Posts Tagged ‘peacemaking’

How Do You Honor Those Who Served?

It’s a natural question to ask in the U.S. today, which we commemorate as Memorial Day. Many Americans have spent part of the day visiting cemeteries, attending ceremonies and parades, and saying thank you to the veterans who, thankfully, came back alive.

I so deeply appreciate the sacrifice that people in the military make—particularly those who were willing to sacrifice their lives. And while the commemorations mentioned above are meaningful, I would love to contribute more somehow. I’m just not sure how.

On top of what to do, there’s also an interesting distinction to be made here. One lesson that, I think, the U.S. learned from Vietnam is that it is essential to honor veterans even when we disagree with the war in which they fought. We’re talking about this today in Occupy Café—an online presence for the Occupy movement, created in part by my friend and colleague Ben Roberts. Ben posed the question, and here’s what I posted in response:

You and I are essentially in the same place: desiring to honor the war dead (perhaps not just “our” war dead?) while witnessing to war’s ultimate absurdity. In wrestling with this, I tend to focus narrowly on the motivations and cost to those in the military. Many have given their lives; many others have given up important life stages, the chance to watch their children grow, even their mental and emotional stability. They did this (or so I assume) because they saw a need to sacrifice those cherished personal lives for something larger. I may vehemently disagree with the cause they fought for, but I can still honor the fact of their self-sacrifice—particularly as my own faith tradition (Christianity) calls for a similar brand of self-sacrifice. In the sacrifice they make, they truly are heroes.

That’s enough from me. How do you honor our fallen service members? And how do you tread the line between opposing a war—or striving for a world in which war is unnecessary—and honoring those who served in it?

Christians and the Call to Dialogue

We Christians are notorious for fighting. We fight among ourselves over subtleties of doctrine. We fight with other faith traditions over what constitutes Truth. The Crusades, an extreme example of fighting if there ever was one, are a horrible stain on our history.

Fortunately, some Christians have made good progress in dialogue over the past few decades, especially in the field of interfaith dialogue. That is a very good thing indeed. It puts us in line with a Savior who, I think, would heartily approve.

It is true that the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life make no mention of dialogue. But Jesus in these accounts waxes eloquent about the ideals and objectives behind dialogue. In the Sermon on the Mount—perhaps his most sweeping single statement of his approach to faith—he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). A bit later in the same sermon, he exhorts his followers to “love your enemies…that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (5:44-45).

This label, “children of God,” fascinates me. It speaks, I think, not of mere familial relations but rather of affinity: people who, out of their deep connection with the Divine, reflect God’s orientation toward the world. People who reflect God are peacemakers. People who reflect God are committed to love.

What does this have to do with dialogue? Well, how can I love you most effectively—how can I act in your best interests, for your greatest good—unless I know you? And how can I know you unless I listen to you?

Listening also reflects what we read about Jesus. Among the numerous accounts of him preaching, challenging, probing, and delivering his message, several stories show him listening as well. He heard—and was amazed by—the faith of the centurion who asked for his servant’s healing (Matthew 6:5-13). He listened to the woman who cleverly parried his understanding of Jewish-Gentile relations (15:21-28). One might argue that he posed his famous question—“who do people say that I am?”—not as some test of his disciples’ understanding but honestly to seek their insight.

This same Jesus also prayed for another fruit of dialogue: unity. “I ask not only on behalf of [my disciples], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one” (John 17:20-21).

That’s what I hear when I read the Bible. What does your faith—Christian or from another faith tradition—tell you about the need for dialogue? I would love to hear your thoughts.