1. A modest claim: Whatever we think about the rightness or wrongness of war in general, or of specific wars, and whatever we think about the valor of dying in war, let us not make war holy. War is hell; it is full of sin. People (even war heroes) do horrible things in war and have horrible things done to them. People who have died in war, whether combatants or civilians, whether enemies or friends, should not have had to die. They had a future. They had dreams. They may have been at war against their own better judgment. They had spouses and children and parents who wanted to keep loving them and whom the dead would have wanted to keep loving.
2. A modest suggestion: In my book Reading Revelation Responsibly, I suggest that the church in the U.S. has two liturgical seasons, (1) the Holy Season, from Advent to Easter or Pentecost, and (2) the Civil Season, the time of civil religion, which runs from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving. This is not a good situation. Since this coming Sunday is both Memorial Day in the U.S. and Pentecost in the church around the world, what a church in the U.S. chooses to do and emphasize this Sunday (and between now and Thanksgiving) says a lot about that church. What are its priorities? Is it seeking to be a Spirit-filled church, a Pentecost church, a part of the global church with people from every tribe and ethnicity and nation? Or an American church?—which is actually an oxymoron.
3. A modest proposal: Since U.S. churches seem inevitably to want to remember those who died for a noble cause, can we—especially we Protestants—not pay a little more attention to those who have died for the most noble cause of all, the gospel? Why are we so ignorant of the great Christian saints, the martyrs, who have died down through the ages and are still dying today in various parts of the world? Are “we” (here I mean most Protestants and many post-Protestants) afraid of being too “Catholic”? Perhaps we should rather be afraid of being too “American” and not catholic enough. If American Christians can take American memorializing so seriously, can we not take Christian memorializing even more seriously? Can we not start naming and learning about the church’s martyrs on a regular basis?
Whatever we do or remember this weekend, let us recall that All Saints Day is less than six months away. And in the meantime, there are plenty of days and plenty of saints associated with those days for us to do a lot of remembering.