January 17, 2021

Memorial Day 2014: Living with War (Neil Young)

On U.S. Memorial Day, we pray for the coming of the new creation, in which the Tree of Life will provide healing for the nations, and there will be no more war.

One of the most consistent artistic voices for peace over my lifetime has been Neil Young. The following video is from an album that was made during the Iraq War, called Living with War. This is the title anthem, which includes the words,

And when the dawn breaks
I see my fellow man
And on the flat screen
We kill and we’re killed again
And when the night falls
I pray for peace
Try to remember peace
I join the multitudes
I raise my hand in peace
I never bow to the laws of the thought police
I take a holy vow
To never kill again, to never kill again


    • No, because he has no power, only the voice of an artist. He can only appeal not coerce.

      • You’re missing it CM. It’s not the government that are the “thought police” but, instead, it is the prevailing moralistic scolds in popular culture who are the “thought police”.

        • Robert F says

          Oscar, you are stretching the definition of the term “thought police” in an unwarranted way, so that it can be used ideologically against any free expression of a popular position with which we disagree. Popular “moralistic scolds” are not “thought police.”

          • I have to disagree Robert. Who are the ones that “punish” incorrect incorrect thinking? Government? I don’t think so.

          • Robert F says

            I guess we do have to disagree. Thought police would have the power and authority to ferret out and arrest, then torture, terrorize and brainwash those guilty of thought crimes. Has this been happening in the US at all, never mind under the direction of popular “moralistic scolds” like Neil Young?

            The closest thing to this (though not exactly the same) is what goes on in places like Gitmo (thank you, Republicans and Democrats, for keeping this immoral “war on terror” tradition going), though I don’t think Young or any other celebrities have been spotted there.

          • Robert, I am not talking about fascist/communist Gestapo/KGB type actions. There is another form of punishment that we have witnessed in the Mozilla affair and others like it. Now THAT is “thought policing” and punishment.

          • Brandeis University rescinded its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, perhaps the world’s foremost activist on behalf of women in the Islamic world. Hirsi Ali, an African woman born into a Muslim family and raised Muslim, who now teaches at Harvard, was scheduled to receive an honorary degree at the forthcoming Brandeis graduation ceremony.
            Brandeis rescinded its invitation after protests led by a Muslim student and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamist organization, erupted over Hirsi Ali’s criticism of the way women are treated in many parts of the Muslim world.

            How’s that for being the “Thought Police”.

            Our colleges and universities are prime examples.

          • Donalbain says

            No. No. No.
            1000 times no. Hishi Ali has not been silenced. She has not been prevented from speaking. Indeed, she still has an open invitation to speak at the university at another occasion. What has happened is that the university has decided not to ENDORSE her, with the giving of an honorary degree, and chosen not to give her the opportunity to speak at a graduation ceremony. A graduation ceremony is not an academic lecture, with the opportunity for rebuttal or discussion, it is a time for the celebration of the achievements of all the students of the graduating class. If a portion of that class feels very strongly that having Ms Ali at the event would reduce the pleasure they get from it, then they have the right to express that feeling. It is then only right for the university to then decide if the speaker should indeed be part of the special day for those students.

        • I think you are right to an extent, Oscar. But it is usually those who are associated with organized groups who gain enough persuasive power to have an influence, not simply artists who express their opinions. Neil Young has also been a great supporter of Farm Aid. I don’t think his strong expressions of opinions there have had much persuasive value over anyone.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > No, because he has no power, only the voice of an artist. He can only appeal not coerce

        Exactly, they may be “thought scolds”, but they cannot be “thought police”.

    • Robert F says

      I don’t know what you or Young are talking about when you call those you disagree with “thought police.” What CM says about your comment is exactly right; at the same time, Young’s boast that “I never bow to the laws of the thought police” is empty when there is in fact no threat from any “laws of the” nonexistent “thought police.” This is typical baby-boomer self-romanticizing (though Young is just outside the threshold of the baby-boomer generation), akin to his friend David Crosby bragging in song that, though he almost cut his hair, he didn’t, as if that were some sort of heroic act instead of the illusory temptation of a pot induced paranoia. There is no need for “thought police”; it’s all being done right out in the open, if anybody cares to see. But most of us don’t care to see.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        This is typical baby-boomer self-romanticizing (though Young is just outside the threshold of the baby-boomer generation), akin to his friend David Crosby bragging in song that, though he almost cut his hair, he didn’t, as if that were some sort of heroic act instead of the illusory temptation of a pot induced paranoia.

