this what we are yearning for? Really? Is our desire to display our strength or to police the world or to substantiate our president really driving us to be excited about going to war? I would think we would instead desire any avenue that would not lead to war, with war only being a last grim resort. I would think we would get more excited by the possibilities of finding a diplomatic or non-violent solution to ease tensions and reduce security threats than we would be to show off our “fire and fury”.
I remember the Persian Gulf War as a teenager. It was the first war that I really knew and it was also the first war that was really broadcast on tv. I remember thinking it was pretty cool seeing how we were lighting up the skies and displaying how great and strong and technologically advanced we were. But now I look back on that and think that was a pretty rotten thing to get excited about. Yes, it was an impressive display of military might, but it should have been accompanied by sobering thoughts that with each of those flashes in the sky, some soul or souls could be losing their lives or suffering gruesome injuries.
I also think about some of the end times enthusiasm I have been exposed to throughout my life. Much too often there seems to be a troubling passion when war or rumors of war or other atrocities happen in particular locations. Most especially when it comes to anything Israel related. One should not get excited about the prospects of Russia or Iraq or Syria attacking Israel, or any country attacking any other for that matter. Yes, the excitement is attached to the belief that these things are ushering in the soon return of our Lord, but my goodness, let’s delineate what we’re getting excited about. If we believe these things are indicating that Christ’s return is right around the corner, we should be sobered and saddened that such terrible things must first take place. Sadly, I have witnessed very little somberness over such things but readily much more near jubilation.
One other thing I have noticed is that one’s enthusiasm for war often parallels their affection for the Commander-in-Chief. Being that I have had much more contact throughout my life with those who are politically conservative, I have seen much more enthusiasm for any military operation, real or potential, conducted by Trump or one of the Bushes than I have for Clinton or Obama. Anything conducted by Clinton or Obama has been met with skeptical or condemning, or at best, lukewarm reception. However, when one of the Bushes took us to war or as Trump has gone about his current boasting, some can’t seem to be able to contain their excitement and endorsement. Although my experiences have been much more conservative related, I have witnessed some similar experiences with political liberals, just with roles reversed.
And so I find this frightening that we can get excited about going to war, whatever the reasoning or cause may be. But I also think about these things in parallel terms to other issues. Issues that aren’t necessarily nearly as grave or catastrophically consequential as war, but issues with some resemblance, nonetheless. How often do we get excited about going to battle over some cause? Over some social or theological or ethical or political issue? How often do we get excited about winning some argument, whether it be online or in real life? How often are we eager to seek out these battles or arguments?
These battles and arguments may sometimes be necessary and it may be right to participate in them at times. But are our thoughts and attitudes in the right place when we are craving to do battle? When we can’t wait to win or to defeat the enemy or to display our superiority.
Fighting a war or battling for a cause or contending with our own personal conflicts may sometimes be imperative and proper. But what is our heart’s approach? Are we battling out of necessity to hopefully bring about a greater good? Or is there a part of us that takes pleasure in experiencing victory and displaying how strong we are or in seeing the suffering and stifling of the enemy? Maybe some of the battles we see as necessary aren’t even so and we have only succumbed to our own faulty and depraved reasoning. Maybe some of them shouldn’t even be battles at all and rather should be exercises to work together with others with whom we have some differences.
May God help us to navigate our potential battles and to keep our hearts in the right place.