I wonder if anyone questioned the sanity of it all.
In America we sacrifice our best young people to appease the gods of war.
I posted the above words on Facebook on Memorial Day evening while watching the National Memorial Day Service on PBS.
I wept as I listened to the stories of men who died, who "sacrificed" themselves for their country. We saw some who had not made "the complete sacrifice" - those with parts of their bodies missing, paralyzed. We heard pleas given to those who had returned in despair - offers of help and counsel for wounded souls.
While I know that many - perhaps most - in America feel that somehow these warriors had suffered heroically in the service of "God and Country," I was struck by the terrible irony of it all. We as a nation had sent these persons to die or to be permanently disfigured in body and soul, and now we were grieving over them. We heard talk of their sacrifice, but was it not we of America who sacrificed them? Some had died or suffered in what some might term "just wars," but many had suffered and died in senseless, purposeless combat.
My thoughts went to the pagan gods mentioned in the Old Testament - Baal and Moloch - and how they were appeased by child sacrifices. I thought too of the Aztecs and their bloody sacrifices of warriors who simply were the losers in war games. Did the people grieve over these lost ones?
I thought about the gods of Olympus in Homer's Iliad, about their dispassionate manipulations of the combatants in the Trojan War - lives given up simply to provide amusement for these gods.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a war hero, in his Farewell Address of January 17, 1961, warned of what he termed "The military-industrial complex." He warned, "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in American experience. ... We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications... The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." His staff secretary later said that Ike "would have referred to the 'military-industrial-congressional complex,' but left out Congress 'out of respect for the other branch of government.'" (Evan Thomas, Ike's Bluff, pp. 3, 4, 399.)
Eisenhower's warnings were given more than a half-century ago, and the American people have still failed to comprehend his warning. Today the military establishment and the arms industry have become America's gods of war, demanding greater and greater sacrifices of the American people, especially the lives of their young, while the gods grow fatter and fatter.
I find it strange that in spite of all our grieving over these lost lives we still give heed to the high priests of these gods of war as they demand more deaths. Politicians and pundits, senators, congressmen, presidential candidates - many of whom have never served in the military - continue to proclaim the necessity for more bloodshed.
I also find it strange that those who do question the sanity of our sacrifices to these gods of war are considered unpatriotic and of failing to "support our troops."
Well, I consider it my responsibility as an American and as a follower of Jesus, to question America's devotion to the gods of war and of her sacrifice of her finest young people.
Please note: I am not here discussing whether or not there is such a thing as a "just war" or whether or not the follower of Jesus should take part in one. I have attempted that elsewhere (THE CHRISTIAN AND WAR), though I am still wrestling with the question. I am here only making a plea for sanity in a culture dominated by militarism.
Grieving over those we have sacrificed while at the same time giving in to the demands for more sacrifices is not only the great irony, it appears to be insanity.