Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rome, USA . . . and the Way of the Cross

I remember President Nixon. I don't miss him, but even those insane times seemed to make more sense than the present ones. I'll write more about that in a couple of days.

On Friday, a buddy from USAF days sent me the youtube link to a patriotitc "thank-you" song by a group of third graders. It would be great to get kids to sing that well in church. But here ya go. Have a listen:
I listened to the song and read the words. On the web page, I saw that there are dozens, if not more, of such patriotic songs. Of course our soldiers and their families deserve our undying thanks, love, support and prayers.
They also deserve something else: the very best exercise of citizenship that the rest of us can muster. Freedom is something WE do. It is not done for us by soldiers.

Randomly, I clicked on one of the additional songs by a young woman named Sarah Bettens:

A few measures into the song, the beautiful young blond woman dressed in a black gown and standing in front of members of all branches of our military services sang these words:

"Fighting for freedom, for equality, for freedom for me and you..."

The song and the little acting sketch leading up to the song contained yet another variant of an oft-repeated but little considered premise: that our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are fighting for our "freedom" and the survival of the U.S. Constitution.

Say what?

I maintain that these wars have absolutely nothing to do with our freedom and our Constitution. Maybe freedom and the constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan--but we can hardly give or impose such things on those folks. They first have to want them, then fight for them themselves.

Our current wars MAY have something to do with our safety and security, but perhaps even less of that than we might think. Safety and security are very different from our freedom and our Constitution. However, it is human nature to seek simplistic answers to complex problems. That takes less work and brain power. By default we choose the path of least resistance.

Simply put, Rome in Jesus' day rested on belief in the Pax Romana, the gospel of peace through military victory. Pax Romana meant a brutally imposed subjugation of ruled peoples through as many public executions as it took to bring compliance. Caesar was procalimed and worshiped as the son of God. Or else! The whole shebang ran on a grinding extraction of tribute. For that, Rome recruited any corrupt regimes and their tax collectors who could keep the money rolling in.

Pax Romana was hardly the peace and freedom taught and lived by Jesus and Apostle Paul, a peace through justice and the way of the cross. In many ways we are becoming the modern day Rome staggering into bankruptcy and decline to preserve an idealized past vision of ourselves while avoiding reconciliation with the way ahead. Rome worked completely on pay-go, no matter how much it killed local economies and how much resentment it bred across the empire. They didn't have China to borrow from. We may well be even more delusional than they.

Here's something for us to remember today as followers of Christ:

Justice must be blind. Faith must never, ever be.

And our faith must never let us substitute patriotism for God.

I'm currently reading Three Cups of Tea, the story of Greg Mortenson's stumbling journey into building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He didn't set out to be a missionary and convert anyone. Yet he, born to a renegade Lutheran school builder in Tanzania, has done far more with far, far less to bring peace and freedom than the trillion dollars we have spent on the two most recent wars. We're still spending. Our debt is rising.

But see:

If ever we needed validation of the way of Christ and the way of the cross, Mortenson's work should do it for us.

I doubt that he will ever have a song and viral videos written for him. But he should have. Some kinds of virus can actually save lives. They need to be spread.

If it's prophetic, it's probably not popular. If it's popular, it's probably not prophetic.

Jesus' journey that we mark in Lent puts us in mind of that. The way of the cross is not the easy way out. The way of the cross is not cut-and-run. By comparison, it can make military intervention look like a two week cruise.

Which way do you think Jesus calls us to?

Pax Christi,


No comments: