Conflicted Thoughts on a Day of Remembrance

Last November I was in Belgium amidst the cemeteries of the fallen in World War I. They were everywhere, in the middle of farms, along riverbanks. These men, mostly from England and Canada, were buried on the battlefields where their young lives ended. It was especially touching to me because my own father fought and was wounded in Europe, but in the Second World War, where so many of his friends died.

On this Memorial Day I am reminded of so many feelings I had standing in those cemeteries and looking at the thousands of graves of so many men whose lives ended at an all-too-early age. It was eerie and sobering.

hold in my heart great honor for those who have gone to war to protect the freedom of others. While our military has not always been used for just and moral purposes, that does not diminish in my heart the service of those who have risked their lives or lost them in the service to country. War has taken way too many young people, often because of some pathological despot, who wants to dominate the world or at least protect their own authority. And I count among them too the innocents who’ve been slaughtered in those conflicts, even today. I think of the children dying in Syria, who will never grow up and have a chance to know love, marriage, friendships, and creativity in God’s world.

I’m am frustrated at the political leaders who sacrificed young men and women merely to protect their political careers. As the The Vietnam Series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novice revealed how Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all knew that war was unjust and unwinnable but continued to send young men from my generation into its caldron because they didn’t want to be the first American President to lose a war. They lied to the American people every day about it.

While the US still does much good in the world, I am still gravely aware of the moral authority our country has lost in the world over my lifetime. Yes, the world is more complicated, but it doesn’t help that we have used our might, not always to help others, but to further our own interests.  Our foreign policy has the stench of arrogance, and it has cost us severely. We force our will on others, instead of engaging with allies in genuine coalitions. I travel enough to know that our reputation in the world has suffered and few look on us now as a beacon of morality, generosity, and humility.

And I’m completely dismayed that so many have fallen for the drumbbeat of “America First,” failing to see how it only angers other nations. Yes, our government needs to look out for our best interests, but one of those interests has to be our generosity to the “least of these.” How can we who have so much be otherwise in the world?

I grew up a Christian nationalist, my passion for America tightly tied to my perception of the kingdom. It isn’t anymore. I’m not sure when or how it changed. I’m sure in part it came from having my illusion unmasked that our country is no longer a “beacon on the hill” of morality and hope. It is woefully corrupt and paralyzed by selfish interest rather than fighting for a common good. But I also hope it is also from the love of an expanding heart that no longer stops at the contrived borders humanity has drawn. I know there’s no way to erase them, but we can look beyond them. I wasn’t born here because I was special or deserving, and those born in more desperate cultures are no less humanity than me.

The children of war-torn Syria, cartel-infested regions of Mexico, or the drought-riddled plains of West Pokot, hold no less value than my own grandchildren. Those of us who live in the  affluence and relative safety of the West, are invested with a greater responsibility to find ways to share it with those who lack.

So while I honor today the memory of those who gave their lives in service to their country, I’m aware that honoring their memory is more than pausing by a flag or a parade, but working for a better country and a better world where despots have no opportunity to subdue people under them.

Oh, and here’s the famous poem written in those Flanders fields I was walked in a few months ago.  It’s why poppies are such a poignant symbol on this day. It is also an appeal to the living, to ensure that their lives were not given in vain.

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1872 – 1918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

8 thoughts on “Conflicted Thoughts on a Day of Remembrance”

  1. Donna Kellerman

    Yes, so well said! Thank you for all the work you do to bring hope and reconciliation to so many.

    1. Brother wayne
      Has there ever been a normal, uncrazy time in the history of mankind? We, as humans, have a propensity to make it only about the moment when advancing a cause or belief system. The fact is our country has been suffering from an erosion of morality, virtue, righteousness, and a genuine purpose, for decades. This isn’t a Trunp thing – where have all the commentators and opinion writers been all these years.?

      If a Christian, (which I don’t believe Jesus’s intention was to do ALL that He did so another religion would be named after him and millions killed for his namesake. But that’s for another time) nationalist is so wrong, someone needs to explain this flawed life view to the Jewish people, or the Turks, or Bosnians Or any other people that have sacrificed much. I know not of any sovereign country that doesn’t respect, defend its borders. By physical wall in many instances. But we can’t? What filter is this?

      War, by its own name and definition, is ugly and difficult. To make it any less impactful is futile. To not honor the victims is actually in humane. So, let’s not make this seem like we are more righteousn by celebrating our fallen one day a year. It really isn’t about how you feel today – it’s simply remembering those we knew personally and didn’t know who made the ultimate sacrifice. Not because the cause was just or not. It seems everyone is a Monday morning QB these days.!

      As far as I know, the USA is still in he most generous country ever to exist. The US government, even though it is technically bankrupt, is still sending BILLIONS to other countries. So, why is it so bad to have a sense of patriotism? A genuine concern that we are losing, no more accurately, it’s being taken – our identity – to be an American! Why not America First? Sure it comes with some baggage. I leave you with the only question worth asking – what’s this world look like without a USA? Because that’s where we were heading prior to 2016. And, unfortunately, it’s clear we, as a country, may still not be off life support.

      living life Loved.

  2. Well said. I was a US Army officer in the late 90’s but the bravado I had at that age has been greatly diminished with time and perhaps a bit of wisdom. To me, there is a fine line between honoring those who have died in the service of their country and using jingoistic rhetoric to justify more sacrifice.

  3. Great reminder Wayne. We have drifted so far from our first love and the homeland of the Kingdom. I realized again here the other day how easy it is to get caught up in using ones abilities and gifts and opportunities to provide for self, and thinking about my comfort, while expecting that I should be satisfied…but I’m not; far from it. And now I see that they don’t because it has mostly all been about me. Even my outward ‘goodness’ has been mostly about what I may acquire through that transaction. A stroke to my shallow ego, a justification for my indulgences, a cover-up for my ugly scars, among others. All these great gifts and opportunities are satisfying when they are used in a larger landscape, when they are used as part of what Paul called a “body”, or a coalition. Never before have those words by Paul made more practical sense to me (in real world organic application) as I’m learning this truth about being that ‘part’ whatever it is, for the good and enjoyment of the body, or of my society that I find myself; to be great at it (whatever that is) for all of us…because I (we) can. A good gift becomes a great gift when it becomes a public gift that is shared freely. The wilderness is tearing me apart some days but I am finally seeing and hearing and absorbing the living word in a life-changing way, that organized methods and the school of theology had never touched at my core. Just when I was becoming confident in what I thought I knew I was, I asked for more, so Father cracked that door open a little bit more in order to show a bit more. I feel now that I’ve become the ‘main character’ in my very own real life parable that I never could have imagined…ever. It’s not as bad as God choosing a prostitute for my wife to teach the world about his goodness, but it’s a far cry from shiny! What a wild ride haha. All the best to you guys!

  4. We talked about this on another post you had. I learned at 17 as a marine field radio operator what the United States Government is all about, just ask a Native American. The revelations were devastating to me and still are. However God works all things for our Good. He used these events to help me see that I am not a part of this kingdom and He has no limitations. Talk about being set free. Talk about turning your world upside down! I’ve known Theologically for 40 years all of God’s attributes, it quite another thing to experience Him.

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