(57) SE8: The Sacrifices of War and of Christ

As Memorial Day approaches, we explore what it looks like for a pacifist to faithfully and truthfully live out a day which honors lives lost in war. We take some cues from Stanley Hauerwas and his article on the sacrifices of Christ, and we address some of the shallowness of a day which, rather than honoring the loss of human life, honors the loss of only particular lives. I will advocate that instead of tossing Memorial Day to the side, we think about what most are truly saying in their celebrations, and replacing that shallow expression with a full expression of the imago dei in all.

While the following quote was pieced together from soldier testimony to make the famous speech from the movie "Patton," it is widely attributed to General Patton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCA6uxQE-bw&t=200s 

 No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

John Howard Yoder from "Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution:"

A crusade does not have to be winnable. Those who died in a crusade go straight to heaven. In the Middle Ages, dying in a crusade was the only way to get straight to heaven. In a crusade, death is not considered a necessary sacrifice so as to win war. Death is righteous in itself, because it is in a righteous cause. This view carries on in the West despite theories to the contrary. An element of martyrdom is present in our culture’s recognition of the moral dignity of the war dead. There is a close juxtaposition, theologically in need of debate between such “martyrdom” and the sacrifice of Christ. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13): Jesus said that about himself. Many Western war monuments to the dead have that verse on them, as though what a dead soldier went out to do was to lay down his life for his friends. That is not what he went out to do. He went out to kill, and he hoped to come home. He went out to lay down somebody else’s life. The use of Jesus’s cross language is a dramatic pointer to the persistence of the crusade mentality in our culture.

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