Q & R: Helping Soldiers

Here’s the Q:

Thanks for your “New Kind of Christianity” book and your thoughts on whether or not God is violent.
I have a challenge in living with a congregation that imagines God is violent and with folks who feel that when I proclaim God’s nonviolence that I’m not loving “our” soldiers. I walk a fine line:
I want to honor and love soldiers who have suffered and “sacrificed”
I want to imagine new, Christ like ways of resolving conflict without the cycle of violence
I want to live the nonviolent, active peacemaking ways of Jesus
When I feel the most tension is on the Sundays around Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and the Fourth of July. Folks want me to preach, equating Christ’s sacrifice with a solder’s sacrifice. And I cannot do that. Yet I do love the veterans in our congregation and respect them! Do you have any response or suggestions?

Here’s the R:
Such an important question – and one that comes up more and more often.
First, I think you are using the right language … “I can not do that.” I think you have to explain why your conscience, your theology, and your sense of integrity won’t allow you to do that. I think you have to gently share your perspective – respecting those who differ, and asking them to respect you as well.
I’d recommend Logan Mehl-Laituri‘s new book, Reborn on the Fourth of July.
Logan has helped form a group called Centurion’s Guild that has a lot to offer.
And third, I’d check out the good work being done by my friends at Life in the Trinity Ministry. http://lifeinthetrinityministry.com/veteransevent/about
Suzanne Stabile told me about a veteran who said something like this to her: “The Republicans want us to be heroes, which means they don’t want us to talk about our pain, moral injury, or disillusionment. And the Democrats don’t know what to do with us. So nobody’s there to help us really heal and reintegrate into the community when we return.” There is an enormous need and opportunity for churches in this gap … and I hope churches like yours can move into the gap to help.
Bu the way – the current Time magazine cover story deals with suicides among soldiers … a timely article in light of your question. Soldiers and Veterans need us to be honest about their challenges, pain, needs … Making them heroes who can’t speak the truth about their experience, or criticizing the wars they fight are equally insufficient responses.