My daughter with Aspergers Syndrome is the queen of black and white; the world is drawn in two shades, either this or that, but rarely something in-between. The perfect example took place last Sunday.
One of our church members is being deployed overseas for a third tour of duty. He is in the National Guard and will be leaving behind a wife and daughter. And for his last Sunday before departure we blessed him on his way.
Daughter and Dad often have a pastime ritual that begins something like this: “Well, what did you think about worship Sunday?” She is generally looking for the best, extracting the positives to ply her father with compliments. Not this week. In her mind a significant ethics violation occurred right there in front of God and everybody. The sacred had been compromised.
What had been intended as an innocent gesture of support for a person heading faraway into harms way was really much more than a gesture. It was tacitly endorsing a way Jesus wouldn’t appreciate. It was softening the separation between church and state. It was selling out to the military-industrial complex. In particular, you, Dad, sold out.
She is direct if anything.
When she uses the word “hate” it is the strongest feeling word she knows. She hates certain events, actions and people. She hates those responsible for injustice and greed. She hates. It usually takes us a while to deconstruct the H word and identify what bothers her in particular. Beneath it lives a strong sense of right and wrong, fairness and compassion for the weak. Any participant in wrong-doing, violation or harm is in her sights. So what about this issue?
“We shouldn’t be praying for soldiers.”
“Why is that?”
“Because they are going off to do harm in the name of good.”
“In every case?”
“In every case in my lifetime.”
“Do you think a nation should have a military, be entitled to defend itself?”
“Occupying other countries to control oil and resources is not defense. Using billions of dollars for questionable wars rather than taking care of needs here is not furthering freedom or justice.”
“I understand your concerns. You know I’ve spoken to you about my concerns about certain wars. I draw a distinction between just wars and unjust ones. Do you?”
“And if we think that a military is permissible for a nation to defend itself and we ask people to serve in it, should we blame them for serving?”
“No, but they should know where they are going and what they are getting into.”
“But soldiers don’t choose where they go or what wars they enter – they receive orders. And civilian governments generally decide the wars, not the military.”
“Then they shouldn’t be a part of something where they can’t choose between right and wrong, case by case.”
“I understand, and that’s right, it’s a choice, and ethics are involved. Some soldiers drop out because of that. And others won’t serve for those reasons, because they can’t do something that breaks their moral code.”
“So why pray for him, reinforce this whole thing?”
“I separate the person from the big thing of which he is a part. I may or may not support a particular action or policy but I care about the person and his family. I want him safe. I hope for his return. And I hope for peace that won’t require him to go anywhere.”
“I still don’t like it.”
“I know you don’t. Thanks for pointing it out. So how did you like the sermon?”
“Ok, but you’ve had better.”