Our Righteous Wars

Elijah

 

Maybe you’ve seen the video going viral of the Marines singing the worship song Days of Elijah?

It’s been going around my Facebook page with the headline Holy Spirit takes over Oorah-style.  The script that follows speaks to America’s “innate reliance upon God.”

For the record, for those who don’t know, I’m a Gold-Star daughter. I serve on national advisory boards for veterans organizations. I’ve long been an outspoken advocate for our military and their families.

I am also a woman of faith. Baptized-by-immersion, redeemed-by-the-blood-of-the-Lamb Believer.

I tell you all of that to tell you this: This video does not give me the warm fuzzies. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I have nothing against a movement of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I often pray for that very thing, in my life and in the lives of others.

When my good friend deployed for the umpteenth time a few weeks ago, the very last thing I did with him was pray for him. I prayed protection and guidance and success in his mission.

Even so, this video gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I am not at all comfortable with language that reduces war – any war – to an “us” and “them” mentality with God always being on the “us” side of things.

I am not at all convinced that America has an “innate reliance” on God.

While I do often think that we are in a battle of good versus evil in the world, I’m not always sure of who is good and who is evil. I rather think there is good and evil in all of us.

I was in a church not long ago where the congregation rose and pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States and the Christian flag. I did that all the time growing up and never thought anything of it. But these days, I am entirely uncomfortable with the notion of having people say the pledge of allegiance to the US Flag at a church service.

I understand why leaders would like the idea of us pledging allegiance to God and country. If you intertwine the two, you form a stronger bond. You can’t dismiss the one without dismissing the other.

But I fear that all too often this allegiance-swearing as a very manipulating thing to do: Get the unsuspecting to swear allegiance to God & country and then you can pretty much rest assured that they are going to do whatever you ask of them because at our very core we are a trusting bunch.  We believe in the goodness of mankind.  We believe that America is a country blessed by God. If we were to be completely honest, we’d confess that we might very well be one of God’s favorites, right behind Israel, of course, which is why so many believe we have to support Israel no matter what, because it secures our position as God’s next-favorite people, or so the rationale goes.

All that sort of talk makes me squeamish.

Like this video.

These are not the days of Elijah.

I’d rather we didn’t assume that we are fighting God’s war whenever we head off into battle.

I’d just soon we keep our allegiance to God separate from our allegiance to our country.

I’d just as soon we not assume that every war we wage is a righteous one.

History would say otherwise.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

14 Comments

Chris Early

about 5 years ago

Frankly, I haven't has the guts to bring this up to the congregation, but I don't think a national flag of any sort is appropriate in a sanctuary. In the fellowship hall or anywhere else, Old Glory is a proud symbol of our nation. In the sanctuary, however, it is a graven image.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

So Onward Christian Soldier might be a disturbing hymn, heh?

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Faye Bryant

about 5 years ago

I know your heart, Karen, and I love it. What I see when I have watched this video repeatedly is a group of men singing worship to Almighty God. The song is one I've sung numerous time in our praise team. To hear this group of male voices speaking, "There's no God like Jehovah!" brings tears to my eyes. My hope is that they mean it and live it. We need more men who do so. From the look of this video, they are having church, and the song is a beautiful reminder that just like in the days of Elijah, we need to see righteous restored.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

Faye: Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps it is just a group of men worshiping. If they weren't all dressed alike, in military garb, and potentially headed off to wage war somewhere, I might feel differently. But I am admittedly sensitive to the mix of God and religion and warring.

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Lois Trippett

about 5 years ago

Good thoughts. I too, just took the video of a bunch of men worshiping who were in uniform. I pray they were not thinking it as a war cry in the physical realm. And I also am getting more and more uncomfortable with the pledge of allegiance. Anywhere. What if the republic, for which is stands, becomes totally ungodly. Then what? My allegiance is to God, not to a country. But to say that in some places might get me lynched!

