Monday, 10 October 2016

More thoughts on prayers about war

(journaled March 2016)

Last night on CBC radio I heard bits and pieces of a discussion on war, and whether it can be avoided in all situations. It seemed that all agreed that, no matter how abhorrent the killing may be, there are times--mainly in self-defense against an evil, violent, warring adversary (Nazism was given as an example) who will not back down or change their ways--when wars must be fought. I really wish there were better strategies, but I'm afraid that short of "pure pacifism" (which one of the panelists said was, in reality, "indefensible") war is going to be here because of man's nature. Any yet...

I think far too many wars are wrong on every level: wars for territorial expansion, for greed, for power, for imperialism and colonialism, to attain control over oil or other goods, for prestige, for patriotism, to force changes in forms of government or changes in government leaders (especially when done by one nation to another for the reasons just mentioned), religious fanaticism, powerful nations messing around with less powerful nations for personal gain, and so on. Syria has been at it for five years and Assad is still firmly entrenched while the country is ruined and the world is in upheaval with refugee crises, while more and more nations are drawn into the battle and major world powers take sides. Is it worth it? Of course, there are those who would say diplomacy would not unseat Assad. But really, who knows if it isn't tried?

Well, I wrote all the above, because I just read a prayer called "Thanksgiving for Victory" which includes, among other statements, "We bless and magnify thy great and glorious Name for this happy Victory, the whole glory whereof we do ascribe to thee, who are the only giver of Victory ... to thy glory, the advancement of thy Gospel, the honour of our Sovereign, and, as much as in us lieth, to the good of all mankind..." (and more such expressions which make me shudder).

And if "we" don't get "the Victory" and "the other side" does, what then? Did God give them the victory, for His glory and the advancement of the gospel and the good of all mankind? Was our side wrong? If we get the victory, is the other side wrong?

Here's another prayer that is maybe a bit easier to swallow: "O Almighty God, who art a strong tower of defense unto thy servants against the face of their enemies: We yield thee praise and thanksgiving for our deliverance from those great and apparent dangers wherewith we were compassed: We acknowledge it thy goodness that we were not delivered over as a prey to them...."

So it seems like this refers to one of those wars of self-defense against an evil enemy seeking to overtake us (assuming we accept that as a reasonable cause to respond in warfare). But even so, are we ourselves convinced of our own purity and innocence in the whole matter? And if not, if there is a chance that we, too, are in some degree evil, and/or in some degree "to blame"--did we, before going into war, seek God's face in repentance, and determine that after the war is over we will not return to our own evil ways?

Oh, by the way, the prayer ends, "that all the world may know that thou art our Saviour and mighty Deliverer; through Jesus Christ our Lord." Are we really following You, to start with? Were our reasons for joining in the war effort really pure? If our reasons were tainted (and there are many underlying reasons and motivations we go into apparently "just wars" beyond truly altruistic, just reasons), what message does that send to non-believers when we claim that You are our deliverer? Is it even possible that war points people to Christ?

Is winning or losing war even always about "good vs evil"? Is it? Does God jump into every situation? Does God "weigh the balances" in every war? Does He? Really? I believe that, in the end, every knee will bow before Him; but I don't see that in the present world every victory is from God. I do believe, however, that relationship with God can and does grow out of pain and loss. Spiritual victory in physical loss?

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