Today is Pearl Harbor Day. I have always celebrated it as a day to remember the absurdity of war and how much humankind needs a Savior. I usually get in trouble with someone when I do that – or even say it (like I just did again). I have not so totally hidden myself in the margins that someone in the mainstream will not find an opportunity to remind me that “brave soldiers saved me so I can have my naïve faith in the land of the free.”
The first time I got into trouble for being a peacemaker was when we were teaching The Cost of Discipleship to the high school kids.(Gwen and I have never lacked for ambition). Bonhoeffer was making plain sense of the Sermon on the Mount, which clearly says “Love your enemies.” If you only love those who love you, you are not a follower of Jesus, who is God-with-us gracing the righteous and unrighteous.
As it turns out, I found out I was teaching the daughter of one of the men who had been part of “the great escape” from a Nazi prison camp in World War 2. He did not take kindly to a whippersnapper casting doubt on his heroism. His daughter went home and told him I had said, “I can’t imagine Jesus wearing army fatigues” – and she was not lying.
Not long after, I was summoned to an investigation by parent who had plotted bomb targets from the belly of a giant B52 when he was in Vietnam. He comforted himself with the story that he had not directly killed anyone, just directed bombs. I tried to be diplomatic when I did not understand his ability to excuse himself, but, to be honest, I was somewhat diplomatically-challenged at the time. I thought I was complicit and I was not even in the plane!
Fear, domination and avoidance. Unfortunately, not much has changed and the rhetoric on whatever commemoration is held today will probably be the same. You watched Obama last night. (But there is this).
Now we are hearing arguments about how more concealed weapons carried by good people (who are Christians) would have been a good way to stop the senseless and cruel killing in San Bernardino. Jerry Falwell’s son told the students at Liberty to get a permit to carry in case the school was attacked by “those Muslims.” Then I hear hate speech from “peacemaking” Christians who think Fallwell’s son should have something terrible happen to him. So much for loving our enemies even among the people who supposedly already love you! (But check out these videos of an Iraq War vet from MCC)
From my first conflicts over not having conflict until now, I still say that Bonhoeffer was right. Jesus says love your enemies; He demonstrated that fully and still means it. It doesn’t matter if you are an oppressed minority like the first followers of Jesus were, or if you are the president of a university trying to figure out how to exercise power. It doesn’t matter if the Pope is visiting you in the Central African Republic, where armed gangs shoot at UN peacekeepers, or you are visited in Philly where armed-to-the-teeth police patrol the streets. Love your enemies.
The best demonstration of the gospel, which everyone can practically express, is to be in a community of Christians who stick together no matter how many conflicts they face, between themselves or from without. SOMEONE has to love their enemies and love each other like Christ loves them or the gospel is a joke, a sad relic of a day before everyone was trained from birth to carry a concealed weapon in order to keep the peace – a fearful, dominated, avoidant “peace.”