As someone with pacifistic beliefs, Veteran’s Day presents a challenge, one that I haven’t always met gracefully. Let me try and offer some thoughts, hoping to hear your thoughts as well:
- Veterans who have served honorably have earned honor from the rest of us. Some of the best men I know have served as veterans. Even if I have questions about the correctness of what they did, I have no problem honoring the motives behind what they did. And I’m also well aware that it would be foolish for me to judge from another time and place the decisions people have felt forced to make.
- The honoring of veterans should be done by the country they served, not by the church. Veterans should be honored in church as other servants are, like teachers, first responders, medical workers, sanitation crews, etc. Celebrations beyond that belong in another arena. Let’s not dishonor the Prince of Peace by honoring war on the Lord’s Day.
- Let’s recognize the aims of a militarized society on days such as this. Patriotic days are used to promote militarism. What’s called the American civic religion is a serious threat to the church; let’s not give it more of a foothold in our midst.
- I distrust the use of religious language for such days. Let’s be careful with the use of the word sacrifice, for example; it carries a weight that many words do not. Another troublesome trend is the language of dying for another’s freedom; don’t let the world steal the glory from Jesus’ death on the cross. Hallowed ground… sacred… let’s remember the real meaning behind such terms and not use them in common speech.
- Some veterans are worthy of honor; some are not. Some served honorably; some did not. Every veteran you ask will tell you the same thing. I won’t give a blanket endorsement to any group of human beings, not even church members. Let’s not confuse things by claiming that all who have served are heroes.
- Let’s honor veterans, without glorifying them nor what they’ve done. Again, I think every veteran would say that he served in the hopes that his grandchildren wouldn’t have to. The church’s role at times like these is to be a voice for peace, not war.
OK, those are some basic thoughts. Probably made people mad on both sides. So be it. Such is my struggle with patriotic holidays. How do you resolve the struggle?