A Veterans Day confession

-Associated Press http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2013/11/11/photos-veterans-day-parade/
-Associated Press

Before we get started, I need to confess something: every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, I want to bury my head in the sand till the day evaporates into the past. I try to ignore the day as it approaches, and I urge the clock and calendar forward when it arrives.

Is it because I’m a veteran? No. Is it because I lost someone dear to me in military service? No. It’s simply because I have no idea what to do with these holidays. And despite the social media blitz, all day TV specials, and armies of flag-laden parades, I don’t think I’m alone.

I don’t know what to think, what to do, what to write, or what to preach around these holidays because I have more than a few questions about the use of violence by servants of the suffering Christ. But I have even more questions about pledging my allegiance to anything other than a broken Lamb, a banner which will inevitably conflict any and every flag ever raised by human hands.

Despite my reservations, or even the stalwart positions of many Christians who stand fully against the activities intrinsic to military service, Americans still sign up. A lot of Americans sign up. A lot of Christians sign up. And while many are blessed to truly come home, bone chilling numbers of them return home broken on the outside, inside, or both. Spiritless bodies return home, too, the hearts of some still beating in their chests. All the while, their families and friends share their wounds and burdens. And far too many who fear the consuming fires of nationalism or the infected wounds of redemptive violence have failed veterans and their loved ones completely because we don’t know how to balance our concerns with the stark uncomfortable truth that every soldier in every war on every side of every calamity is human, made in God’s image, and we should stand with those who need to heal no matter how they got their scars. We don’t realize that no matter what we may think about their causes, they have sacrificed far beyond what anyone should be asked to give. We fail to see the dark irony that in a theological and political quest to prevent broken lives, we’ve ignored broken lives all around us.

Unfortunately, the dark irony doesn’t end there. Twice a year, and maybe even on July 4th, we send a missive across the frothing ocean of social media about veterans’ sacrifice and our thankfulness. We stand along a street and wave a flag as those who still breathe ride by. We might even get a bit misty after a homecoming video goes viral or a commercial plucks a heartstring. Yellow ribbons adorn our homes and cars. But the poignant status updates, videos, and commercials get buried under the unstoppable deluge of cat videos and friends who wish it was Saturday, the flags hit the ground as we head back to our normal lives, and yellow fades with disturbing haste under a sun that cares little for our sentimentality. For far too many, “supporting the troops” is nothing more than a shibboleth pronounced by tweets and tears, a meaningless phrase that grants us membership in the kinds of friend groups and churches we like.

But hoping for peace isn’t enough, and cheering on Veterans Day isn’t enough. If we are to be the church, we have to let ourselves see the walking wounded around us and love them with the depth and ferocity of God Himself. As we drive to peace protests or Veterans Day parades, we must notice the 50,000 homeless veterans who surely can’t help but notice the American flags flapping mockingly over the city halls that force them to bleed yet again by working to ban their very existence on our streets. The enormous blindspot shadowing America’s veterans and their loved ones shared by the right, left, and indifferent is an affront to the God who sees even the sparrow fall. Rather than wait to passively notice a problem once it explodes, we must seek out the scars and chains that haunt our lands just as Christ sought us out. Both those who favor and oppose war run the risk of seeing soldiers as nothing more than a set of fatigues and a shiny black gun, whether that engenders fear or admiration, forgetting that God made them and loved them long before they put on the camo and fought for their flag. And they will matter to the God who leaves ninety-nine to find one long after they take off their uniforms. If we are to love as Christ, we must do likewise.

I still don’t know what to do with Veterans Day, but I know what I must do with veterans. I must love. Because our wholeness is bound up with theirs, and the banner of the Lamb beckons us all home.

A Veterans Day confession

The sun came up: a reflection on the 2014 midterms

i-voted_sticker“The sun will come up tomorrow.” A simple truth used as a simple assurance when something, simple or not, goes wrong. When a football team loses, romantic interest goes unrequited, or our vote falls as a tally on the losing side of an election, “the sun will come up tomorrow” tries to carry us past today’s pain.

Last night, elections delivered disappointing news to millions of Americans.  But after all the crying, speeches, and confetti, sure enough, the sun came up this morning. It came up over Democrats leaving office in January and all their constituents who fear for the future of the country. Perhaps a few rolled over, wishing the day away a little longer. The sun came up on the GOP, too, whose supporters joyously embrace last night’s results. Perhaps a few were up before the sun as their celebration overflowed from one day to the next.

The sun, however, came up over more than just the parties of and those party to the 2014 midterm election. It came up over struggling families whose love serves as the only bond keeping reality together. It came up over successful families so devoid of love that the cold November sunrise brought the only warmth for which to be hoped. It came up over broken homes in which every sunrise is a cruel new reality.

The sun came up over the lonely and alienated, whether they slept alone or shared a bed a few inches from someone lightyears away.

The sun came up over those who knew the day only meant another round of struggling through decisions, purposelessness, and confusion before the gift of sleep comes again.

The sun came up those who didn’t know whether they would see it again after sleeping, the morning rays finding their way into hospitals and nursing homes where death lurked, and unsafe homes where abusers lurked.

The sun came up over the incarcerated, whether a long trajectory of mistakes, a moment of impassioned madness, the unfair assumptions of their fellow humans, or even feeding the homeless put the cuffs on their wrists.

The sun came up over those so hypnotized by the god of Americanism they genuinely believed the success or failure of the God of the universe’s plan to redeem Creation hinged in any way on what a few people wrote on a piece of paper last night. And if that delusion of grandeur doesn’t elicit at least a giggle, we’re probably a little dead inside.

The sun came up over the wet, cold, and broken whom the suits hurried past on their way to the election announcements. And if that doesn’t elicit a genuine sadness for what the sun sees when it rises, we’re definitely a little dead on the inside.

Two years ago, the Election Day sun went down on winners and losers, and came up over the brokenness and destruction. The winners and losers came and went, but the sun came up over our problems every day for two years.

God willing, the sun will keep coming up for the next two years. But God willing, the sun’s rays will illuminate for us the problems that linger on and on rather than the political winners and losers who fade so quickly. If we look closer, God’s sun will show us humans made in God’s image, obscured by the mud and mire of our problems. And if we give them even a fraction of the attention we give the winners and losers, then God willing, maybe the sun will come up on a better world two years from now when it comes up over a new bunch of winners and losers.

The sun came up: a reflection on the 2014 midterms