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Antidote to Violence

June 13, 2021

In 2005 I was deployed to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan for just over four months. The picture above is the control tower at Bagram Air Base.

I left Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota on January 1st, 2005 and arrived at Bagram in the very early morning hours (3am) of January 3rd. At that point, US and Coalition forces had been there just over four years. We were called out of an in-processing briefing at 7am to form up along the “main street” of Bagram that led to the flightline. The bodies of three Special Forces members were beginning their last journey home. As I held my salute a lot went through my mind as I thought about the families on the other side of the world and about their fellow forces members. That deployment offered many insights to a young Chaplain, Major. Insights about war, politics, the military-industrial complex, and the innocent victims of war.

Just over twenty years later, forces are still at Bagram and there is still a state of war, even as talks about leaving Afghanistan go on at the higher political levels. At the end of June, I will have been retired from the Air Force for ten years. My views on war, the military-industrial complex, and corporate/political corruption have continued to develop and deepen. Part of my own inner struggle and journey has been guided by Thomas Merton. He wrote during a time in our country’s history when division and hatred were very prevalent. Sixty years later, his writings are eerily relevant and prophetic as this nation and world continue to be dominated by division and hatred.

These words of his from a posthumous collection of his writings (Love and Living) struck me today. In our modern world the fascination of violence has become, through TV, magazines, movies, radio, etc., almost irresistible. There is. now so much free-floating terror and hatred in the moral climate of the world that the slightest and most ridiculous of actions can be interpreted symbolically and instantly unleash mass hysteria on a global scale… the crude symbolism of violence has gained its power precisely from the fact that the symbolism of love has been so terribly debased, cheapened, and dehumanized.

In today’s sermon, I explored the call to extravagant love which Jesus calls us to. The Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about in the parable of the mustard seed is a kin-dom where love, justice, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are more than simply buzzwords on a t-shirt. The mustard seed of Jesus’ day can easily be compared to kudzu today. It is invasive and takes over quickly. Justice, kindness/mercy, and humbly walking with God are just some of the products of such a way of living. Don’t we need that sort of response today? Our response to hatred, greed, fear-mongering, fear, etc., must be different from what we are seeing far too often today.

  1. I think of how much your experience as a a Chaplain has colored your world view. Thanks for sharing that part of yourself.

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