I had a deadline on Monday. I had to turn in a narrative outline to my editor for my forthcoming book. It had been, however, quite sometime since I had read my work. I spent last weekend reading through the four-hundred pages of narrative, notes, and thoughts trying to wrap my head around what I was/am trying to accomplish. Throughout this process, I ran across some writings that I particularly enjoyed. I wrote the following introduction to my book. It may not be usuable as both my editor and I seek a new (and hopefully better) direction for the book, but I think this introduction does a decent job of expressing what I’m trying to accomplish. I would love to hear your thoughts.
“I have been to war twice. I have seen men and women killed. I have seen the darkness of humanity. Before I went to Iraq, I had considered myself a Christian. Afterwards, I did not know who or what I was. I began to question my faith, my country, and myself. I enrolled in Seminary. I wanted answers to difficult, life-altering questions. Questions like: What happens when Christians join the military, pledge allegiance to something or someone other than Jesus, and begin killing in the name of this new allegiance? How should churches respond when their government wars with other nations? Are Christians supposed to interpret Jesus’ commands to love their enemies literally? Will I go to hell for killing? How do I, as a Christian, begin to crawl out of the dark hole that I found myself in after carrying out systemic injustice and corruption? Let me be frank: there is no greater form of systemic evil than war. I participated in that evil, our country continues to participate in that evil, and, sadly, many of our churches participate in that evil. This is not a political statement. This is not a theological statement. It is a simple reality of warfare. War is dark. War is evil. War is morally corrupt. I make no excuses for my conclusions, but, at the outset, I feel it only fair to admit to my presuppositions. No one, I believe, prefers war to peace. This book is written out of a Christian framework. I am a Christian (no matter what some might say). I view the world through the death and resurrection (whether symbolic or not) of Jesus of Nazareth. We all have our paradigms, our frameworks in which to view the world. These paradigms, frameworks, and narratives help us process the events of our lives, help us make decisions about the future, and help us live in the present. Mine is Christian. That is why, when wrestling with questions of systemic injustice and oppression, I turn to both the Christian community and the biblical narrative for answers. If this is offensive to you, then I apologize. I am who I am. If however, this is no great hurdle, then I welcome you. For, at its core, this book is simply an invitation to a much larger discussion. This book, however, is not for Christians. This book is not for secular humanists. This book is not for the conservative, nor for the liberal. This book is not for any labeled group. This book is for those who question, for those who seek answers. This book is for those who, for a time, are willing to escape their particular epithet and enter into dialogue. This is an invitation to dialogue; an invitation to find answers corporately. I am no genius. I am no biblical scholar. What I write stems from a masters-level thesis, not a Doctorate of Philosophy dissertation. So much of what I share is my story, my narrative (as best as I remember it). This book is full of tales, thoughts, and studies. Using Romans 12.14-13.7 as a backdrop, this book wrestles with the question: Is a Christian warranted in fighting in a war? This first question births a similar yet necessary overriding question: What is a Christian’s role or responsibility within the government that he or she lives? How does one not only hold a faith, but also live out of their faith? For centuries scholars have interpreted Romans 12.14-13.7 in such a way as to promote submission to authorities at all costs; or, on the other hand, to promote a full withdrawal and retreat from society. I will argue, however, that these interpretations are neither valid nor biblical. I hope to navigate through the murky waters of war scholarship and propose a better way to read scripture, interact with governments, and activate peace within our world. My aspiration is simple and personal. I seek to understand the meaning of Paul’s exhortation to submit to the governing authorities not only as an amateur scholar and a Christian, but also as a veteran of the war in Iraq who finds no other single question more important than this: Was I justified in what I did? Were we justified in what we did? Therefore, sprinkled throughout the sections of narrative describing my experiences in the United States Marine Corps, the reader will find sections of scholarship seeking to make sense of my story. I hope to wrap scholarship in narrative in order to bridge the gap between thought and practice, to provide a modern day example of one seeking to uphold my conclusions, and to highlight the difficulties in doing so. This book comes at the end of a long journey. These are my thoughts and conclusions written down, cemented in history. While, at times, the discussion can be difficult and polarizing, I humbly ask you to enter into the give-and-take of dialogue. Who knows? Together we might come to a better understanding of what it means to embody the teachings of Jesus. And, in that way, maybe our journey is just beginning.
May we have the strength to admit our preconceptions and come to one another in mutual respect.
May we dialogue honestly, vulnerably, and humbly—for only in so doing, can we lay aside our hate and prejudice.
May we better identify our narratives and learn from our history.
May our conversation be a catalyst for change in our world.”