Sunday, June 03, 2007

"I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war"

In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and he answered me.
Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
Sharp arrows of the warrior, with the coals of the broom tree.

Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, for I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.

- Psalm 120

On my way to drop off Stephen for his trip to Alabama Thursday, I stopped by the district office of Chino Valley Unified School District to tell them that since I hadn't heard from them, I would have to assume they did not want to come to an agreement if I didn't hear from them by the following Friday (June 8). Saturday I got their rejection of my claim, mailed Friday morning June 1, stating that the full board had decided this on May 3rd, a month before, but had not told me.

I clearly must now sue CVUSD for damages to establish safety for Stephen and to deter them from such conduct in future. Indeed, until this is done, it's not possible for the district to do their job and educate Stephen, because he can have no assurance that they will not do something like it again, and so how can we even get started together. But what a drag it is!

I have certainly delighted in war myself. A big reason for doing so is that war really is such a drag that only by drugging ourselves with lust for battle can we bring ourselves to do it when we must - unless we get our help from God to do what we must even if it's no fun.

It's impossible to love war and conflict unless we're being proud. That's undoubtedly why this first of the Songs of Ascents confronts the love of war and calls us to humble ourselves in order to become the embodiment of peace, as does James chapter 4.

The psalm begins with his trouble, which is lying lips and a deceitful tongue. It's not too clear whether it's his own lying lips and deceitful tongue or other people's, but I vote for both - that's certainly my experience. At the end he further describes his trouble, those who hate peace and are for war, but isn't our own love of war our biggest trouble? It leads to conceit and arrogance, and that has to lead to shame.

It is impossible to delight in war without having lying lips and a deceitful tongue. We have to lie about our lust for war, we have to lie to wage a war which God doesn't send us to, and we have to lie to ourselves and others about the people we're warring against to justify your own criminality.

Here's some news for us war lovers from the middle of the psalm. The reward for the deceitful, war-loving tongue is "Sharp arrows of the warrior, with the coals of the broom tree." God's judgment is that if we love war he'll give us all the war we can stomach.

They all marched off rejoicing in August 1914, knowing that they'd have a glorious time kicking the other guy's butt for a few months and then come home to the kisses of the pretty girls. Well, after 4 years of receiving sharp arrows of the warrior, they went home in 1918 with a different point of view.

The Nazis, too, marched off to dreams of martial glory. 2 million people assembled in Berlin to cheer Hitler after the fall of France in 1940. Another 5 years of sharp arrows of the warrior and coals of the broom tree, specifically British and American incendiary bombs making firestorms in their cities, taught those millions the downside of war.

The proud man gets high on fighting. Winning at war is a drug that substitutes for right relationships with God and others. The humble man wants to avoid fighting, not because he is a coward but because it's a disgraceful act that brings punishment, unless God requires it - and then it is still very dangerous, enticing to pride and consequent shame and punishment.

I've come to see that attacking people and appeasing them, without reference to God's will, are actually very much the same thing. Either path involves reliance on lying lips and a deceitful tongue. Whether we go to war, as I am compelled to do in this case, or whether we yield, as Isaac did when the Philistines argued with him about the wells he had dug, we have to be humbling ourselves under God's hand, which amounts to always taking care to yield to the truth at every point. As I go to trial against the Chino Valley Unified School District, may I learn more and more to keep this in mind.

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