Saturday, September 08, 2007

Swimming in other waters

I started my last post with a saying that I’ve found useful: “The fish doesn’t know that he’s wet.” It captures the idea that we are surrounded by a culture, and because it surrounds us, it’s hard for us to be aware of its effects. In that last post, I raised the question of how the church can objectively deal with questions about the Christian and the military while living in a militarized society.

Let me offer a short role playing exercise to aid in the process. Admittedly, I’m going to choose rather extreme examples; I think we need to look at contexts that are very different from our own.

So, here goes. Imagine that you’re a parent. Your 18-year-old son comes to you and tells you that he wants to join the military. How do you think you would react if…

  1. You live in the second century. You’ve seen the Roman military used to round up Christians in times of persecution. The current emperor tolerates Christianity, so there is no persecution at present. Now your son wants to join the military.

  2. You live in Germany. Your grandfather fought for the Kaiser, your father for Hitler. You were forced to serve in the military under the Communists in East Germany, guarding the Berlin Wall to make sure that no one escaped. Now your son wants to join the military.

  3. You live in Latin America. You lived through the time of the “dirty war,” when thousands who opposed the government disappeared at the hands of the secret police and the military. Now your son wants to join the military.

  4. You live in Nigeria, one of thousands of Christians in that African nation. The U.S. has declared that Nigeria is aiding terrorists and is planning to intervene. Your son wants to join the military to defend his country.

  5. You live in Kentucky in 1861. The men from your congregation have divided, some joining the Union, some joining the Confederacy. Now your son wants to join the military, taking up arms against people he grew up going to church with.

Maybe five fish bowls will be enough to start with. Swim in those waters a bit before wrestling anew with the question of Christians and the military.

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