When the Wars Are Done

Third Sunday of Easter

John 21:1-19

The start of baseball season brings the usual acknowledgement of Jackie Robinson’s 1947 breaking of the color line in Major League Baseball. The pleasant plaudits often mask the upheaval, furor, and continuing effects of that event in history.

In his acclaimed elegy to the 1950’s Brooklyn Dodgers, sports journalist Roger Kahn, writing from the perspective of 20 year-hindsight, says,

That time seems simpler than today, but mostly because the past always seems simpler when the wars are done. Jackie Robinson was a focus. At big, dark Number 42, forces converged: white hatred for his black pride, for his prophetic defiance and simply for his color, contested with black hope, the same black hope which Southern whites said did not exist (Boys of Summer, emphasis mine).

“The past always seems simpler when the wars are done.” Read more

Believing and Proclaiming

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Sharing a household with beloved in-laws who watch TV regularly and don’t hear as well as I do, I have learned to turn away from a blasting televisions, as it strives to capture my attention with its show of urgency or of overwhelming sensation. Yesterday afternoon was somewhat of an exception. When my dear mother in law instructed me in a whisper to ‘turn on the TV’—she was on the phone at the time—I felt a sense of foreboding. As I pondered the clicker, I felt caught between my habit of flatly refusing such invitations to be informed—a habit rooted in a general distrust that what the TV anchors would express as urgent truly was—and a nagging sense that I could be neglecting a civic duty by not paying attention to the story. I turned it on long enough to get the gist of what happened at the Boston marathon, before turning my attention back to playing with my five year old daughter. Read more

The Mystery of Agency

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

In this week’s Old Testament reading, we come to the climax of Absalom’s rebellion against his father, David, and the culmination of David’s own actions as King of Israel. Here we find David’s character – his weaknesses and his strengths – summed up. The story line follows David’s displacement from Jerusalem, the espionage and strategy leading to war against Absalom, and the King’s return. The lectionary highlights David’s disposition toward his son and the seemingly inevitable course of violence.

David’s desire for his son to be spared in the imminent attack upon his forces echoes his willingness for reconciliation following Absalom’s exile upon the killing of Amnon (2 Samuel 13:28-29). There, he joined in the prayer of a woman (a proxy for Joab) that the Lord be invoked so that “the avenger of blood slay no more.” (2 Samuel 14:11) According to the woman, David’s ruling that a man—her alleged son—who killed his own brother during a fight will be protected against vengeance, implied that he should “bring his banished one (Absalom) home again.” David, desiring the reconciliation that only forgiveness can bring, seeks to forgive Absalom.

Yet the readings highlight David’s powerlessness to do as he wishes. Read more

Supporting the Troops?

Craig Watts is pastor of Royal Palm Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, Florida and co-moderator for the Disciples Peace Fellowship.

In a recent conversation about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I found myself echoing the words often spoken by antiwar folk: “I oppose the war but I support the troops.”  My conversation partner was quick to respond, “You really don’t.”  I replied, “So, you don’t think it’s possible to be supportive of the troops and stand against the way that are being misused in this war?”  He answered, “Perhaps that’s possible for some people.  But you’re a pacifist.  Even in the best of circumstances you don’t support the troops.  You may support the soldiers as men and women but not as troops.”

I had to concede his point.  I don’t support the troops as troops.  Since I oppose, not just the war in Iraq but war altogether, I oppose the very purpose of the troops.  While I do believe they are being abused as troops by placing them in an unjust war, I believe they are being abused as people – and abusive of people – when fighting any war.  I simply can’t square the purpose of troops with the purpose of Christians as taught by Jesus, and so I believe no Christian should be part of the troops. Read more