Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

Did I Ever Once Pray?

Alfred P Murrah Federal Building before destruction

I am trying to remember if I ever once prayed for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I know I prayed — and fervently — that the FBI would get the right person or persons. The only thing worse than being a victim of one of these things would be to be accused of it and not have done it.

I wanted the right people to get got.

I think I prayed before the execution of one of the perpetrators. I remember I was upset about the idea of them strapping him down and killing him like he was an animal in a slaughter house. I never confused him with an animal. I always knew he was human and that what he had done was a specifically human act.

I did not want him executed. But once he was dead, I was glad that I would never have to hear any of his comments or words again. I was glad his ashes were scattered. I did not want him to have a grave where people would go and take photos of each other standing beside his marker. I wanted him forgot.

But … did I ever pray for his soul? I think I did, on the day of his execution. But I’m honestly not sure.

I’ve never prayed for it since then. I can tell you that.

I spent far too much time back then, thinking about the perpetrators of this mass murder. It was so premeditated. They planned it and worked toward it for months, robbing for money and resources that they stockpiled until they had enough to build a bomb. This was beyond deliberate. It was something these men worked toward the way better people work toward college degrees or buying their first home. It was a long-term goal for them.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. I could not fathom that someone would get up in the morning and go to work building a bomb to kill other people and that they could do it for months. Why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Then, one day, I realized that I would never understand and that I didn’t need to understand. 

I can’t understand Beethoven, either. But for different reasons. I hear the Fifth Symphony and I know that he heard it before he ever wrote a note. He heard all of the instruments in his mind. He heard them individually and together simultaneously. He heard it and he wrote it down with musical notes on a piece of paper so that we could hear it too.

How did he do that? How can anyone do what Beethoven did? I don’t understand because I do not have the talent to fly that high.

Conversely, I don’t understand these cold-blooded killers because I can’t bend down that low. You have to squeeze yourself into a painfully small box to think like these murderers do. You have to amputate large parts of your soul and psyche to shrink it down to something small enough to even begin to comprehend why and how they could decide that doing something like this was a worthy project.

Every time one of these things happens, we are inundated with comments from people who tell us that the killer seemed like one of us. But of course, that’s not true. They’re not like us, at least not in the only thing about them that matters to the rest of us; their murderous desires. The “normal Joe” mass murderer is an ironic viewpoint perpetrated on the rest of us to titillate and engage us. It is not true.

I don’t know and I don’t care why and how they are different. That’s the job of FBI profilers and others with a calling and a dedication that I don’t have.

I suppose, after I write this, I’m going to have to pray for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s not going to be easy. I will first have to dig them out from the box where I put them long ago.

The one labeled “Trash.”

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Second Suspect is in Custody

Police took the second suspect in the Boston bombing in custody tonight. 

I watched it from about 5 pm CST. Reporters had to fill the airtime with commentary while the police worked to arrest the suspect without killing him. That gave me a chance to hear all the rumors and web-spinning that surrounds this case. This is an inevitable fog-of-war thing that happens naturally with these tragedies. Most of these rumors will prove to be inaccurate, so I’m going to let that shake itself out without adding to the confusion here on this blog.

The FBI did a great job, and I imagine they are going to continue doing a great job throughout the rest of this investigation. This person is in custody. They say he is injured and in serious condition. The story is that 3 other people have also been arrested, but no one in the press knows why.

It took four days to get the photos of the murderers to the public. It took five days to get them both out of circulation and either in the morgue or in custody.

I will never put the names of these killers on this blog. I ask everyone else to respect that and do the same in their comments. Do not curse or revile them. They aren’t worth it.

God bless Boston. God bless America. 

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Martin Richard, 8

Krystle Campbell, 29

Lingzi Lu, 23

Officer Sean Collier, 26

Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora: Maintaining an Even Strain in the Face of Repeated Atrocity

Oklahoma City is a smaller town than Boston. 

I know people who were grievously injured in the Oklahoma City bombing. They have lost their homes and jobs because of the injuries. Some of the survivors will require care from their families for the rest of their lives.

America reached out to us during the days after that horrible event. Huge amounts of money were donated. Despite this, families of the injured have been forced into bankruptcy and ultimately been left to deal with the after affects themselves.

We are going to have to get used to these tragedies.

They appear to be coming at us Wham! Wham! Wham! We need to learn how to maintain an even strain in the face of them and still take care of the victims and their families.

We also need to go after the perpetrators, which, I believe, we will. I’ll save the conversation concerning our society’s overwhelming need for conversion for a later post.

Today, I want to talk about what “maintaining an even strain” in the face of repetitive atrocity means in real life. I’m going to link to a video showing how the people on the ground in Boston responded to the bombing. They swung into action immediately. They went to the aid of the injured and they did it calmly, cooperatively and, in my opinion, the way that Americans have always done it.