        No, this is LARPing, a Live Role-Playing Game for those too Morally Pure to admit to it. I can even guess the FRP game they’re LARPing — Star Wars (West End D6 or WotC D20 system, take your pick). In their fantasies, they’re all Luke Skywalkers leading the Good Guy Rebel Alliance against the Evil Republican Imperialist Capitalist Empire. With all the rest of us as the Stormtroopers and Red Shirts and collateral damage.

        As for Clark and Robert F and the others pooh-poohing the idea of Thought Police, well, it’s all a matter of semantics. To those whom the Thought Police agree completely with as to who the Enemies are, well, there is no Thought Police. And if they do it by peer pressure and media smear with Fashionable Concern and Compassion instead of the knout and Room 101, well, they’re not REALLY Thought Police. Especially if they agree completely with Me as to who the Enemies are.

        KYLE: But Dad, isn’t that Fascism?
        KYLE’S DAD: No it isn’t, son. Because we don’t call it Fascism. Do you understand?
        KYLE: Do you?
        — South Park, “Sexual Harassment Panda”

        • Robert F says

          Right now in this country there is no doubt in my mind that the left exerts far more pressure in the way of silencing or socially ostracizing those with opposing viewpoints, through their control of educational institutions and their greater influence in some important media venues. But to draw an equivalence between this and the “Thought Police” is like the Christian Right claiming that we are on the way to the One World government led by the anti-Christ because prayer is no longer officially part of public school life. It’s an hysterical over-reaction to a change in the prevailing mores of the culture, a change meaning that those who were formerly in the driver’s seat are no longer there.

          It’s not fascism, it’s not the “Thought Police,” it’s social opprobrium and the exertion of soft-social power; get over it. Did you think that your values should always prevail without you paying any personal price?

        • Robert F says

          “To those whom the Thought Police agree completely with as to who the Enemies are, well, there is no Thought Police”

          Btw, I do not “agree completely with” those you call the “Thought Police” “as to who the Enemies are”; in fact, I think of myself as equidistant from both the left and the right in these matters, so I would appreciate it if you would stop smearing and dismissing all of us with your simplistic over-generalization.

  1. As a veteran reflecting on Memorial Day, I am certain Neil Young genuinely believes what he writes in his lyrics. I am also certain that peace looks like a simple “just do it” thing from Neil’s very comfortable perch in life. A challenge then for him and all who share his approach: Islamic fanatics in Africa kidnap school girls and threaten to sell them into sex slavery, A pregnant woman who is married to a Christian is sentenced to death for this “crime”. If you can show me how to make real peace with and coexist with people like this, lead the way Neil and I’ll follow. Until then, stop telling how America is the problem.

    • One problem I see is that, historically, many of our military conflicts had little to do with rescuing victims as in your examples. The vast majority of men and women who have died in wars died needlessly. And then add the fact that many, many more civilians died than did soldiers. An almost unfathomable waste.

      • Robert F says

        “I take a holy vow
        To never kill again, to never kill again”

        Yet, if Young pays US income and other taxes, as he must as a foreign national residing in the US for decades now, then he is paying into a war effort that has adopted targeted assassination in the form of drone attacks as one of its primary war tactics.

        Drone attacks generate a huge percentage of so-called collateral damage, but the US chooses to go this route in large part because it does not involve any risk of injury or death to our own military personnel, collateral damage be damned. And this tactic has been relied on more than ever by a so-called progressive administration, that promised to wind down the escalation on the “war against terror” inaugurated by the previous administration. Never mind that drone attacks are tantamount to murder as a national military policy, and murder that kills a huge number of innocent bystanders.

        I wonder why Young was so ready to write protest songs against Republican war-mongering, but is MIA when it comes to protesting a Democratic administration’s use of a flagrantly immoral tactic in its prosecution of the same “war against terror.” Probably for the same reason that many or most Americans are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the use of immoral tactics in the prosecution of war, as long as fewer American lives are lost as a result: we consider it peace when our people aren’t being killed, and when the enemy dead, and the collateral damage, are being killed in invisible and often unreported ways. So much for vows to “never kill again.”

