As a very young child I studied war, especially the U.S. Civil War but also World Wars 1 and 2, the Korean War and of course as a teenager the Vietnam War which ripped and polarized our nation.
What my high school English and history teachers referred to as “man’s inhumanity to man” always drew me to consider the -why- of various wars. What was gained and lost and in the end what could humankind learn from a given conflict?
I am no intellectual or genius, in which case I may be more of a common person than some… but as a Bible-believing Christian James sums the whole affair up about as solidly as I have ever heard such things summed up:
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4.1-3
I have long admired and agreed with President Eisenhower’s brilliant speech that included his warning about the “military-industrial complex”. As a man who truly understood the horrors of war and the terrible price paid by so many- both combatants and the innocents often in the wrong place at the wrong time, I have come to believe strongly that he might change the word order of his phrase in our time.
In the U.S., “American interests” seem to regularly mean “corporate business interests”. In the end, their contributions put politicians in power and such politicians deploy the military.
Do I think each and every deployment has to do with big business and big bucks? No. And I may be naive but in the end, I expect there are times public opinion, advisers and of course each president could cite other reasons as compelling enough to send our military in.
So there is my long opening to what I really want to say here:
I want to say THANK YOU to the thousands of men and women in our military who have served.
I have never blindly agreed to each and every war or deployment of -any- president, but the fact is that these men and women, many committed Christians, have laid their lives on the line for their country, families and freedoms… and for me my family as well.
What I am most concerned about- and what I expect many individual believers will not so much as pray about much less lend actual help for, is that those now returning from Iraq will have a laundry list of other heavy lifting now that they’re back.
No matter what President Obama does or does not do, whether the Veteran’s Administration does a wonderful or lousy job of helping returning veterans, the real question is what Christians ought to do locally, one-on-one, or regarding a veteran’s family, job support, encouragement and respect.
One might be a full-on pacifist and yet the love of Jesus and simple common respect that Jesus shed His blood for this group of people must not be forgotten nor neglected.
We already know suicide rates have been an issue. Transitions back to a marriage, families where various issues perhaps surfaced while they were in service, transition into a non-combatant, civilian environment and especially now in difficult economic times will have to be faced.
For many there are all-too-horrific memories of injury, perhaps the deaths of friends and comrades.
In various churches there is also the reality they will yet experience a loss of the sort of closeness they experienced with “foxhole buddies”.
I freely admit I have never served in the military though I read and thought about it and seriously considered enlisting prior to Vietnam and further prayer and consideration of that particular conflict.
It has often been rightly said that most of our nation blew it when Vietnam vets returned. God help us do better with returning vets from the Gulf and as the clock ticks, Afghanistan.
It fully troubles me that many who had nothing but support- and sometimes in my view, ignorant and extreme support for various wars, come to do next to zero when it comes to veterans returning home.
Those returning from such service- in some cases with broken and battered lives as a result- must get more than lip-service from a grateful nation.
Shelters, drug and alcohol rehab centers and the mean streets of many cities are often places we are now seeing too many vets showing up.
To be blunt, I wonder at so many screaming about taxation if they would even balk at the government calling for tax increases so that some of these needs could be met in the lives of returning veterans?
Exactly how truly grateful and gracious are we willing to be to our veterans?
May God help each of us answer that question appropriately.