One the second Tuesday of every month a group of us gather at a local restaurant to talk about the issues of the day. Sometimes local. Sometimes national or international. Most of the topics we discuss emerge from the headlines in the news, but our conversation last night was a bit different. The selected topic was the relationship of one’s faith to serving in the military. The conversation quickly expanded to include protecting oneself and protecting one’s family and the purpose and place of war and on what grounds, if any, is war justified and following orders when the orders you are given conflict with your values. None of us ever served in the military or been in any of the situations we imagined so our conversation was hypothetical as it bounced back and forth around the table. Multiple points of view were expressed with each of us saying not only what we think we might do in certain situations, but how we connected that to our understanding of God and to what we believe.
I enjoy our Tuesday evening conversations.
And, I enjoyed last night’s conversation because I walk away appreciating a point of view I had not considered before.
But, as is often the case for me, the conversation around the table lead to additional thoughts on the drive home. Last night’s after hours reflection was about the nature of faith and the place of values. What I began to put words around is that faith and values are always larger than what I am able to live out in my daily life. They are a way of living and being and treating others towards which I strive. And, around which I continually fall short. The temptation when I do fall short (which is multiple times each day!) is to justify my actions by adding exceptions what I believe.
In this case…
If they had not acted like that…
I really didn’t have a choice…
Those exceptions allow me to justify my actions and to maintain a sense of myself as a good person. But maybe leaning on those exceptions is both an excuse and a mistake. Maybe what is important is the dis-ease and the guilt and the honest realization that I have not lived up to the values I hold dear. I have compromised that which is bigger and more.
Maybe an example would help.
My faith tells me life is sacred and that God’s intention is that we live in peace.
That being the case, then war is wrong.
It is awful.
It kills people, both combatants and non-combatants.
It demonizes the enemy and sacrifices lives.
And, is always the result of a whole series of choices that build to that moment of the first shot or the first bomb. When we find ourselves at the moment of choosing to go to war, we attempt to justify it by resorting to something like the just war theory or saying God is on our side.
What if we were more honest.
What if we said what we are doing is wrong and lived with the weight of that.
What if we acknowledged we made mistakes leading up to that moment or we did not have the courage or resolve to find another way.
All this from last night’s conversation and the car ride home.