        • Good points, Robert. I guess it’s easier to write protest songs against a massive and very public invasion of a country than it is to do so against quieter, daily death-dealing.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “I take a holy vow
          To never kill again, to never kill again”

          Which means others will have to kill to protect him.
          But they’re just Pentagon baby-killers instead of Beautiful CELEBRITES, (sneer sneer) so who cares?

          “For it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, anc ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’
          But it’s ‘Savior of His Country’ when the guns begin to shoot;
          And Tommy this, and Tommy that, and anythingyou please;
          And Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — YOU BET THAT TOMMY SEES!”
          — Rudyard Kipling

      • Historically CM, ALL US wars have been politically motivated and driven. You are quite right about this. The civilian death is horrendous. Right again. But like Robert F. observes below, is targeted assassinations which spare civilians morally honorable? I think not. We need to think long and hard about the privileged ivory tower class we select our leaders from. Both parties will use war for political gain. Spoiled celebrities are poor examples for your otherwise well taken point.

        • Robert F says

          Rob, I think you’re reading me wrong. I do think that targeted assassinations are immoral, whether they generate large numbers of civilian casualties or not, but my wider point is that drone attacks, which have become central to our “war on terror,” are being employed, without regard to the fact that they generate a huge percentage of civilian casualties, precisely because they reduce the danger to our military personnel. Targeted assassination is morally illegitimate according to international consensus, as evidenced by the fact that Israel has been repeatedly condemned by the international community for such assassinations, but targeted assassination that produces a huge proportion of civilians casualties is even more morally reprehensible.

        • Rob, regardless of how I think about Young, it is a good song and a video that honors as well as mourns our war dead.

      • Robert F says

        I say these things as someone who, generally speaking, enjoys Neil Young’s music (though I’m far more familiar with his earlier work, and I’ve often found his lyrics vapid when abstracted from the context and compelling drive of his music), but as someone who, more importantly, is coming to believe that the shape of Jesus’ life and passion is a call to all Christians to practice a non-violent politics (thank you, John Howard Yoder) rooted in the cross of the crucified God who extends forgiveness and reconciliation in his resurrected life.

    • David Cornwell says

      The examples you give are stories of extreme evil. However, what gives the United States the moral right to police the world? Going to another country is an act of aggression whatever our explanation. We create enemies in the process. People learn to hate us, regardless of what reasons we give.

      What if another country would decide that something in our country is a moral outrage to them, so they organize a commando raid into the homeland to bring about “justice?” Or maybe they consider one of our politicians to be a war criminal, and they decide to bring him to justice through a covert operation into his place of comfortable retirement in Wyoming and haul him back to a hiding place in Sweden (a black hole prison). (this is all fictional of course)

      • David Cornwell says

        This is a reply to Rob’s statement given above. By-the-way, I’ve never questioned the bravery or dedication of our troops. I have a grandson in the Marines. My brother was a commissioned officer in the Army. And plenty of other relatives. I’m very proud of them all, and pray for them.

      • David, in reply to your question, you don’t go into the big dog’s yard to poke him in the eye. If you remember, there was a move to brand George Bush as a war criminal and bring him to the World court. Failed, of course. Mostly just symbolism, which is all a weaker power can do. It’s either that or an operation such as 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Fort Hood shootings, etc., but no nation would think of openly sponsoring that because of the repercussions.

        Now, if the USA were to be brought down to the strength of the, so called, European Union, then those fictional things you mentioned might be possible.

    • Rob, I agree with your thinking. The “moralists”, such as the whiny voiced Neil Young, take the pharisee’s way out of “touch no unclean thing” while ignoring the evil around them. “Disengage from violence”, they say, while proposing nothing to counteract the evil around them. It is as if they believe (and they MAY) that if you stand apart then the evil (which they REFUSE to acknowledge) will just disappear. I believe Stalin referred to these types as “useful idiots”, though I am not saying anyone here fits that description.

      This is in no way said to absolve our countries from engaging in unwarranted warfare. In the larger scheme of things most, but not all, conflict could be resolved through communication IF both sides were willing. But, as Shakespeare would say “Ah, but THERE is the rub!” The human condition (sin) prevents that from becoming a reality, and conflict is the normal state of humanity, not peace.

      • Robert F says

        It’s not a matter of whining moralism, or lack of moral realism.

