Saturday, September 4, 2010

Some Thoughts

This past July, I took a trip up to Wyoming to do some climbing. It was great. I had a lot of time to reflect on life, God, and all kinds of other things. Our last stop was Devil’s Tower. After two days of climbing there I headed south to the Denver area. On the drive from Devil’s Tower to Denver, I came across a site that caused me to start thinking. I was driving south on I-25 on the north side of Cheyenne. For those who are not familiar with that area, there is an Air Force base there. It is Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. It is home to the 90th Missile Wing. As you pass it on the interstate, there are three ballistic missiles on display for all those who pass by.

Ballistic missiles were developed to deliver a warhead to a specific target. During the Cold War, ICBM’s or Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles were developed to carry a nuclear warhead to another country to cause total devastation. The 90th Missile Wing is in charge of launching the United States ICBM’s that we currently have. It is also home to a museum about these same missiles. That is why along the interstate there are three missiles on display.

To most Americans this site would not cause them to ponder things as I did that day. Most would probably be in awe of such powerful and cool looking weapons. Some might start feeling proud to be American or glad that this country has such weapons in case some tries to do something to us. My thoughts were quite different. I was saddened. For you to understand why I was saddened, we will have to look back at how things in my life became shaken up.

Some of you may have heard a bit about this story, but since I felt it is essential to explaining my thoughts that day I am going to tell it. My junior year of college, I had decided that I was going to go into the military as a chaplain. After researching it some, it would have been a great career choice for me. If I were accepted into the Chaplain Candidate Program Officers, I would be commissioned as a second lieutenant upon completing my under-grad studies. I would then go on to seminary. During breaks from seminary I would be required to attend Chaplain school. Once I completed my masters degree, I would be promoted to 1st Lieutenant and then enter into full time military service. Then I would begin to minister to the troops of this country. At the time, this seemed like it would be a great career move. Then I started to look at things in the Bible. I also took a class that messed me up beyond what I could comprehend at the time.

In college, I was blessed to have a great New Testament professor who was willing to teach us things about the Bible that were normally left out of the traditional Southern Baptist teachings. The summer between my junior and senior year in college I decided to take an upper level Bible class on the Revelation of John. Normally a class like that will mess with people’s minds anyway, but it really messed me up. First off, we looked at it from a more historical interpretation which didn’t fit at all with what I had ever been taught about the eschaton and how it will play out. One thing that stood out to me more than anything else was that throughout the book, there is a theme of pledging allegiance to God and Jesus Christ, not the Roman Caesars. This then got be thinking about how I can pledge allegiance to a country, the flag of that country, or the leader of that country and still call myself a follower of Jesus. One thing that became a problem is that as a member of the military, I would have to answer to the President of the United States. How can I serve two masters? Will I not love one and hate the other? All of these things began running through my head. By the end of the summer, I felt that I could no longer go into the military, even as a chaplain.

Because of this line of thought, my political views started to form. Previous to this I really didn’t have any. My political views didn’t seem to line up with normal American views. Even before I had any real political views, I didn’t align myself with Democrat or Republican. At one point in college, I claimed to be an anarchist. That was the same day as the 2004 Presidential election. Then in high school, I was once scolded in class for not picking a normal candidate in a mock election in class. I picked some guy who was standing in front of a corn field for the picture he used. So apparently, my vote didn’t count. Even back in high school, before I was allowed to vote, I realized that our system of a democratic republic doesn’t really work. This caused me to become apathetic towards anything dealing with politics, until I learned just how political the message of Jesus actually was.

One thing that was always either overlooked or spiritualized was any talk of the Kingdom of God. Jesus claimed to be bringing this Kingdom to earth. Why did I never hear any preacher, pastor, or Sunday school teacher speak about a literal kingdom on earth? According to most people that spoke behind a pulpit, America was the country that God has blessed and will continue to do so as long as we continue to be a Christian nation. There are many things in that statement which could probably be contested, but I will refrain from doing so out of fear of getting more off track than I might be already. I believe, that as Christians, who are born again, we are born again with new citizenship to this kingdom of God. This kingdom is a literal kingdom as well. It is not some metaphorical kingdom which is superseded on this earth by worldly powers and governments. It is a kingdom that knows no borders and is subverting the powers through such things as submission, peace, justice, grace, forgiveness, and most of all love. One day, this kingdom will come in its fullness and then at that point the world will see just how real it was, it is, and will be.

As you can see, my political views would possibly interfere with military service. One other thing that would get in the way would be the teachings of Jesus. I continually questioned how I could serve in the military, even as a chaplain, without getting in trouble for teaching the things that Jesus taught. Did he not say that we should love our enemies, forgive those that do wrong to us, and to turn the other cheek? The ways of the world, which would include the United States military would say that these things would never work. It actually would go against what the military trains its people to do.

As Christians, I say that instead of doing warfare like the rest of the world; with guns, missiles, bombs, or anything that is designed to kill people more efficiently, we should do warfare with love, forgiveness, and worship. This then brings me back to where we started, with why the ballistic missiles saddened me. For many Christians, it would seem that they are very supportive of the military and what it does. Now, don’t get me wrong, the military does some amazing things, at times. They do help out with humanitarian efforts which I see as a great thing. But the main purpose of the military is not to help out with things like that, unfortunately. That is part of what makes me so sad. The Church would at times, rather retaliate against any form of attack than forgive and act out in love. Also, not many Christians would stand up against the choice of the government to use its powers to take the lives of other humans. Before I begin to get preachy, I would like to bring this post to an end. I am not sure if I had a clear purpose when I began writing, and if I did it has faded as more words were written. Maybe this was written just for me, to put my thoughts out there. Or it may have been done to get you, the reader, to make changes in your way of thinking and in your lives. I don’t know. All I know is that I desire to make a difference in this world and do it through love and forgiveness rather than force and maliciousness.

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