We do this every time, don’t we? Americans don’t run away from each other when we’re in trouble. We reach out and help each other. Boston was no exception.

I’m also going to put a link to at least one place where you can donate money. The owner of the Boston Patriots has set up a matching program for donations for the survivors. Go to this link and donate a few dollars. If you don’t have much, just give $5 or $10. If enough of us do that, it will add up, fast.

If you learn of other legitimate links, feel free to post them in the combox. But please do your best to make sure they are reputable.

Another suggestion I’m going to make is that we consider forming support groups for specific survivors of these atrocities in our Altar Societies, parish Knights of Columbus, etc. The reason I described the hardship survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing have been through is because genuine caring doesn’t end when the ratings go down and the news media skips on to the next big thing. 

There are people who survived the shooting in Aurora who will probably need help for a long time. That is almost certainly the same in Boston. The rescue workers are also going to suffer from this for a long time.

All these people need both financial and emotional support that is on-going and long-lasting. 

Here are things you can do that will make a difference:

1. Pray for them — by name, if you know their names. Pray for them every day. Include them — again by name, if you know their names — in your group prayers, your family bed time prayers, etc. Take the trouble to learn about at least one of these people and adopt them for prayer intercession on an on-going basis.

2. Send them a card. Not a card “to the victims,” but a card addressed to them using their own name. Tell them that you are praying for them and that you care about them. Then, in a couple of months, send another card. Next Christmas, send them a Christmas card. Lift them up as long as they are down.

3. Consider doing an altar society bake sale or a Knights candy sale and using the proceeds to help pay the medical expenses of this one person you have adopted.

4. Write corporations such as Nike who have an interest in the Marathon and ask them to also start a matching donation fund for the victims’ on-going medical expenses.

5. Put activities in place that we will follow after each one of these tragedies. We may need to set up atrocity prayer chains that we activate every time another one of these things happens.

The important thing is to stop wringing our hands and asking “How could this happen?” We need to get on with the business of taking care of each other in the aftermath.

Here is the video I spoke of earlier. Notice that the person holding the camera is in shock, but he keeps on filming. I would guess that the people who were moving barricades were in shock, too. But they didn’t flinch and they didn’t run away. That’s what Americans do when the going gets tough.

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You can donate to the survivors here. Be sure to indicate that you want your donation to go to the Boston Marathon bombing survivors.

We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This

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We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

SandyHook

But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

Aurora

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

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We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

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We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

Whither we are tending …

America has suffered a series of terrible tragedies in the past 20 years.

This is a recent feature of our American history.

We went for over two hundred years without facing the insanity of repetitive mass murders of innocent civilians in public places by socially inept angry young men. There have been incidents of mass violence throughout our history, including at least one school bombing in the 1920s.

But the present-day phenomena of one shooter killing people one after the other for no reason began with the clock tower at the University of Texas back in the 1960s. There was a decades-long lull between that atrocity and the next one. Now, they are occurring at shorter and shorter intervals.

What has changed in our national psychology that we have become a people who are living in fear of mass-murdering social misfits?

That is the first question we need to ask about this problem. It would be a huge mistake to come up with a solution without first working out exactly what the problem is that we are trying to solve.

I don’t want to contribute to the word-salad propagandizing that passes for commentary these days. I honestly think that this behavior on the part of people in the media has contributed to this problem. I believe emphatically that it has contributed to the fractured, unthinking way we respond to things. This needs to stop. We the people need to start thinking things through for ourselves.

I’m going to run through the various questions that have been raised by those who are proposing solutions. I’m also going to add some observations of my own. But what I am not going to do is try to whip you up into a froth of emotion. I also will not tolerate those who try to use the com boxes to do that. I want intelligent discussion, not ugly bizarreness.

This is a Christian blog. It’s purpose is to equip Christians to deal effectively with the challenges we face and to be fruitful witnesses for Jesus. That will be our focus.

This is all I’m going to say about whither we are tending today. We aren’t going to find a solution for this problem in a day. Or a week. Unless the President does something unilateral, it will be a slow and contentious process to get anything done at all. We not only need to spend some time thinking, praying and talking this through; we are required by circumstance to let it sit for a while.

All these pundits who push, push, push at controversial issues are doing it because controversy raises their ratings. This has become such an exaggerated, all-consuming focus with many of them that they focus on controversy at the expense of the facts or of fairness. This harms all of us.

I’m going to begin tomorrow with a discussion of changes in the past quarter century which I feel might have contributed to this problem. I’m really interested to what you think is creating this problem.

Then, I’ll list the various ideas people have for reform in government. However, I am convinced that the solution to this problem is not something we can achieve by just passing laws. We need to look at more than legislative changes.