        Mennonite theologians, for example, freely acknowledge that Jesus’ non-violent way may lead to the death of innocents. The issue is whether or not the Church should be an eschatological outpost of the Kingdom of God, testifying to the new creation, which is typified by shalom, in the midst of a world that is controlled by the values embodied by violence and coercion. And there are those who have walked in this way, even at the cost of their own lives (the Mennonites would put Jesus first among them). For a very long time, most Catholics and most Protestants could always agree on one thing, at least: it was okay to kill Anabaptists.

        Don’t worry, Oscar; it’s not as if there will ever be a dearth of Christians who are more than willing to baptize war as a legitimate endeavor in the name or “moral realism.”

        • Robert F says

          Christian non-violence is not about moral purity; it’s impossible to be morally pure in this world, where we find ourselves implicated in acts done in our name that we may know nothing about, or are powerless to stop though we know of them.

          Christian non-violence is about making a personally and communally costly boundary marking off the church as of a Kingdom not of this world, beyond which we do not tread, and drawn to embody the peacefulness of Christ’s reign in the midst of a world enslaved by the powers of violence.

          Moral realism, on the other hand, whether Christian or secular, can and has been used to justify any act, any horror, from torture to the indiscriminate slaughter of bystanders to the potential nuclear annihilation of the entire earth. Nothing is unthinkable to moral realism, all acts are legitimate under the right circumstances, and there is no boundary beyond which the moral realist is unwilling to go. Perhaps it should more accurately be called amoral realism.

      • I have no idea what Neil Young’s pacifism looks like outside of a song like this. But I can’t help thinking that the “self-righteous pacifist” caricature is a bogeyman used to draw attention away from the real problem, which is violence. This slick double-take happens all the time when people raise real moral problems- the “don’t be a legalist” admonition is immediately posited as the problem, and the actual moral issue at hand is ignored.

        To the extent the caricature exists, that fact has nothing to do with the arguments for or against just war, or nonviolence, and it has nothing to say of Christological pacifism. It’s just a thrashing around attempt to point a finger at someone so you don’t have to look at the problem. Which is that American teenagers get blown up for shallow reasons or no reason, because policy-makers can’t be bothered to do any investigation of their assumptions about governing, beyond what’s going to make them look best in the next election.

        I recently listened to a lecture by Stanley Hauerwas in which he said that a major roadblock to admitting a war was/is wrong, or that the payoff isn’t worth the cost, is that it feels like it’s dishonoring the memory of the those that were killed. In doing so, we make the cost of what has already happened into a reason to justify doing more of the same. It’s the logic of insanity. I was shocked by this, but then I started to read that very logic come forth in this thread. You can basically kill an infinite number of people thinking that way.

    • Dana Ames says

      Young may have some advantages that money can buy; he also has 2 sons with cerebral palsy and a daughter, who like himself, has epilepsy, a rather serious disease. So his situation is not entirely “comfortable.”

      It’s fine to disagree with his politics or his art, or simply not get along personality-wise. It’s also worth remembering that everyone suffers, and we may not be given to know what those sufferings are.


      • Dana, I owe an apology to many for that comment. You’re right. I was wrong to act like one brand of suffering is more noble than another. I hope you’re still reading when this posts.

        • Dana Ames says

          Good of you Rob. I tried not to scold, for you have sufferings too. May we know Christ in our suffering.


  2. Christiane says

    I have some insight into Rob’s concern of how do we deal with ‘people like this’:

    my niece served in Iraq and in Afghanistan as a nurse . . . and once, after witnessing the deaths of several of our young men who had been brought into the OR, she wrote home: ‘there are no words . . . ‘

    Know how she spent her free time in those countries?
    She and the other nurses volunteered many hours in clinics to serve ‘people like this’ . . . she and the other nurses cared for Muslim women and girls and their children and babies, who would not go to the male doctors.

    I have a picture of her holding a beautiful Iraqi toddler.
    The child is smiling.
    So is our Linz.

    No answer to the carnage?
    I look at that picture, and I think Linz was right:
    ‘ there are no words . . . ‘

    • I too have met many veterans and I admire them and am humbled in their presence. My bigger point here today is about the leaders and philosophies that so often send them to die needlessly.

      • Robert F says

        Yes, but from a Christian perspective, we have to also worry about war conducted in such a way that our warriors become merely technicians pushing buttons that kill targets and generate “collateral damage” at a great distance, turning war into a kind of video game for our side. We should be as worried about how and who we are having our soldiers kill as sending them to die needlessly.

      • Christiane Smith says

        Thank you, CHAPLAIN MIKE, I am in sympathy with your views also.

