I’m sorry.

 

If you are a woman, I am sorry.
If you are black, I am sorry.
If you are Hispanic, I am sorry.
If you are a Muslim, I am sorry.
If you are of any ethnic minority, I am sorry.
If you are mentally disabled, I am sorry.
If you are gay, I am sorry.
If you are trans, I am sorry.
If you are an immigrant, I am sorry.
If you know, love, or care about anyone who is any of the above, I am sorry.

I am a white, straight, evangelical male. I have no defense; I offer no caveats or excuses. I am part of a broken system, one that has caused great pain.

And in these couple of days that are filled with fear, doubt, despair, and pain for anyone who is not like me, I have not earned the right to say anything other than:

I am sorry.

Whatever the results of today’s election…

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Whatever the result of today’s election, Donald John Trump and Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton are still made in the image of God.

Whatever the result of today’s election, Trump supporters are still God’s children. Clinton voters are too. Yes, all of them. And God wants all his children to be near to him. He mourns when they mourn. He hears them when they sing and when they pray.

Whatever the results of today’s election, there are still reasons to be thankful for this country and the people who run it. We are allowed to vote. We are allowed to speak out against politicians we do not support. We write our own history books. We have running water. We do not live under the imminent threat of foreign invasion.

Whatever the results of today’s election, America will one day be judged by a righteous judge. And we will be held accountable for the things we’ve done as a nation, from bombs dropped in the name of peace to humanitarian aid delivered to war-torn regions. It will be grace that saves us from the ugliness of our sins, our racism, our oppression, our greed, and gluttony. Only grace.

Whatever the result of today’s election, God’s kingdom is coming to this earth and his plan will, one day, be accomplished in full. Whatever the result of today’s election, his will is being done and his kingdom is coming right now, even in the smallest of ways, even when we can’t see it. Even when we don’t understand. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am praying for a specific outcome in today’s election. I voted for a candidate. My heart breaks at the thought of the other candidate winning; anger and frustration rise within me whenever I hear them speak. And I struggle to find the humility to love the other side.

But whatever the result of today’s election, it will be grace that saves me tomorrow. And it will be grace that convicts me to be a citizen of heaven in an earthly kingdom.

Because whatever the result of today’s election, I need to remember that I am one who follows Christ. This defines me. This directs me. This compels me to love others and love the world God has created. To love justice, to walk humbly and in grace.

And it forces me, whatever the results of today’s election, to live life as a conversation with God, and to invite others into that conversation, no matter who they voted for.

It is a simple conversation. It is also infinitely mysterious.

It goes something like this:

The people: “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.”

Jesus: “It is finished.”

The people: “Amazing grace, has saved a wretch like me…

 

…whatever the results of today’s election.”

Why I’m A Pacifist But I Still Celebrate Memorial Day

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I’m a Christian pacifist. In light of Christ’s death and resurrection, I do not believe that Christians should execute criminals, wage wars or even posses weapons for the purpose of self-defense. While I hold these views loosely- meaning I try to be humble in my assertions and in my own ability to ‘walk the talk’- I also hold them with great conviction.

That said, today I am celebrating a holiday of remembrance for all those men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service to the American nation. Today, I am celebrating Memorial Day.

There are a couple things about me that make my adherence to pacifism somewhat unique-the first being how many people I truly love and respect who have served in the military. My grandfather was a pilot in World War II. He flew 35 combat missions over Germany, carrying a Bible in his pocket on each flight. Likewise my father- probably the person I admire the most in life- was an Air Force fighter pilot. And I have many close friends who’ve been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and some theaters the average American isn’t even aware we’re in.

Secondly- and this is the real kicker- I myself am a member of the military. I currently serve as an officer in the Army Reserves Medical Corps. I joined the military because I wanted to be an Army Ranger. But a change of heart toward pacifist convictions led me to serve my commitment in a non-combative role.

All of this goes to say that Memorial Day raises some interesting questions for me: should I celebrate those who not only gave their lives but also took the lives of others in service to this country? Can I- in good conscience- partake in the celebration of military veterans and members? Is such honoring also honoring to Christ?

The answer to these questions came from an unexpected source: a fairy tale. The Last Battle is the final book in CS Lewis’ famed Chronicles of Narnia series. It’s about the final feud between forces of good and evil and presents one of Lewis’ more vivid depictions of heaven.

It’s near the end of the book that the good servants of Aslan arrive in paradise where they encounter an unexpected character. His name is Emeth and he was a warrior and a foe in the previous life, a loyal servant of the god Tash, a god erected in opposition by enemies of Aslan.

The servants of Aslan are befuddled, and understandably so. All their lives they’d known servants of Tash to be the wicked counterparts to their service to Aslan; how could he have been accepted into paradise? Emeth understands their confusion, and tells them he himself was confused and terrified upon arriving to find that Aslan was the true God, and his life of loyalty had been horribly misplaced. He fell before Aslan, sure of his fate. But instead of smiting him, Aslan kissed him on the forehead and said:

“Son, thou art welcome… all of the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me…Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites…For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”

 The Last Battle (pg. 204-205)

I am a pacifist. But I do not believe soldiers who fight and die for America are evil. I believe that- on the whole- they are sincere, brave, dedicated and remarkably loyal individuals. I can only aspire to be so true.

I don’t believe that service to Christ can entail violence under the banner of the American flag, killing for the sake of a nation-state. All that said: the loyalty of soldiers to this country, misplaced though I may believe it to be, is still much greater than any cost I’ve had to pay for my allegiance to Christ.

There will always be discrepancies in the ways we show our dedication to Christ. No one lives a life in perfect service to Jesus and I am certainly not the exception. Shall I then judge those whose service to their country they sincerely believed to also be service to Christ?

Because ultimately it is not historians, politicians or even the clergy and religious leaders who decide which side of the spectrum a person falls; Nazi soldiers were not all evil and American soldiers are not all pure in heart. It is not the stories as we tell that decide the value of one’s service; such deeds are God’s to judge. And no one else’s.

Today, I remember and honor those who gave everything they had: their futures, hopes, homes with picket fences, the sound of their children’s laughter on Christmas morning, the touch of their spouse’s hand upon their skin; today, I remember the men and women who gave their lives in service to this country. I may not believe in the country they served but I do believe in a God who’s grace covers all our best and worst intentions. And I believe that- through the blood of the lamb- God turns all dedicated service into beautiful and willing sacrifice unto Christ himself.

And such a God is one worth celebrating.

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