Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Meanderings

At my poetry blog, I wrote a post that talked about a variety of resources for Memorial Day, primarily reading materials.

As always, I noticed that I collected an assortment of pieces that don't really address the spiritual aspect of Memorial Day.

I'm not sure that I'm really capable of doing it either. Even though my dad was in the Air Force, and then the Air Force reserve, for most of my life, I, like many Americans, feel some ambivalence about the military. I have some trouble reconciling my religious beliefs which tend towards pacifism, to the necessity for military protection. There have been times in my lifetime where I've thought, at last, we're moving towards a world that won't need military action. And then the world launches into a new form of barbarism.

I have this trouble on a national level, as well as on a personal level. I want to be a pacifist, but I'm not going to passively let someone hurt me. I've taken self-defense classes, and I know how to shoot a gun.

Someone asked me, "Would you really shoot someone who broke into your house?"

I said, "If someone is breaking down my door, I'm going to assume that they mean to do me harm. I hope that I would have the courage to shoot the person breaking down my door."

A friend said, "Not me. I would die before I shot someone. Some principles are worth dying for."

Sure, if faced with an even trade--my life or yours--I want to think I'd surrender my life. I'm a Christian. I've been promised that death is not the final answer.

Unfortunately, I'm also a woman who lives in a violent corner of the world in a violent time of history. I face other threats than death: rape, kidnap, torture, slow death. That's why I have taken various self-defense lessons, and I hope that I'll be brave enough to use them.

So, why don't I translate these lessons to the world stage? Well, in fact, I do.

Here's where being a Christian also helps me. I can live in complexity. The Kingdom of God is both here and not yet. I look towards a time where we don't need a military, where I don't need self-defense lessons. I yearn for that time. But it's not here yet.

And so, on Memorial Day, I spend some time thinking about those who have made all sorts of sacrifices, so that my life, as a woman who is a U.S. citizen, is considerably better than the lives suffered by the world's majority of women. I spend some time praying my gratitude prayers for those who did so much for a future generation they wouldn't survive to see. I pray for peace in the world, for a time when we tell tales of a military-industrial complex, and our children can't believe we'd spend so much money and require so much sacrifice.

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