        We remember today a young nineteen year old cousin who was killed in Viet Nam. He died in the fire of a helicopter crash along with other young men. He was good kid. Too young to die.
        The grief nearly killed his mother . . . she suffered a heart attack not long after hearing of his death.
        This was a long time ago, but today the emotions come back as if it just happened. So much pain.

        Amazing Grace . . .


    • I want to thank your niece for her service. It seems like she was saving and edifying people and my job was to kill them. I have much more to answer for.

  3. I have always been moved by this paraphrasing frm “Sartor Resartus” by Thomas Carlyle, around 1840, I think. “In the British village of Dumdrudge there dwell and toil usually some 500 souls. During the French War, amid much weeping and swearing, 30 able bodied men are selected, dressed in red and shipped away, at the public charges some 2000 miles, or perhaps only to Spain and fed there until wanted. And now, to that same spot , in the south of Spain, are 30 similar French artisans from a French Dumdrudge, in like manner wending, till the two parties stand facing, each with a gun, 30 fronting 30. The word “Fire!” Is given; and they blow the souls out of one another; and in the place of 60 useful craftsmen the world has 60 dead carcasses. Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the devil is, not the smallest!……..How then? Simpleton! Their Governors had fallen out and instead of shooting one another had the cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot! So it is in Deutschland and hitherto in all other lands.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Thank you for that. It is easy to demonize…

      Lat year in August I went to the US for the first time. Passing through the airport at St Louis, I was watching soldier after soldier embarking to go somewhere. They were so young – a smidgen older than my own. Nice young kids. And my heart broke, and I cried and cried inside. Dear Lord, why?

  4. None of the above comments really memorializes those who have died in service. Most of it is back seat moralizing. Does anyone here actually KNOW someone, up close and personal, who have died in service? Well, I DO! One a young man in my Sunday School class, a father who left 4 children and a wife and another the grandson of a friend of mine, a young man of 21 whose life was changed from a drug and alcoholic mess to one of purpose. Both affected me profoundly.

    The point of Memorial Day is not chest pounding patriotism, but rather a sober reflection of the costs of war and the effect it has on those remaining. We honor the dead for their dedication, NOT their political correctness, nor their engagement in a conflict that may have been misguided. They are DEAD! Honor THEM! Mourn THEM! Stop the finger pointing and the the cheap, cost less Neil Young moralizing (a man who has paid NOTHING and profited greatly).

    Am I angry? Yes! Am I thinking clearly? Maybe not, but knowing two young men who are no longer with us has changed my thinking of Memorial Day.

    • Robert F says


      I respect your experience, and sympathize with the loss of those men. May light perpetual shine upon them, and may the US begin to properly honor them by starting to provide adequate benefits to their survivors, and those veterans who return from war physically and psychologically diminished and disabled.

      But the subject of this post was more general than that, and involved the Christian perspective on war and its costs. I think that it allows for the discussion that ensued here.

    • But Oscar, this was exactly my point. Yes we honor them for their sacrifice, but we also grieve that so many of them died needlessly. How then can we not also take this day to hope, pray, and work so that fewer people in the future will have to endure their sad fate? And I think Young’s video and song reinforces that. Some of his other songs may be “whiny” but not this one. This one both honors the war dead and grieves their unfair demise.

    • +1000000000000

  5. Robert F says

    Btw, CM, Young has not always been such a “consistent artistic voice” for peace. Consider his song “Let’s Roll,” which, though topically written about what happened aboard Flight 93 on 9/11, is hard not to consider an anthem exhorting us to take up arms against all evil, “you’ve gotta in after it, and never be denied,” and taking the war to the aggressors (“them,” of course).

    Also, there was his support for Ronald Reagan’s campaign to become president in 1980-81, when Reagan was clearly running on a “let’s get tough” foreign policy.

  6. Rick Ro. says

    Seems to me we should be using this day to honor the dead and soldiers who gave their lives, rather than debating how governments and people should go about being peaceful in a world that almost demands war.

    In other words, perhaps this post should’ve been posted tomorrow, as a follow-on to Memorial Day, rather than on Memorial Day.

    • +1!!

    • I for one find it hard to separate the two. I cannot honor the fallen without also feeling grief and anger over the unnecessary nature of so many of their deaths.

      • CM – me, too.

