It is hard to miss the current unrest in the middle east and other parts of the world. It is hard to miss the climbing number of soldiers who have died, are injured, and the innocent casualties of the never ending wars. This is certainly not the first time that countries have gone to war but as this conflict seem to stretch on it has shown the really ugly side of war. When we read the Bible or history books, there is definitely something missing from the retelling. The human psyche aspect of war.
I have never been deployed but I have the unfortunate displeasure of hearing stories of those men and women who have been greatly affected. They have seen things and done things that most of us can never imagine. Their experiences are not always retold with fun and lovable stories of the glorious battles that have been won. Instead, the survivors’ stories are filled with very deep psychological scars. Pick a war in any country or era and the survivors’ stories are eerily similar.
It so happens that I do work around soldiers and one enlisted was telling his experiences while deployed. While he told the story in a funny narrative which made the listeners laugh, it was hard not to miss the underlying fear as he stated “one RPG came so close it rocked the tank to one side,” another killed all the kids that were playing on the roadside, and he was “praying that the next one will not be a direct hit.” Or the brief discussion with a family member who stated a number of his “Guard unit was killed” during his last deployment.
War is not glorious in any way shape or form. It’s only glorious to those who never participated. King David was a man of battle. His hands were so bloody that he was not allowed to build God’s temple. The bible never talked about the traumatizing aspect of war. Can you imagine the carnage when Joshua blew the trumpet and the walls came crashing down on a whole town filled with men, women, children and animals? Can you image standing in the midst of all the slaughtering of people during the biblical Israel wars including the ones that they lost.
We don’t live with the fathers, sons, mothers, daughter and other family members who are forever shattered with death, mutilation etc that are a part of their memories. We don’t live with the ones who cannot recover or move past those images. Those of us who have never been touched directly by the aftermath of war are the lucky ones. We have nothing to scrub from our brains, we have not been changed irrevocably by the loss of friends, comrades, or taking the lives of others.
As Christians we read those Bible stories and celebrate because God’s side won. However, I wonder how many of us who believe in God would take up an instrument of death and kill a whole town, families, and young children because God said so? In this day and age, I would be very defiant. “Saul kill thousands but David kill tens of thousands.” Can you image chanting a similar slogan for one our soldiers who came back from war in church? Would God condone a band of Christians arming themselves and going out to kill hundreds of thousands of people because they identify as Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist? Back in the old days? Yes; however, today? “love thy neighbour as thyself”
The reality is that war will happen. Apparently, heaven had its own war as well. Sometimes the outcome of wars create positive changes. However, it begs to question why the Bible and history books were written to glorify and glamorize this barbaric practice. It is ironic that after Sept 11 many people signed up to go fight, kill and exact revenge on this atrocity in US history. However, when the reality of what it means to fight, kill, and exact revenge became practical (not video game), then the enthusiasm started to fade very quickly. The pulling the trigger repeatedly, the possibility of death or injury, the loss of friends, the missing one’s family and ‘normal life’ took a heavy toll on the mind.
The military is struggling with suicides. This is not new for any war; however, it is more widely reported in the late 20th and 21st century conflicts. There are mandatory suicide awareness trainings, their are substance abuse programs, there is so much emphasis on caring for the soldiers because the world now realizes that war breaks people in one way or another at one point or another in their lives. The idealistic views of war in the bible and other books is exactly that – idealistic. They eliminate the individual and human component. If we should truly take a magnifier to this practice, then we would have to agree that war is a tragedy no matter who is in the fight and which side wins.