From All Saints until Veterans Day, I’m posting a blog series on soldier saints at Centurions Guild. “Ten Saints, Ten Days” explores ten lives, their context, and their relevance to soldiers today. In the Bible, the number ten signifies completion and wholeness—something many soldiers today do not feel. The moral complexity of their service is too often brushed away with a quick “thank you” or an upgrade to first class. But soldiers’ experiences, their testimonies, are part and parcel to the integrity of the church—especially in this time of war.
A theologically credible account of war requires the voice of soldiers, the actual bodies that participate in it.
As a combat veteran, I find it tragic that election day always falls just before Veterans Day. Every couple years, the nation waits breathlessly to see who will sit in Washington for them. Nobody seems to have any energy left a week later to remember those who sat in foxholes for them.
On Easter Sunday, Jake Tapper interviewed Rick Warren on ABC’s This Week, asking the influential pastor a series of questions on faith and politics. Of particular interest were his comments on soldiers and war (which did not make it into the aired segment but are available here). At the end of the interview, Warren exclaimed, “God hates war, but loves every soldier.”
As a combat veteran, I was impressed by and grateful for Warren’s statement. The Bible makes clear that war is at best a necessary evil--the idea at the core of the just war tradition. And yes: God loves each and every soldier. But I want to look more closely at the latter thought, especially in light of the suicide epidemic that currently afflicts our nation’s veterans and soldiers.
We hear about the U.S troops killed in Iraq, and we sometimes see their faces on the TV screen or staring out at us from the newspaper. The number of dead stands at about 1,442. There is a second statistic: 10,770 troops have been injured. For many of them, their bodies are terribly damaged and disfigured, and they will never be the same.
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