As Christians this is a valid question. Jesus did not call for militaristic action against others. He didn’t lead his band of followers into battle against the Roman Empire. He was clearly non-violent. And there’s that little matter of him telling us we should love our enemies and do good to those that hate you (Luke 6:27).
Our military veterans who’ve served in harm’s way deal with some great challenges. When they return from deployment they certainly should never be shamed or ostracized. At the same time, it is hard for many Christians to justify sending troops off to war, especially if the evil they are sent to fight is not clear. In America we like to condemn the imperialistic actions of countries that persecute others and repress their citizens. But it is not popular to consider where and when that happens with our country.
The question posed in this article is necessarily confrontational and controversial. We all should think hard about what our Christian values and beliefs tell us about war. Those same values also teach us not to judge others and to love and comfort those in need. There is no doubt that our veterans of wars whom we recognize on this national holiday are deserving of love, comfort and often treatment. Combat induced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD - see this Albuquerque Mental Health Examiner article) is a very real concern and there are so many affected, most recently those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also those that served in past wars, that the Veteran’s Administration is having a hard time keeping up with the caseload.
For my part, I do believe I can support veterans. I can thank them for their service. I can recognize their sacrifices. Today therer will be events commemorating and honoring our vets. Parades and visits to cemeteries. If you are a veteran you can even get a free meal at Applebee’s on November 11, 2009 or at Golden Corral on November 16 (see the Military Chaplains Association web site for details).
For those that are in the military and deployed we can, and should, pray for their protection. And organizations like Faith Comes By Hearing are keeping our troops “in the Word” with audio versions of the Bible (the popular Military BibleStick).
At the same time we don’t have to support policy that calls for killing and conquering, especially if it is ever done in God’s name (see Should a Christian Be a Military Chaplain? by Laurence M. Vance). It is difficult to hear, accept, embrace and live the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians must all regularly examine their consciences. Love and respect each other is one of those teachings. It is the spirit of those teachings that we can call special attention to those who have served – our Veterans.