We are going to take a break for Christmas. And then begin again in the New Year. I will also begin the series I was writing on how government works again after the New Year.

Before we do anything, I think we should all take this to the Lord in prayer. I know that I am going to.

The Bombing

We call it The Bombing.

We don’t use qualifiers about the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, or Oklahoma City. Anytime you utter the words The Bombing around these parts, everyone in hearing distance will know what and when you mean.

We also don’t talk about it much. This monstrous event knocked us flat as a community. It re-focused our fight away from the everyday conflicts that engaged us before it happened. Anger and rage were an indulgence we couldn’t afford. We had people to save and lives to rebuild and only so much emotional gas to do it with.

The bombing was mass murder. What happened in Denver and Wisconsin and Sandy Hook and so many other places were also mass murder. What we have narrowly avoided in other places were other mass murders in the making.

Mass murder is not entertainment.

These tragedies are on every news show, even though there’s often no news to report. They are analyzing and pontificating, all without data, like so many useless hamsters in their respective cages. The object of almost all this attention is the individual or individuals who commit these crimes.

Mass murder, whether it is committed by an individual, a mob or a government, stuns us into incomprehension. We can’t fathom why anyone would think that it is a good idea to scheme, plan — use all their money, resources and ability — to work toward and then actually do this ultimately senseless thing.

We ask why. The only answer we get is a cacophony of psycho-babble from the book authors, psychologists and profilers who go in front of the camera and serve up heaping platefuls of meaningless word-salad pontification. There is no usable answer. The question echoes. Why?

Mass murder is inexplicable to those of us who look for reasons in the healthy motivators of love, fun, achievement and reward. This is at least partly because, in addition to all its other negatives, mass murder is just plain stupid. I think this stupidity is part of our fascination. We can’t figure it out.

Hannah Arendt gave us the phrase “the banality of evil” when she described the execution of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann mass-murderered millions. His crimes challenge our notions of civilization and human goodness.

Arendt witnessed Eichmann’s execution. She reported that Eichmann refused the ministrations of a protestant minister, announcing that he didn’t believe in God; then he made a few inane remarks and proclaimed long life to Germany, Austria and Argentina. That was it. This man who murdered on an industrial scale died with a hiccup of banality.

Arendt had experienced Hitler’s anti-Semitism. She was interrogated by the SS, then fled the Nazi death machine from Germany to France and finally America. I would guess that Eichmann was the monster in her closet, the darkness in her nightmares. And yet, when she witnessed his execution, she didn’t see the fireworks of an evil god. She saw the big zero of nothing much. Eichmann’s evil deeds haunt the world, but he himself wasn’t even an interesting person. In her words, ” … this long course in human wickedness had taught us the lesson of the fearsome word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”

I think she spoke a great truth in this sentence, one we overlook at our peril. Evil is not grand. It is not glorious. It is banal. Stupid. Senseless. Useless. And ultimately, boring.

Spinning verbal webs about the banal little nothings who commit these crimes gives them a substance and a dignity that they do not possess on their own. It creates the unfortunate illusion that these killers are interesting, and it feeds the cravings for significance of future killers in the audience.

Ted Bundy, another mass murderer who achieved celebrity status, said that when he killed he was god. What rot. It doesn’t take any special skill or god-like power to kill. A child can do it. Giving life, living life, caring and nurturing, providing and serving are what bring us close to God, the real God, the One Who made everything, everywhere.

A young mother, sitting up all night with the shower running while she consoles a croupy baby, is closer to God than most saints.

These twisted ciphers of people who commit mass murder are not gods, evil or otherwise. Their dark banality defies the comprehension of people who live and love in the sunlight of life. The media obliges our hunger for an answer to the omnipresent Why? of these things. They give us word-salad ramblings and psycho-babble speculation around the clock. But they don’t tell us what we want to know. They don’t and they can’t explain Why?

In the end, the one thing we know about these mass-murderers is what we knew at the beginning; that they are too dangerous to be allowed to roam free in our world.

We glamorize these people with our obsessive questioning. We feed future mass-murderers and their bizarre quest for significance with the unspoken but very real promise that they, too, can become stars of the obsessive media spotlight.

If the bombing taught me anything it is that these crimes against humanity are not entertainment, that these obsessions we form about those who commit them are our own contribution to the dark side.

Good people are hurt in these atrocities. We should focus our energies on finding ways to help them re-order their lives in this new reality of what has happened to them. We should pray and pray some more. We should pray especially for an end to the interest in these murderers. Contrary to the pretense of those who fixate on them, they have nothing to teach us.

If we want to learn, we would do much better to study those who gave their lives so that others might live, like the school principal who charged a gunman to save her students. We could learn from the security guard who saved a building full of people in Washington, from the cops who went into that theater in Aurora, and the teachers who blocked the doors. The people who bring flowers and lay them on the sidewalk, the generous souls who write checks to help the injured and bury the dead:  These people have something to teach, something worth learning.

