Preparing for War

This year we mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. It is a time when we should be encouraged to remember, to reflect, to study and to debate. By coincidence this centenary moment is likely going to coincide with a pullout of American and British troops from Afghanistan. It is already a couple of years since British soldiers left Iraq. Perhaps the heightened present of the military in our national culture is about to diminish. Time will tell.

So how best can we use this coming time, when images of war, both historically and present-day, will seem further away from our everyday experience? Emotions might become less heightened, debates less controversial.

I would like to propose that it is precisely during these moments of quiet that we are called to re-begin to think about war, spiritually, biblically and theologically. History tells us that war will return. In the moment of crisis there is never enough time to decipher fact from fiction. There is never enough time to go through a long process of spiritual discernment about rights and wrongs. These moments of crisis come as if from nowhere and call us to action, the question is not whether or not we will respond, the question is how we will respond. Doing nothing is always a decision to side with the powerful.

When the moment of conflict looms (and be sure it will loom again) the nature of our response will be determined by the work we have done during the lull. It is in these moments of quiet, in the space we’ve been given to dig deeper foundations, that we will prepare ourselves to find a way through the confusing fog of war fever.

In 2001 There were 25 short days of calm between the 9/11 attacks and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. Suddenly the whole world was asked to declare its allegiance; the Church was no exception to this call for polarisation. Christian people across the world were forced to reflect very quickly on ‘what would Jesus do?’ Some chose to actively support the American military, others spoke up for peace, most failed to react at all stunned into inaction.

Given only 25 days most of the Church failed to respond, not because they were not moved by the events unfolding on their screens, rather because they were unprepared, Few had thought deeply about how Jesus might respond to the realities of modern warfare and religious extremism. And so we were paralysed, the churches either took the road of least resistance backing the home side (so to speak) or we retreated from the public conversation to concern ourselves with raising money for our roofs or to organise another social event.

There are still a lot of people who are justly angry at the way our world is organised; history tells us that it is not difficult for promoters of violence to harness this anger. So we are called to do all we can to work for justice, we are called to do all we can to live much more simply, and to do all we can to be ready to respond when the next moment of imminent crisis suddenly darkens our horizon.

A longer and more details version of this article can be found Here


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