Katy Perry, pop music star, recently said after the Manchester bombing that killed and maimed hundreds of children while attending a concert: “...I think that the greatest thing we can do is just unite and love on each other,” ... “No barriers, no borders, we all just need to co-exist.” It is a nice sentiment, and I wish it would work. Of course the people who use nail bombs to kill children are not interested in co-existence. They just really, really want to kill you. Thus wise and practical Christians are at a quandary. We preach love, including the admonition to love your enemy. But should we lay down our weapons before evil people, they are likely to massacre us and the innocents we are charged to protect. So we have to build barriers and borders and support the military. And, sometimes, a Christian must pick up a gun and kill the enemy. It is troubling. But such is the world in which we live.
I’m thinking about Memorial Day, a holiday that likely will have passed by the time you read this article. And my concern is that the purpose of the event tends to elude most of us. I guess, if the average American were pressed to explain, he would say it is a time to honor veterans and soldiers. Such does not get it entirely wrong. Surely a veteran or soldier would not be insulted if wished a Happy Memorial Day or someone were to buy her a meal for the occasion. But I think we need to understand the holiday better. Memorial Day is intended for remembrance of those who have died in military service to our nation.
We must be careful lest we become detached from the reality and cost of war. The total of Americans killed in all wars is over 1.1 million. To me, that’s an astounding number. Of these, almost half died in the Civil War. During World War II almost 12% of the total population served in the military in some capacity. Today we just are not so directly and personally connected. So far, 6,852 Americans have died in the global war on terrorism, far too many- but just a smidgen in a population of over 320 million.
Those who die in military service to their nation are precious souls. I do not think it wrong to say they volunteered to take a bullet for you, died so you could live in freedom and peace. Can you name a fallen soldier? You should. Reflect on who he may have been, what he may have become, except for this sacrifice. It is worth a pause during Sunday morning worship and salute to a flag. And it is worth a whole lot more.