Sunday, August 31, 2014

Traveling Vietnam Memorial

This past week I was asked to be a chaplain for a couple of hours while the Traveling Vietnam Memorial came to Ludington. The Traveling Vietnam Memorial is 80% the size of the actual Vietnam Wall and occupied one city block in Ludington. It was my privilege to be there. I was also disturbed by a couple of things. Some were small trivial things. Others were not so small.

For instance, part of the memorial included a wall, describing those who lost their lives during World War II.

In talking about the United States, this board claimed that the United States' religion was Christianity.

This is, of course, not true. The United States was founded as a country that would not establish a State Church. Even though some of the authors of the Constitution were Christian, they agreed that to establish a State Religion would not be conducive to the freedom of its citizens. The statement that we are a "Christian Nation" is also a slap in the face to all other citizens who have a different faith than Christianity.

I know that many American Christians would love for the United States to be a Christian nation, but too many of them go about it by legislation rather than evangelism.

I also listened to a speaker, who seemed to justify the War in Vietnam, saying that they were protecting our freedom. In fact, the motto of the tour was "Freedom is never free."

I agree that freedom is not free. I believe that there are various ways of insuring that we maintain our freedom. I am more reticent using the military to do this. I am more doubtful, however, of the purpose of some of our military actions and how they protected our freedom.

This leaves our soldiers in the lurch. They are forced to enact the political will of government officials. Unfortunately, the soldiers were often the brunt of abuse from those citizens who disagreed with the government, especially during the Vietnam War. For our veterans who served in the Vietnam War, I have nothing but admiration for the suffering they went through. I am saddened by their loss of their friends, comrades, and loved ones.

My own problem comes when the deaths of the soldiers and the death of the citizens are justified as being in defense of our freedom. I do not see how killing people in Vietnam secured my freedom. Perhaps I am simplifying the issue. However, as I understand it, the United States was trying to prevent the spread of communism, which was seen as going against freedom. Hindsight has given us the wisdom that such systems collapse in on themselves. Even the communism of China is no longer communism. It's certainly dictatorial, but it's not the communism that Karl Marx envisioned.

What did those soldiers die for? They died for political decisions. They did not die in the defense of our freedom. I mourn their deaths. I mourn the suffering that our veterans have to go through with PTSD, loss of limbs, health, etc. I mourn that often they are suffering because of a lie. What is the lie? They died for our freedom.

Perhaps an even more pertinent question is this:  What did the Vietnamese and Cambodians die for when they were killed by American soldiers? Do we mourn their deaths? During the ceremony, a veteran yelled out, "58,286 names." How many Vietnamese and Cambodian names are there?

One ceremony that always chills me is the 21 Gun Salute. I am never prepared for it. It unnerves me. Last night, there was a 21 Gun Salute as part of the ceremony. That will always haunt me.

In thinking about this Memorial, I tried to come up with an appropriate selection from the Bible. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:1-3:

When I next observed all the oppressions that take place under the sun, I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no one to comfort them. Their oppressors wield power—but they have no one to comfort them. So I declare that the dead, who have already died, are more fortunate than the living, who are still alive. But happier than both are those who have never existed, who haven’t witnessed the terrible things that happen under the sun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let's Talk About Sects

I have had the privilege and the pleasure of being a guest on Online Corps' Gospel Stories. During that time, Major Kevin Jackson, one of the regular moderators, has asked me to help moderate a new series on world religions.

Online Corps has had the theme of "Stories" for their various shows:  "Gospel Stories," "Life Stories," etc. (Click here to view my own interview for Life Stories.) In our discussions, we were trying to come up with a new title for this theme on world religions. I, with my warped sense of humor, suggested the title, "Let's Talk About Sects." I immediately gave a disclaimer for the title, but they actually liked it.

So . . . starting this Thursday at 1:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time) (8:00 PM GMT), you can expect yours truly to help out with this new series! I'm actually very much looking forward to it. We will first be discussing what religion is and then looking at all religions:  from Orthodox Christianity to Islam (and almost everything in between).

Our goal is not to show why Christianity is better than other religions. Our goal is to show where we have things in common and to discuss these things. The forum allows for online discussion. So we hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Partial Assurance

I feel torn. I want to help. I want to feel needed. I want to know that things are reciprocal and not merely one-sided. Is that selfish? Of course it is.

The silence is deafening. The assurance is partial and incomplete.

In the end, I am left with my doubts and insecurities.

It seems the only way to get rid of the insecurities is through the lapse of time.

Having been hurt too many times to count doesn’t help either.

I either become a recluse or persevere. Neither option seems appealing, but only the risky one bring rewards.