Remembrance Day. In the USA, Veterans’ Day. “Remember, remember the 5th of November”—no that’s a different memory. One of internal politics and conflicts, remembered in the United Kingdom for Guy Fawkes’ abortive effort to blow up Parliament. Some today, inspired by frustration with dysfunctional legislators, may wonder if he didn’t have the right idea.
He didn’t. And today we remember others. People who went off to a war they did not ask for, on a continent their ancestors came from. A European war, although we call it World War 1/World War 2 for the way that so much of the world was pulled in.
For those of us who embrace the way of peace Jesus brought, it is a hard day to process. Some call us pacifists, although the term doesn’t quite work for me. Some of us have called ourselves non-resistant, to show that we choose not to fight, but that name has its problems: We still resist evil, but non-violently. I usually say that I hold “the peace position”, but that takes so much explaining. Call us pacifists I guess, shorthand for those who embrace Jesus’ teaching on peace and understand it to mean that we do not fight in war.
We remember. So many did fight, whether they wanted to or not. My Uncle Joel could not justify our church’s stance, so he went off to World War 2 (I think as a medic). Another uncle and my maternal grandfather helped with the rebuilding of Europe after the war by sailing across the ocean with cattle to restock the German national herd. Nobody was unaffected by the war, whether pacifist or not.
Wars continue, sometimes called war, sometimes called “peacemaking operations”, sometimes called “The Troubles”. Many names, but all involving military force leading to the death of soldiers and civilians. We are all still involved—peace-loving soldiers and pacifists alike.
We remember. With gratitude we remember those in Afghanistan today or Normandy 70+ years ago. We pray for those who are scarred by the conflicts, soldiers and civilians. We pray for those who confront evil in all of its forms. We pray for peace.
Someone asked me, “What would have happened if we hadn’t fought in the war?” I assume she meant World War 2, the spectre of Nazi totalitarian government, perhaps the one war of my generation that one could call a just war. Except that I started thinking about it. World War 1 was the “war to end all wars”, and in many ways was a continuation of European political manoeuvring in the 1800s. It ended with the Treaty of Versailles, which was so punitive that it may have sowed the seeds for WW2. One can argue that we have to fight because sometimes our survival as a humane species is at risk; but one can also argue that each war begets the next. We are always sowing the seeds of future conflict, so that Dessert Storm helped to sow the seeds of the military leaders behind ISIS. I don’t know any way out of the cycle of conflicts we call war.
Except to stop fighting.