The weather in Southern California has been breathtaking the last two days. This morning, we did a thirteen-miler run up in the hills behind Monrovia, just east of Pasadena. My body is now well-recovered from the near-disaster of April 3's 50K. No big races ahead on the schedule, just some easy running.
The fact that it is hot means the central air conditioner must be on full blast all day. Chinchillas do not do well when the temperature gets over 75, and can die rapidly once it climbs over 80. It will be a very expensive next few months, making certain that my little 1.5 pound Matilde is kept cool in the swelter of a Pasadena late spring and summer!
I passed 20,000 hits sometime early this morning; I know that doesn't mean 20,000 unique visitors, but it still is a lot of folks coming here since mid-January. Thanks. I've decided to add a sidebar of a few of my most popular posts.
Okay, here's Saturday's rant which will no doubt infuriate one or two folks:
Annika had a touching post yesterday about the death of Pat Tillman (the NFL player killed in Afghanistan). I disagree with Annika's politics, but I confess I was quite moved by what she wrote. But then, alas, the little pacifist theologian who lives in my head got mad. Annika quoted the song "American Soldier" by country singer Toby Keith, which included these lines:
Oh, and I don't want to die for you,
But if dyin's asked of me,
I'll bear that cross with honor,
'Cause freedom don't come free.
One of the things that many Christians who believe in the efficacy of war have a tendency to do is to confuse "dying" with "killing". This goes all the way back to Julia Ward Howe's ringing final lines of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: "As He died to make men holy, we shall die to make men free." Stirring it may be (I love that hymn, I weep whenever I sing it) but it's poor theology.
Jesus himself died for us on a cross; last time I made my way through the Gospels, he didn't kill for us. Soldiers have but one life to give for their country, but their real usefulness, alas, lies in their willingness to kill for their country. American forces, everyone agrees, have done most of the killing and relatively little of the dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have no desire to see American lives lost. I am sorry that Pat Tillman died; he seemed to be an unusually intelligent and thoughtful man. But it is troubling to me that those who grieve his death compare the sacrifice of an armed soldier to the non-violent sacrifice prescribed in the New Testament.
We are all called to the cross. Jesus says "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." The Christian life is not always one of joy and happiness; it can be and perhaps even should be one of pain and sacrifice. If suffering was all that soldiers did in war, then a Toby Keith could claim that they were truly taking up the cross. For those of us within the pacifist Anabaptist tradition, inflicting suffering -- even upon one's enemies -- is antithetical to the spirit of the cross. Our soldiers may be good men engaged in a noble cause, but their methods are not those that Jesus or his disciples used. Jesus, Stephen, Peter, Paul; they and others after them went to their deaths willingly. But they darned sure never took anyone else's life along the way. Though it may serve the songwriters to do so, connecting the martyrdom of the doves with the sacrifice of the hawks is bad history, bad politics, and bad theology.
In the countless talks and arguments I have with non-pacifist Christians, I am always keenly aware that there are indeed good men and women of sound theology who defend the compatibility of war and faith. I respect the "just war" tradition, even as the historian in me is convinced it is a 4th century construct designed to placate the Roman Empire. I need to say yet again that I grieve all of those who die in war, including those who die in combat. But I cannot equate the profession of soldiering with Jesus' command to take up His cross, and even in a time of sadness, I am troubled -- and angered -- by the appropriation of that sacred image to honor men who die with blood on their hands.