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

Lois: I'm here to back you up. Let me know if anybody tries to lynch you. :)

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AF Roger

about 5 years ago

Lois: I think your sentiments are spot on. The Pledge of Allegiance as we know it today is not one of our country's founding documents but the reaction to Cold War fears. The term "allegiance" also has a history in the feudal system in which a vassal pledged undying loyalty to a lord in order to obtain protection and reap benefits. It was not about such things as human rights and universal suffrage, however. The serfs still remained serfs. I've come up with my own alternative that I think might better separate form and function, the symbol from the abstract ideas behind that symbol. If we lose track of what is behind the flag, its veneration easily becomes idolatrous. So here's what I often wish we could say vs. the current pledge: "I recognize and I accept the privileges and the responsibilities of citizenship in the United States of America. I pledge my very best efforts in faithfully exercising both my whole life long." By theor oath of enlistment, we already require all who serve in our armed forces to disobey unlawful orders of their superior officers (whether this actually occurs is another question). As citizens, it is our responsibility to see to it that those superior officers, military or political, obey US. And if, as you point out, our heart of hearts tells us that what our nation is doing is ungodly and/or immoral, we are duty bound to offer our highest forms of loyal service: disobedience and political action.

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AF Roger

about 5 years ago

Considering the need for military training to create like-mindedness in a group of individuals and the age of these troops, the risk of blurred or disappearing lines between church/state, religion and mission, is great. I'm reminded of the time I watched the epic David Lean film "Doctor Zhivago" for the third time. I had seen the film twice in the USA. The third time, it was with a German language soundtrack; and I was seated in a movie theater in Vienna, Austria in the summer of 1968. In classic parallel scenes set in Vienna/Berlin and Moscow, both the German/Austrian and Russian officer classes are dressed in their imperial finest and gathered in royal ballrooms with crystal chandeliers, regally dressed ladies at their sides as they raise glasses of finest champagne to toast the onset of war. Having downed their bubbly, the officers smash their glasses on the floor, a sign of "allegiance" to their flags and the noble causes of defending territory and empires against aggressors who have taken opposite positions following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The broken glasses, of course, symbolize the "no going back now" fight they imagine will be all glory all the time. Both sides are completely unprepared for the hellish loss of life in trench warfare with poison gas, for launching rank upon rank unarmored troops with rifles against rows of machine guns. Then comes the narrator's line, "... both sides praying to the same God for victory." It then finally dawned on me that I was sitting in the capital of what had been the Austro-Hungarian Empire, half of the Axis Powers of The Great War. I was now on the other side. It had never before occurred to me that the losers in wars--and their hapless grunts-- might have been praying to God for victory, praying to my God, in fact. How dense could I be? Hadn't armies always done this? But is this the way of Jesus at all? Of course, many people would say it is entirely appropriate to blend allegiance to our flag with prayer and praise of Yahweh/Jehovah/the Triune God because our current opponents in the world proclaim "Allahu akbar!" in praise of a false god or the Devil him/herself. I suggest that more often than not when it comes to war, we both pray to faulty understandings of God.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

I know I am guilty of having a faulty understanding of God. I may not even be right in this. Some would say that God loves war and the warrior.

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AF Roger

about 5 years ago

God loves war and the warrior... For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, he becomes our lens and interpreter for all of Scripture. Recently I heard a Christian essentially espousing the merits of genocide based on Old Testament precedent, essentially distilled as this: if you don't kill them all, the next generations of you enemies will come back to stab you in the back. Is this the ministry of reconciliation? Does this square with Christ and the way of the cross, or with the way of Rome that knew peace (pax Romana) through military conquest? My old question again, did Jesus bring anything new to the table? If not, why did God bother?

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Dave

about 5 years ago

Karen: Keep calling it like you see it ! I am also concerned about this video as well as the many churches that sing Old Testament based songs about the Church being God's army ! Dave

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 5 years ago

Thanks, Dave.

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Mary T from Portland

about 5 years ago

Hi, Karen. In these days, when it's acceptable to be openly gay in the military, but it's not acceptable to say "certain behaviors are sinful, but Christ is the answer" (because it might be perceived as pushing Christianity), I am really encouraged that there are Christians in military service who sing joyfully about God, even knowing that they may be the "voice(s) in the wilderness." And it seems to be a church service. Why not sing about God and faith in a church service -- especially since Christian convictions are not welcome anywhere else? I don't see anything there that says God loves America better than (almost) any other country. What is meant by "the days of Elijah"? Do you know? If you don't know, how can you say, "These are not the days of Elijah"? For the composer's meaning of Days of Elijah, a quick Google led me to: http://robinmark.com/the-story-behind-days-of-elijah/ I hope you have time to check it out.

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Van Doren

about 4 years ago

Lincoln once said: "I'm not sure God is on our side; I can only hope we are on God's side." Then there's Mark Twain's "War Prayer": http://warprayer.org/

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