Monday, May 25, 2009

War's Glory or Glorification

Pr. Peterson asks in his blog post The Cost of War, “Was there ever an idea so stupid as glory in war?” I’m not entering the thread that comment sprouted. It has by now taken on a life-form of its own, well removed from where it started.

Still, as the daughter, wife, and mother of military combatants, I’m somewhat pressed to answer that question. My father served in Vietnam, as did my husband. My son has seen duty in Gulf I, and now three tours in Iraq. This November he will see duty in Afghanistan. When the World Trade Towers were attacked he was in Kosovo. That is considered a combat tour, also. Al told that is six tours in combat zones.

My father once told me that the only glory in war was in the movies. My husband and son have echoed the same sentiment, but now include video games. I suppose, then, Pr. Peterson is correct on one level: Was there ever an idea so stupid as the glorification of war?

There is a distinct difference between there being glory in war, which is a result of human sacrifice for a greater good, and the glorification of war, which is magnifying war for its own sake. What I appreciate Pr. Peterson saying is the latter, not the former.

War is a necessary evil, now that we are subjected to sin in this life. While war reduces daily bread, a strong army protects the First Article gifts of the people.

It would therefore be fitting if the coat-of-arms of every upright prince were emblazoned with a loaf of bread instead of a lion or a wreath of rue, or if a loaf of bread were stamped on coins, to remind both princes and subjects that through the office of the princes we enjoy protection and peace and that without them we could not have the steady blessing of daily bread. (LC: LP, 75)

And yet why is there war? God chastises His children.

By nature we all have this beautiful virtue that whenever we commit a wrong we like to cover and gloss over our disgrace so that no one may see it or know it. Nor man is so arrogant as to boast before the whole world of the wickedness he has committed. We prefer to act in secret without anyone’s being aware of it. Then if anyone is denounced, God and his name have to be dragged in to turn the villainy into righteousness and the disgrace into honor.

This is the common course of the world. Like a great deluge, it has flooded all lands. Hence we get what we deserve: plague, war, famine, fire, flood, wayward wives and children and servants, and troubles of every kind. Where else could so much misery come from? It is a great mercy that the earth still bears and sustains us. LC: The Ten Commandments, art. ii, par. 59-60)

It is good to read The Children’s Homer with children. They get a taste of what war is really like. The men of Tory argue, “We are right! Our cause is just. Helen came with Paris willingly.” The men of Sparta argue, “Menelaus did no wrong. No man should have his wife stolen from him. There is a pact among the rulers, and it must be honored.” The children learn that on both sides there is honor and sacrifice for friends; on both sides there is dishonor in war.

We also read the book with this as our presupposition: “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15). There are no good works for those who are not in Christ, even by way of the Promise. It is a tough lesson to work through for some, but they soon get it.

This is a lesson the world about us doesn’t get, so it glorifies war itself. We don’t recognize that war is God’s tool calling the nation to repentance. Repentance? Repentance for what? That implies sin, and this nation has yet to identify real sin instead of its own made-up varieties of socio-political wrong-doings.

There are glories in war, true instances where soldiers have made sacrifices. Some, where, when or whom we can only leave to the Father Himself, are magnificent good works. These aren’t the same things as we now see portrayed in the movies and cheapened by video games. I understand that a hungry nation wanting to express gratitude to its Audy Murphys and SGT Yorks wanted to see their stories portrayed onscreen–but unending versions of Rambo and Empire: Total War are another thing entirely.

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