        Here’s something by Mark Twain to go along with your post and comments…

      • Rick Ro. says

        Yes, this is true.

        Also, since I LOATHE the word “should” as it carries with it the baggage of guilt, shame and “right vs. wrong”, let me rephrase my statement to you, Chaplain Mike…

        “In other words, perhaps this post might have been better suited to being posted tomorrow, as a follow-on to Memorial Day, rather than on Memorial Day.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Seems to me we should be using this day to honor the dead and soldiers who gave their lives

      Without recognition that those lives were very often “given” under false pretense and coercion or more accurately thrown-away than “given”? I cannot do that.

      To memorialize is to remember, and memory is only honorable when it is true and full; a redacted memory is not a proper way to memorialize.

      Courage, sacrifice, grief, *and* regret are intractably entangled.

  7. Hmmmm… I agree with this thought. At the same time, I wonder what’s wrong with condemning the decisions that lead to these deaths? I’m torn…

    This is such a tough issue, especially for those of us that reap the benefits of these deaths. It’s only because of the sacrifices made by our fellow man that we can “keep on rockin in the free world.”

  8. Sometimes war is the answer. The only answer left.

    Bonhoeffer realized this.

    • I’m not a total pacifist, Steve. I acknowledge your point. But a lot of wars we call “just” simply ain’t.

    • Dana Ames says

      Doesn’t mean it’s right, and B. realized that, too.


      • Robert F says

        In fact, B believed he was involved in a sinful act by his involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. He believed that he deserved to be punished, and had come under the judgement of God, for violently resisting an earthly government. He depended on God’s mercy beyond God’s judgement, and from the basis acted in a way he considered morally responsible for himself, not anyone else, and by no means thinking others should emulate his involvement in violence.

        • Rick Ro. says

          The ideal being, of course, that God just zaps really, really bad people dead (like Hitler) rather than us poor humans on earth having to figure out a “godly” way of dealing with really, really bad people (like Hitler).

          • Robert F says

            Maybe you should consult Church history to see how the early Christians dealt with the really, really bad emperors. You might be able to unearth some up until now undiscovered evidence of plots by those early Christians to infiltrate the palace and assassinate those really, really bad people, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Robert, my comment was meant to be more spiritually serious (and prompting discussion) than snarky (which I think was how you read it). For instance, one thought that came to me was, “if God isn’t going to zap a really, really bad person, why should I take it into my own hands?”

            Another thought is, “Aren’t we all, in some sense, really, really bad people and deserving of being zapped by God?”

          • Robert F says

            Rick Ro., I did read it as snarky, and I guess that’s mostly because I have snark in me. Then I responded in kind to what I thought I was getting from you, which shows that, despite my growing conviction about the rightness of the practice of Christian non-violence, I have a violent and retributive heart. Please forgive me.

            Let me pose a counter-question(s) in response to your first question: what limit would you place on a Christian’s violent response to a violent provocation by an aggressor? Are there acts which you would consider morally prohibited in such a response? If you believe there are such limits, then you are drawing a boundary beyond which you believe it would be wrong to go, which is what the non-violent practice of Christianity does, too. The Christians who embraces non-violence, however, draw that boundary at a juncture that usually makes a public witness, and has a significant cost for anyone who embraces it, as a way of embodying a countersign of love and reconciliation in a world enslaved to the prevailing signs of violence and coercion.

          • Robert F says

            “Another thought is, ‘Aren’t we all, in some sense, really, really bad people and deserving of being zapped by God?'”

            My own understanding of Christian faith has come to the point where I believe that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the apocalyptic event that ended the ages, and that when the eschaton is revealed in its fullness, and the new creation is finished, the Lamb of God will remain a forgiving and reconciling Lamb, and the Lion will be at peace with the Lamb. I do not anticipate any of us being zapped, however deserving we may all be of it.

            I suppose that my view makes me something of a universalist. I’m okay with that. Buy I don’t trust universalism, or any other system of belief; I trust the person of Jesus Christ, as he comes to me in his life, death, and most of all, his resurrection.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Robert, I find myself drifting toward universalism, too, for some of the same reasons that you state. Not sure my theology on that is “sound,” but that’s why God and Jesus have it all figured out, not me. As you state, I trust the person of Jesus Christ, and whatever his life, death, and resurrection mean in terms of salvation for whoever he decides to save.

