Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

A big theme in the Bible is God's people becoming tasteless and good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Matthew 5:13), having joined the ungodly in the worship of their idols. In the book of Judges this happened over and over. Later on, Samaria, the northern kingdom, went into exile for the same reason, as described in 2 Kings 17.

Another 135 years, and Jerusalem also went into exile - having ignored the example that God had given them in Samaria - for serving the gods of the nations, for doing injustice to the poor, and especially for offering their children in sacrifice to the gods of this world.

From Cain up, people have been offering sacrifices to God that he does not appreciate at all, because they don't offer first the sacrifice that God wants, which is above all to be listened to, just as people made in his image want (Psalm 40:6-7). One of those sacrifices that God always hates is human sacrifice. There are two apparent exceptions: Abraham's offering of Isaac, and the death of Jesus on the cross. But both of these were offerings to God in the expectation of resurrection, which God had specifically promised, and not to death.

The doctrine we hear preached on Memorial Day, in contrast to the Bible teaching, is that death itself sanctifies. A violent, often sexually immoral, and arrogant young man dies a sucker in a shameful war of aggression on behalf of corrupt politicians and war profiteers, spreading misery and destruction in a far away land whose people have the same right to be left alone by invaders as we claim for ourselves - and he is made clean and holy simply because he got killed in the course of warfare in behalf of American power!

For unbelievers to believe such nonsense is understandable, because pagan religion has always found holiness in violent slaughter, from the Aztecs eating the hearts of their still living victims in their temples to the men of Tyre and Carthage burning their little children in the fire to Baal. When people do not know how the living blood of Jesus makes us clean when we abide in the truth and walk in the light (1 John 1:6-10), they will understandably hope to be made clean by the strangest things.

But where do "Christians" in America get the idea that sanctification comes of being killed in the service of any nation in this world? Could someone please show me that in the Bible someplace? And why don't these American Christians teach that Vietnamese, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Afghans are made holy by being killed repelling the invaders of their lands and homes? Or don't the prophets and Jesus and the apostles get to direct the thinking of Christians in such matters? Indeed, 1 Corinthians 13 puts it plainly enough: "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing."

I don't think it's all that mysterious, really. With very few exceptions, the bottom line for American Christians is America - their present world whose friends they are - and not Jesus. Their attitude is best expressed by Ahaz, who replaced the altar of the Lord with an Assyrian altar, saying of it, "On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, the evening grain offering, the king's burnt sacrifice, and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, their grain offering, and their drink offering; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. And the bronze altar [the Lord's, which Ahaz moved to one side] shall be for me to inquire by."

Their home is here, not in the heavenly places, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Jesus, and our Father in heaven, are important little gods in the American Christian pantheon, deserving, to be sure, to be obeyed and believed where it doesn't conflict with the prior obligation to worship America, in whom they live, and move, and have their being. The blood of our children killed or psychologically shattered by the wickedness they've been sent to do is to be offered on the altar of American militarism, along with the grain offerings of our wealth and that of generations to come, our civil liberties, and what remains of our republican institutions - while we claim that this folly in some way protects our freedom. But we'll then go to church to inquire of God, to pray and to sing hymns, pretending to godliness.

In the same way the European "Christians" all signed up for their national crusades in 1914. The Holy Spirit led the German Lutherans to die for Jesus in the service of the Kaiser. The very same Holy Spirit led the British to war against the Germans, the Huns. And in Russia, the Holy Spirit moved the Orthodox Christians in their holy crusade against the Austrians and the Germans. All this presumption and gross blasphemy left European Christianity in the shape it is in today - God is not mocked. But do American Christians fear God at all, to learn from this example and others like it?

It's fine to offend God by conforming our thinking to the world around us in contempt of his testimony, but to speak the truth about American nationalism and its conceits - now that would offend our fellow religious people, who would hate us for following Christ in opposition to the lies they love! But the apostles teach that we're to shine as lights in the midst of this perverse and corrupt generation - full of self-deception, murder, licentiousness, and empty nationalist self-congratulation. Do we shine as lights among them when we repeat their pagan pieties after them, like Ahab's prophets telling him to go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper - agreeing with their murders, their kidnappings, their invasions and bombings, their tortures and disappearances of the innocent? Did Jesus and the prophets sit still for such things?

This Memorial Day and every day, shouldn't Christians remember Jesus Christ, remembering all else in the light of what he has to say?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very astute commentary.

I think the reason that so many Christians believe that death while serving the county purifies the soldier is simple: they are more 'politically conservative' than they are Christian.

It is very hard for most people, I think, to recognize political beliefs as separate from religious beliefs. A persons political and religious beliefs tend to influence one another and any contradictions between them are resolved in the direction of where the stronger interest lie between politics or faith.

6/09/2010 3:02 PM  

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