“War is as damaging to our souls as it is to our prestige, power and security… We have convinced ourselves that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war. Once you master a people by force, you depend on force for control.” So says Chris Hedges. We become “tyrants abroad” first; then we become “tyrants at home”.
“The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself.” Hedges is relentless in his critique of the impact of war on us personally, and on our nation collectively. His book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, was the secular spine of the gospel message shared at First UMC Burlington on the First Sunday of Advent.
Pushing ahead with some thoughts we didn’t have time for in church, we might consider some questions:
- What is the impact of our waging war on our democracy?
- How does war feed our own fantasies of national might, collective righteousness, the “goodness” of our society?
- What is it that compels a people to war against others? Hedges suggests we lose our capacity for logic, compassion and understanding. These are superseded by fear. Is he right? Wrong? Why?
As I think about what it means to be faithful as a citizen, it seems to me that the gospel idea of “grace” and the civic notion of “citizenship” share something in common. Both can run on the cheap. Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the distinction in his book The Cost of Discipleship between “cheap grace” and “costly grace”. The cheap kind is basically a grace that stems from faith in the crucifixion of Jesus without any commitment on our part to take up our own cross. Religion, like citizenship, is more easily embraced when we can adopt it mindlessly and with minimum effort or inconvenience.
We shared a quote from Jim Wallis (God’s Politics): “Jesus did not say ‘Blessed are the peace lovers.’ He rather said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ which is always a much more difficult task.” With the vision of Isaiah as the clarion call, and the way of Jesus as our life’s goal, consider what it would mean this week for you to beat some sword into a plowshare. Let’s work for the day when we no longer learn war.
Share your thoughts._______
Chris Hedges speaking on October 11, 2004 at the University of California, Santa Barbara