            Back to the other topic, can Christians always resort to non-violence to deal with really really bad people? Not sure. Not sure how justice gets meted out sometimes without violence. Take, for instance, sex-trafficking of minors. Bringing those people to justice might require violence. God doesn’t zap really, really bad people, but does that mean we sit by, then, and let really really bad people “sex traffic” underage girls? So on a grander scale, we have Hitler not just trying to take over the world, but killing lots and lots of innocent human beings via genocide. God did not zap Hitler, unfortunately. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to zap him ourselves, to stop the killing of innocents and bringing him to justice?

          • Robert F says

            Rick Ro., I’m not thinking in terms of how to deal with anyone. The state will always exist, there will always be police and military as part of government, until the escahton. Even the Amish and Mennonite recognize the right of earthly authority to maintain order using force, but whether Christians should be involved in serving the state in this capacity or not is a different issue. If we are first and foremost citizens of God’s kingdom of peace, love and reconciliation, then we are “resident aliens” in every state and nation, as Hauerwas has said, and emissaries of the polity that is rooted in Jesus’ cross. The practice of Christian non-violence is not predicated on its chances of successfully achieving ends we would otherwise find desirable; rather, it is grounded in faithfulness to the call of Jesus Christ to be conformed to his image.

  9. Desert Storm Libertarian says

    “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace” – Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 8

    • Desert Storm Libertarian says

      Not until Jesus returns and establishes the New Jerusalem here on earth will there be the cessation of “wars and rumors of wars.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I’m not certain what you mean by this.

      Ecclesiastes is, in large part, a lament; it isn’t much for the moral justification of war, nor is it a prophecy. It is a recognition of the sad condition of the world.

      • Desert Storm Libertarian says

        The writer of Ecclesiastes points out the unending duality of the human experience in a sin-soaked world. There is no hope for prolonged periods of peace and goodwill towards fellow humans as long as our world’s citizens are engaged in living in the chaotic, interpersonal state of tension between Resurrection and Christ’s Second Coming. The forces of God and Satan prick the hearts of human beings in an unending struggle for allegiance throughout our lifetime and our propensity to sin and selfishly seek pleasure over pain tends to blunt our altruistic intentions to look after the welfare of our fellow citizens. Thus, war ultimately results as one group seeks to impose its philosophical, political, or religious values on a perceived adversary in the most brutal, primal, and undiplomatic way of human persuasion. “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

        • Yes…..thank you for explaining the dichotomy between Christian love and service and the reality of evil—-demonic and human—-on this earth, DSL!

        • “There is no hope for prolonged periods of peace and goodwill towards fellow humans”

          Depending on how “prolonged” and what scale of the human population you’re talking about, this could be remarkably defeatist.

          No one assumes that all war on earth will end instantly, prior to divine intervention. I’m not really responsible for “all war on earth” though. I’m responsible for (rather WE’re responsible for) the display of the glory of Kingdom community through the Way- the taking up of our cross. There is certainly hope for this to happen- being an eschatological people. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t bother being a Christian.

          And there might even be hope that the shape of that sacrifice and the peace it brings will make an imprint on the political world around us. Not perfectly, by any means, but a foreshadowing. Not ALL of the world’s communities are simply consigned to perpetual futility.

  10. Richard McNeeley says

    About 1.2 million Americans have died in war since 1776 or about 14 persons per day. The question is has it been worth 14 lives and $36 million dollars per day to maintain the freedom of a nation that has never really been threatened.

    • Robert F says

      Are you counting the Civil War? My understanding is that over half a million combatants died in that war, a war which obviously threatened the security of the US.

      • Richard McNeeley says

        About 215,000 died in combat during the Civil War, if you include non-combat deaths the total would approach 500,000. The North actually had more casualties than the South.
        If we eliminate the Civil War and the Revolutionary War then we still have about 700-800 thousand that have died in wars that did not threaten our shores or security, or about 10 persons per day. The $36 million dollar figure would not change as that is just the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan amortized over the life of the Republic. My point is that the cost of war is very high in both lives and dollars.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Image what we could do with $36 million dollars a day. Free health care for all, no more fuss or debates. We could resolve the nations infrastructure debt in a few years, and create [at least] tens of thousands jobs. And yet every infrastructure project has to beg and scramble for scraps; and every social program faces year after year cuts. And nobody objects – that is what I find most frustrating of all. Clearly the money *does* exist, we are willing to spend it on *that* – unreported in the general budget.