There is goodness all around us. If we are sincere about doing something to end these repetitive mass murders, let’s stop looking to the murderers for our solutions and focus on the people who give life, not take it.

Evil is banal. It is boring. It is stupid. And it hurts people.

We should not cooperate with evil by making it, and the deaths of innocents, into our entertainment.

The Day When Nobody Died

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There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” 
― Corrie Ten Boom
“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world.  And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it!”
― Corrie Ten Boom
We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world and the spiritual agents are from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore, we must wear the “whole armor of God,” that we may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when we have fought to a standstill, we may still stand our ground.”
― Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom is a Protestant saint. Before World War II, she was an obscure Dutch watchmaker’s daughter. Unmarried, in her 50s, she lived the kind of quiet life that is totally lost to us now.

But during World War II and afterwards, God used this woman to do His work. Corrie Ten Boom and her family built a false wall into their house, a “hiding place” for Jews. When they were caught by the Germans, Corrie, her sister and their elderly father were arrested. Corrie and her sister were sent to concentration camps. Their father died in prison. Corrie’s sister died in the concentration camp. Corrie, and her sister, too, before she died, took great risks to witness about the Lord in this dark hole.

After the war, she lived the rest of her life as an itinerant speaker and writer, bringing the message that God’s love is with us, even in the deepest darkness.

Her book, The Hiding Place, was an important one for me after my conversion. I had listened to the world’s version of history all my life and I had no idea that there were Christian heroes and heroines who had risked and given all to save the Jews. Corrie’s book was my introduction to that ignored part of the history of those days.

I am convinced that if Corrie Ten Boom had been a Catholic, she would have been canonized by now. I am also convinced that she is a saint, that she is in heaven, and that God answers her prayers. God gave her small miracles in the concentration camps and I don’t doubt that He answers her now.

Because of what she suffered, I think her words have meaning to us in our times of deepest trouble. I think they are pertinent to us in this unraveling world of contemporary America. Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and all other places like them, are harbingers of hell. They are the howling dogs of hate that we let loose on one another.

The mass murders at Sandy Hook, Denver, Columbine, and Oklahoma City are also harbingers of hell. It is up to us to decide if we will become part of this darkness, if we will let it overcome us, or if we will chose the light.

I chose the light. Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” I believe that.

If you have young children …

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I don’t want to talk about what happened in Connecticut. Not yet. But I feel compelled to say a few words about one area of this tragedy.

What if you have young children?

My advice is to do your best to shelter them from this. They might find it terrifying in a way that no little child should be terrified. Keep your tv tuned to other things. Don’t talk about it in front of them.

If they go to daycare or school, you need to prepare them for what they will hear there. Tell them about what happened in as few words as they will understand. Do it calmly. Then tell them that they are safe. Inoculate them against fear.

If, on the other hand, they encounter something that does scare them — through other kids at day care, their school, or maybe seeing the news coverage — then it’s very important for you to be calm and not over dramatize it. No “how could anyone do this?” in front of your babies. I don’t mean downplay it. What I mean is don’t scare them further. You have to tell them that you will keep them safe. Mommy and Daddy will take care of you. That has to be the message.

I would make a point of going to my child’s school or day care and having a frank talk with the teachers and principal about how they are going to handle this. In fact, I might decide to be in the classroom when it is discussed. If your child is scared, take off work and go spend a few hours at the school or day care, just sitting in. It does wonders for your child to see you there. If, for some reason, the school objects, then keep them home. In fact, at that point, I would consider alternative educational choices.

I know that right now you feel like you’re whistling your way through the deepest dark. I know that you are asking yourself how can any parent keep their child safe in a world like this. But don’t share those fears with them. Talk, instead to your spouse, that other person who loves them as much as you do. If you are a single parent, share your fears with an adult you trust, not your children. Divorced parents should, if possible, still unite in talking to their children about this and making them feel safe. If that’s not possible, do the best you can, and do not use this as some back-handed way to attack your former spouse.

My children went to public schools for a brief while; two and a half years for one of them. Quite frankly, that is the one thing I regret most about how I raised them. I’ll go into more details about why I feel that way in another post. The point for what I’m saying now is that one of my sweet babies was in school the day of the bombing here in Oklahoma City. Someone deliberately killed little children, parked a bomb under a day care, that day, too. Children who were in that bombing and who were grievously injured are members of our parish.

I am not going to say any more. I don’t have any magical advice that will make this easy for parents of young children. You are faced with a serious situation here. Do all you can to keep this tragedy from stripping your children of their security and innocence.

I will pray for you and for all parents of young children in the days to come.

Blessings.


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