Yesterday was Veterans Day and we celebrated our version of it here at Princeton Seminary with a military chaplain preaching in chapel and a lunch with military chaplains from across the state. A couple weeks ago in that same chapel my field education supervisor and pastor preached a message of inclusivity and diversity–we’re living in an age of hate he said and Christians need to choose to respond to all people, to differences in culture with love and acceptance.
…now how to hold together that reality, that we need to be more inclusive in our faith, with the fighting of a war that many, including myself, find to be a clear sign of America’s fear of the Other, our unabashed commitment to doing things our way rather than listening to the world’s caution, rather than considering other alternatives?
In speaking with the military chaplains at lunch, I was reminded about how this ministry is important regardless of your viewpoint on the war. As Christians, we’re not in the position to judge who is worthy of our ministry, our time, who is in need, and I remember being at the hospital this summer how much of my place was simply to listen and only sometimes to guide. Even if I have the opinion that this war was predicated on the very lack of listening, it seems to me the very best we can do is put people in the ministry out there to be a listening ear to our troops no matter the circumstances.
A military chaplain beside me at the lunch told me that much of his job in desert storm was to be a translator of sorts when it came to teaching the troops about what he had been learning about the Nation of Islam, and still another told of numerous circumstances in which the troops worked to engage in bridge-building with the local community. While I emphatically believe that this is the trained work of state department officials rather than troops (and that is something extremely awry in our defense work right now), I am still encouraged about real stories about real people that remind me that this war is about people, people on both sides, not causes or the sides themselves.
I’m constantly frustrated with how patriotism these days seems to come down to support our troops or you’re emphatically against the war–the fact is, I support our chaplains and our troops, because I know they are there to attend to the humanity of each person in front of them, the troops and the civilians. To support them is to recognize the reality of war, that people are dying, dying in their arms, and also to believe in the value of human life, to have hope that life will get better because there is a God in our midst that calls us into communion with one anOther, no matter how different we are.