Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Patriot Dream

On this Memorial Day week-end I will be thinking of some of my family who proudly served their nation: my father in the Pacific Ocean on a Destroyer in WWII; my uncle in Europe as a paratrooper, jumping into enemy territory; my brother in Vietnam in 1968, trekking through the Mekong Delta. I will expand my prayers and remembrance beyond my family to include fellow citizens whose names are etched in granite along a wall of black granite; those whose names are written nowhere but remembered no less by families who sent them off to defend the freedom of this country they loved; I will pray to God a prayer of thanks for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  But I will also remember those who have said no to war; who have practiced with tender conscience a resistance to governments taking their youth and too often frivolously marching them into oblivion; I will remember those who denounced as Communists and driven out of their jobs because they dared to ask hard questions about their government’s commitment to the very ideals it asked its people to die for.  And I will pray, as you no doubt will too, that we as a nation will one day arrive at a moment when Memorial Day will be a time of remembrance about wars nearly too distant to recall; when we will pledge ourselves to waging peace with the ferocity that we currently wage war.

May God have mercy on our comrades and fellow citizens who have fallen in defense of our freedoms.  May God have mercy on those who presently serve in harm’s way and bring them safely home.  May God call us to the citizenship of heaven and may we find that blessed assurance that while we may not live to see the promises of God fulfilled in this life, we will be greeted on the other side of history and mortality and welcomed into the realm of love and light.

Pastoral Meanderings On Memorial Day

War is a sin.

Sometimes the greater sin is not to stand against evil.  We live in a fallen world.

The Nation State is idolatrous by nature.  Christians therefore should be very careful when the Nation State tries to convince them of what is evil and who must die for it.

Christ was murdered by and for an empire (the First Century Roman).  Those who fight for any empire need to be aware of the risks of executing Christs.

Those who refuse to fight evil on the principle of peace should be careful that peace does not become a shield for cowardice and at least seriously entertain the notion that a refusal to fight evil because of peace may in fact destroy peace.  No one less than Gandhi –that great soul who coined the term, satyagraha (soul force) and practiced non-violence–had at one time threatened to offer himself as a combatant soldier.  “And this because,” he said, “I see that my countrymen are not refraining from acts of physical violence because of love for their fellows, but from cowardice; and peace with cowardice is much worse than a battlefield with bravery.”

Christ led no army, did not participate in raids or battles.  He said, “blessed are the peacemakers.”

The United States is not a Christian nation.  Christians of all kinds should wake up and accept that as not only a fact but a necessity for pluralistic, peaceful government.  Muslims and others who assert the U.S. is a Christian country often do so in order to conjure up the ghosts of the Arabic Conquest and the aftermath of Crusades.

Seek peace and pursue it.  Wage Peace.

Violence as a strategy for resolution of conflict is innately self-contradictory.  America’s cities are awash in blood because we have accepted the lie of violence.

The world is awash in blood and war in large part because religions have embraced violence and corrupted their holy scriptures, using what is holy for what is most corrupt and horrific. Religion has for too long been and is “a refuge of human savagery” [Whitehead].  Beware then of religion.

The sons of the Enlightenment and science provided the world with efficient tools of mechanized death, poison gas, airplanes that became weapons, the nuclear bomb and many, many other hideous weapons.  Beware then of those who claim science and reason have made them superior.

For those who have given their service and sacrificed their bodies and minds and given the supreme sacrifice of their lives for freedom, we hallow your memory and thank you for your bravery and service.

Memorial Day is the day we remember these sacrifices.  It is also a day we pray that there will be no more wars and no more soldiers added to the list of the remembered because peace has overcome war.

Until that day, we are compelled to live in two realms.  One realm is our own country. The other realm is the kingdom of God.  One will end. The other will never end.  Let this instruct your navigation of these realms.

Historic Riverside Baptist Church: We Are The History

English: World War One Memorial, Barre, Vermon...
English: World War One Memorial, Barre, Vermont, Washington County, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On this Memorial Day Sunday of 2014, we printed on the front of our worship program (you can download it under the sermons tab) the names of those members of Fifth Baptist Church who died in World War I.  I found it quite moving to have Bob Nelson read these names–names that have likely been quietly overlooked for years if not decades.  August is, of course, the 100th anniversary of the First World War and we will have some other activities to remember and honor those who served. But today got me thinking about the history echoed in our congregation…

Obviously our church (which underwent a name change in 1968) was around and ministering in Southwest DC at the time of the “Great War.” But think of this:  our nation has had 44 Presidents.  Our church history–not our building, because we have occupied four different buildings in SW (you can click on the About Us tab and find a brief history)–has witnessed 30 of those 44 Presidents.  Just say that aloud to yourself.  Our history intersects 30 of the 44 Presidents of the United States. Anyone want to guess the average life span of a business in the United States?  Here is a quote from Businessweek that can put this into perspective:  “The average life expectancy of a multinational corporation-Fortune 500 or its equivalent-is between 40 and 50 years. . .A full one-third of the companies listed in the 1970 Fortune 500, for instance, had vanished by 1983-acquired, merged, or broken to pieces.”  This June, we’ll celebrate our 157th Anniversary.

Before a toaster was invented or a microwave, before an airplane flew or antibiotics created; through the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Iraq 1 & 2, and 9/11 our congregation(s) have lived, prayed and served. Right here,  in Southwest DC.  While our ministry is local, our voice is global.  Back in the 1980s Pastor Troutman took delegations to the Soviet Union on a Baptist Peace Tour to counter the “evil empire” rhetoric coming out of the Reagan White House. We wanted Christians (and others) to know that we knew the majority of Russians, Ukrainians, and Georgians were not Communists. Indeed, there were more Christians than Party members.  In 1972, Riverside began ordaining women to the diaconate. In the 1970s, the church began its journey toward becoming a bi-racial congregation. In 1992 we boldly declared our separation from any affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention because of its hideous rhetoric attacking gay men and women. We have been brave in voice and action to include those who have been historically marginalized in our country.  Recently, my open letter to white Christians in Florida, denouncing the Stand Your Ground law, was read by over 100,000 people.

This is a history rooted in the faith of our people.  We are not the guardians of stained glass and stone nor a museum’s cultural artifact. We are a living organism, we are the Body of Christ, we are dedicated to the uplift of all human beings.  Come and join us this Sunday and let’s celebrate our history by raising our voices together  in worship and joining our hands in the work for the healing of our world.

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