Monday, May 19, 2014
How a Pacifist Can Celebrate Memorial Day | Guest Post by Carrie Dedrick
I’m a member of the Church of the Brethren, a denomination established over 300 years ago that believes in pacifism, simple living and fellowship. Our sister denominations, the other “peace churches” are Mennonite and Quaker.
I also love my country.
I’m the daughter of an Air Force veteran, and my cousin just finished his active duty. My parents fly a flag at their house and the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays; I’m the all-American girl.
That’s not entirely true. Most of the time, the love of my country does not conflict with my faith at all. I am a writer by profession, and write news pieces that cover persecution and violation of human rights every day.
I often give thanks that I live in a country where I am free to express my faith and dress how I like without fearing harassment or abuse and pray for those who suffer at the hands of their governments. My writing keeps me aware of the dire situations that people live in all over the globe.
But then Memorial Day comes along.
While I am a proud American and deeply appreciate those who serve our country to protect the freedoms we enjoy, I don’t believe in violence at all.
Killing another person seems unnatural, something that no one should ever be able to go through with. It doesn’t make sense that killing people, often known as “peacekeeping forces” will cease violence as many presidents have claimed. How could that work?
When one person kills another, the other side retaliates. That retaliation will lead to another attack. It never happens that after two sides kill, the violence stops. Both sides want to have the last word, so to speak. The murders does not stop until someone waves the white flag in surrender.
Why not wave that white flag at the first sign of violence? But that flag should represent peace, not surrender.
Matthew 5:44 tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
What would happen if warring parties ceased fire for a moment to consider their similarities? God made us all different; we are certainly allowed to have different viewpoints and ideas. But what about our human needs for food and water, and a desire to be loved and cared for? To the the similarities, one must look beyond the surface.
There are ways to come to an agreement without fighting. That’s why we were given mouths to speak. Our words can speak the universal language of love and friendship, if we are only willing to use them.
Though it will go against our sinful natures to let an act of hate go unchallenged, that is what our Lord asks of us. Actually, it says in Matthew 5:41-42 to go even beyond acceptance, and offer the person who offends an act of kindness in response. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go two.”
God is telling us to lead our lives in that way. We should strive to walk a separate path than the rest of the world. The path of hatred and anger is the one of least resistance, but do not fall victim to the ease of that path. It is much more difficult to treat others with different opinions with kindness and acceptance, the path we are called to take.
Do not forget that God made those people, just as he made you.
With those feelings of being called to live differently, Memorial Day is difficult.
As I mentioned earlier, I am grateful that the United States has thousands of people who are willing to sacrifice so much to serve. Military men and women can be away from their families for months; they miss seeing milestones like birthdays or a child’s first steps. And they give all this up for me. For you. For the safety and freedom of complete strangers.
But I cannot shake the feeling that there is a better way.
1 Peter 3:11 says, “He [man] must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”
I wish our military could use that scripture to inspire a different method for keeping our freedom. Peace will not come from force.
On Memorial Day, I will thank God for our troops, especially the men and women who have laid down their lives for our nation. We have the freedom to say what we want to say and follow any religion we choose; those military members believed in those rights so strongly, they put their lives on the line and ultimately died to protect them.
But then, I will pray for peace. I will pray for the Lord to shed light upon our dark world.
There are so many stories of people who are suffering at the hands of those who do not know the enduring love of God. I will pray for the victims, but I will also pray for the people who are viewed as monsters in society...the captors of the Nigerian schoolgirls, the Boko Haram, the prison guards who abused American pastor Saeed Abedini, the Sudanese officials who are forcing Meriam Ibrahim to renounce her faith or die, and so many more.
I pray that God will reveal himself to those troubled souls, so they might accept his invitation of love and forgiveness.
This Memorial Day, I implore you to live by the second commandment. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Take a moment to pray for someone aside from friends and family and say a heartfelt prayer for someone who has offended you.
For Jesus made himself clear speaking to his disciples in Matthew 25:40: I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Violence will not cease if we do nothing at all. But peace can prevail with the love of God in our hearts and Jesus as our example.
I wish you all a safe and happy Memorial Day.
Carrie Dedrick is a graduate of Bridgewater College, holding degrees in English and Communication Studies. She currently writes for ChristianHeadlines.com. When Carrie is not writing she enjoys running, biking, and cuddling with her two adopted pomeranians.