Saturday, August 20, 2011

Part 2: Back to the Future of Duty, Honor, Country

‘Just war’ is just violence, just killing, just suffering, just inequality, just wrong. (Quote from poster by Mennonite Central Committee, a mission agency of Anabaptists including the Brethren in Christ and the Mennonites)

On the way to Vicksburg in the American War of Secession (usually called the Civil War though it wasn’t civil by any definition), Yankees “burned Jackson..laying waste to the countryside…tore up railroad tracks, pulled down telegraph lines, burned cotton fields..killed poultry and livestock, emptied crocks of molasses and vinegar; and burned homes, smokehouses, barns, stores, and warehouses."

Other animals and wagons were confiscated. Some soldiers "stole jewelry, china, and silver, slashed feather mattresses; and took clothing..a Union soldier wrote home that he had seen forty or fifty plantations burn in a single day.”

During the bombardment of Vicksburg by Grant’s forces, 22,000 shells by Northern gunboats were launched into the town. The Lord’s house took a direct hit--“a bombshell burst into the very center of the dining room, blowing out the roof and one side, crushing the well-spread table like an eggshell, and making a great yawning hole in the floor...”

Like others, the Lords soon moved into caves. I suppose you get the irony. The Lords were the pastoral family of the Episcopal Church of Vicksburg. If you recall from Part 1 of this blog, Reverend Lord was a Yankee who had moved from New York 10 years before.

Soon the families and Confederate soldiers were down to eating corn, peas, weeds, and rats, and in one family even a child’s pet bird to stave off the beginnings of starvation. They finally surrendered.

Afterward, martial law was imposed by Grant. People could be jailed or banished from the city for even minor offenses. “In one incident, five women were banished after walking out of a church service rather than participate in a prayer…”

A “Vicksburg hospital took a direct hit from a shell [from a Union gunboat], killing eight and wounding fourteen. A surgeon saved himself from bleeding to death by tying off an artery. His leg was later amputated. Dr. Lord’s wife and youngest daughter almost got hit “when two large shells fell nearby and exploded simultaneously, filling the air with flames and smoke."

Mrs. Lord “tried to soothe her four-year-old daughter, saying, ‘Don’t cry, my darling. God will protect us.’ To which the girl replied that she was afraid that God had already been killed.” (From Under Siege by Andrea Warren)

Which he had! At least the god of each side, both of whom were declared to be leading, directing, and supporting the war like so many other horrific wars in history. Consider the words of Abraham Lincoln: “I am almost ready to say this is probably true--that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet.“

And the South’s motto was Deo vindice (“God will vindicate us.”) And in the 20th century, German soldiers wore on their belt buckles “God With Us and British soldiers, “For God, King, and Country.”

And consider these stirring words from an American preacher in World War 1: “It is God who has summoned us to this war. It is his war we are fighting…This crusade is indeed a crusade. The greatest in history—the holiest…a Holy War."

"Yes, it is Christ, the King of Righteousness, who calls us to grapple in deadly strife with this unholy and blasphemous power."
(from For God and Country or the Christian Pulpit in War Time, 1918). ETC.

Yet James of the N.T. has it right when he says "Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own fight to get your way by force." (JB James 4:1)

And now the gods are fighting again in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, etc. And, again, humans because of duty, honor, country, and God deal out death... Speaking of Back to the Future…

Look instead into the Light of Jesus’ Way,

Daniel Wilcox

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