Christians should struggle with Memorial Day. I fear that we do not.
To remember those who have died is important. To appropriate those deaths as a means of perpetuating mythologies is wrong. Brass bands and fighter jets, televised concerts and presidential pomp draw a veil across the reality of war. Christians are called to be peaceful, to seek peace with and among others, to love their enemies. Christians, who have the example of Jesus as their guide, should not fall into the trap of “common sense” that equates war with peace. This is why Memorial day should be a struggle for Christians. As we remember those who have died in war, we must also deny war its glory.
Dead Civilians by George Biddle
My thinking on Memorial Day has been evolving for several years as has my position on war and killing in the name of the state. I believe most Americans don’t think too much about it. Barbecues, a three-day weekend, and maybe the occasional thought about deceased soldiers are the mainstays of Memorial Day for most Americans. Newspaper articles and commentaries will prod us to have deeper, more patriotic feelings for the day. Politicians will make the connection between the sacrifices of those who died in war and our “freedoms,” but the connection is often a lie. I believe we should value our freedoms and this day does warrant emotion but, as a Christian, I cannot wrap my faith in any government flag, nor can I celebrate war by elevating state-supported martyrdom to a religious fervor. But I will remember those who have died (rightly or wrongly, soldier and civilian, for good causes and bad) because they, like me, need more than anything else, the mercy of God.
And I will enjoy a good barbecue with friends and family.
I have been sorting out my own perspectives on war in other posts:
- In Memoriam
- War, what is it good for? Considering the reasons for Memorial Day
- War cannot defend Christian Values
I have a lot of work to do on this topic. One thing, though, is I can no longer accept the “common sense” that guided my thinking in the past.
Also, here is an interesting post on Memorial Day by Michael Lafrate titled, Memorial Day and the religious syncretism of the state.