          • Adam, I felt the same way as you when I was young…..and then came to grips with the power of evil on this planet. God rules the universe, but since the fall, evil has permeated the hearts and souls of far too many humans.

            Were there no evil, and if the seven deadly sins weren’t flourishing, then we would have the luxury of focusing entirely on the care and feeding of humans. But, this is not reality. We are not a herd of unicorns living on sunlit plains with nary a predator in sight, we are a herd of shaggy ponies surrounded by animals who not only want to eat us….they want to eliminate us. We must protect and defend our herd, and sometimes others.

            Your purity of heart is wonderful, but the disconnect with evil reality does not serve any purpose….even Christ noted who ruled THIS world.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Those who beat their swords into plowshares end up plowing for those who didn’t at swordpoint.”
            — attr to Jerry Pournelle

          • Pattie, I’m not sure I understand your reply to Adam. It seems kind of jarring, given the content of this post and thread.

            Yes, there’s way too much evil in the world, and most of it comes from human minds and hearts. But that doesn’t = not doing anything about practical things, very much including war and all of its attendant casualties – physical, mental, economic, ecologic, spiritual, etc etc.

            Maybe I’m misreading you, thought – ?

          • Imagine what we could do with $36 million dollars a day.

            The National Priorities Project has running meters on the cost of our ongoing wars and other adventures. Can be reached at costofwar.com or

            Scroll down for the meters and click the orange bar for “Trade-offs: What else could these dollars buy?”

          • Pattie- in the first century, the Christians in Jerusalem found out that the world was not all unicorns and rainbows also. The destruction of the city by the Romans led to the deaths of a million or so people, and the destruction of their native faith of Judaism, at least as it was known up to that point.

            Fortunately, they had had prior instruction from Jesus about what to do in this case. It was not “take up arms and protect your city.” It was also not “pretend nothing is wrong, cause God is so nice to you faithful folks.” It was basically “grab what you can and head for the hills.”

            There are no examples in the New Testament of Christians in the face powerful and unstoppable evil, taking up arms to fight it off, or having an attitude of “Well that gospel/cross thing was nice while it lasted, but now we’ve got to be realistic!”

            That’s an invention of a later type of Christianity.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > has it been worth 14 lives and $36 million dollars per day to maintain the
      > freedom of a nation

      Here is the question constantly unasked on these holidays – where those 14 lives and $36M a day about preserving the freedom of this nation?

      The answer is, quite clearly IMO, *NO*. Some of those were, but a very small fraction. Most of that was about enterprise, imperialism, and favors to industry.

      Serving in the military does not make one a hero, nor does it automatically dispose me to indebtedness. In the current conflicts I honor the soldier who refuses to obey his/her orders.

  11. Radagast says

    I love Neil Young but he in a number of instances was full of hippy idealism. Unfortunately all those folks who were championing peace, love and understanding, teaching the world to sing, and raging against the establishment became the establishment, and led our country to where we are today.

    I absolutely respect those who volunteer for the military and are ready to go and defend my right to freedom. I will absolutely pay respect to that and those who died in past wars. Read about the Civil War, World War I and II and the Revolutionary War. Yes, war is ugly, and ideally we should never have to go to war. But I respect those who volunteer to put themselves in danger for us.

    • Radagast says

      Also – since I am late to the party and in response to the last topic on flags… there seems to be an over-reacting hang-up about flags, patriotism etc on this site. It could be because there was such an emphasis on these items in Evangelism that one needs to turn 180 degrees the other way to compensate. It could be that as folks become more liturgical, they become more liberal or left leaning.

      I am a Catholic and didn’t experience the over-emphasis on the flag or patriotism. Heck, the Priest railed about death and the ugliness of war – as he should on Memorial Day. There are those who look at the United States in very negative ways, or are afraid of what immigrants might say about flag waving…. except if you go back to the time of the great immigration, late 19th early 20th century, immigrants were proud to wave the flag of their newly adopted country.

      I am sorry that some of you have been burned by Evangelism or had the flag forced down your throat. I just hope you don’t go too far afield and realize the basic goodness of this country, in contrast to the ideals of many others… read history and don’t focus so much on the exceptions….

  12. A timeless comment from Charles Spurgeon: “We are up to the hilt advocates for peace, and we earnestly war against war. I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defence, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy’s slaughter. . . . Today, then, my brethren, I beg you to join with me in seeking renewal.”


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