Valley of the Shadow of Death is a photograph by Roger Fenton, taken on April 23, 1855, during the Crimean War. It is one of the most well-known images of war.
Fenton observed, “in coming to a ravine called the valley of death, the sight passed all imagination: round shot and shell lay like a stream at the bottom of the hollow all the way down, you could not walk without treading upon them.”
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
When we consider the blood spilled every day in the wars that rage across the surface of the earth, it is difficult to comprehend how one more death can make a difference. But what about a death that uses death against itself?
I would like to draw your attention to a series of articles by Logan Mehl-Laituri, aimed at helping the Christian movement thinking more critically about faith and service in the days surrounding Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is an official United States holiday (coinciding with Remembrance Day) that honors people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Logan himself is a US veteran and author whom I met though his peacemaking efforts as founder of Centurion’s Guild. Logan has been at the forefront of campaigns to legalise selective concienscious objection for US Military personel.
Through Centurions Guild, Logan ran a 10 day blog series from All Saints till Veterans Day, each day featuring a soldier saint. Even where Logan’s views do not entirely coincide with my own I find him extremely thought provoking and I’m sure you will too. As a peacemaker who has actively served in wartime, his words come with an authenticity and immediacy that few can match. He’s the soldier saint I have learned to listen to. Here are the links to the articles:
“When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace … This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.” (Deuteronomy 20:10-16)
The wars of Israel in the Old Testament are difficult to reconcile with the nonviolence of Jesus, there is no doubt about that. But an honest reading requires we observe that, even so, scripture recounts YHWH commanding Israel to place territorial limits on the cherem, the wars of destruction. However brutal it sounds to modern ears, Moses made clear that the cherem was limited to cities (that is, the cherem exluded the peasant class who stood apart from the military class) and limited it to the land of Caanan (that is, the cherem excluded Pagan cities beyond Palastine). So whatever else we may say, as Christians or non-Christians, we must reject the claim that the Old Testament provides a universal mandate for genocide. It is clear then, that if Christians were ever to justify such brutality in different wars in different lands, they go beyond scripture, Old Testament as well as New Testament.
I have a huge amount of respect for Ghandi, and I imagine many of you reading this have too. But as I have come to understand Hinduism in more depth I have come to realise that Ghandi was not, and is not, universally representative of Hindu ethics.
There is an ethical spectrum in Hinduism that is not dissimilar from other religions.
This is something noted up front by Anantanand Rambachan in “The Co-Existence of Violence and Non-Violence in Hinduism,” an essay on religion and politics in India. Moreover, he notes, “The Mahabharata war is referred to, in the Bhagavadgita, as a dharma yuddha. A dharma yuddha is a war fought in defence of justice and righteousness and for the security and well being of the community (lokasamgraha).”
So it is clear that, not only can Hindus claim scriptural justification for violence under certain circumstances, but they have their own equivalent to the just war concept. I wouldn’t be surprised if this raises some questions for some of you.