Last night I was walking through a local town festival when I spotted a large Air Force van passing out propaganda and recruiting prospects. Such recruitment posts make me cringe. When army commercials air before movies, the pit of my stomach crawls, but this particular instance was way beyond those usual feelings of dismay.
The van was a simulation game.
"Experience what it's like to be a member of the U.S. Air Force," the signs said. "Climb into the cockpit and defend your country!"
I watched as many 8, 9, and 10-year old boys stepped up to the line and eagerly waited their turn to "shoot down enemy planes," as I overhead one little boy exclaim.
I. was. furious.
Now, I understand that many of my fellow brothers and sisters are advocates of just war, who see war as an unfortunate "necessary evil" that plagues our world due to the Fall. I sincerely respect their stance. Although I may not agree with it, I am comfortable with different viewpoints on war being represented in Christianity.
This, however, was nothing short of glamorizing violence, making the killing of others "cool." Propaganda like this casts war in a thrilling, video-game-like light, completely ignoring the cost that war always has. "Necessary evil," as my just war friends would call it, is never without consequences. Instead, this propaganda screams, "Forget the countless number of lives who are lost in battle. Forget the 'enemy' whom Christ has called us to love. War is exciting. War makes heroes. War is the most desirable employer."
Saying otherwise, being honest about how much violence and death is involved, probably would not be a good marketing tool.
Yet, it seems that war within Christianity is all or nothing. Either we are resistant to it, cultivating a life of disciplined nonviolence, or we are all for it, idolizing our troops and our celebrating our military prowess. There is a severe lack of middle ground. Those of us who view war as a viable option need to stop glamorizing the violence that comes with it, regardless of whether it is "necessary." Those of use who are for just war need to be for just war reluctantly, knowing that it is the result of a broken, hurting world and was never a part of God's plan for this world.
War breaks God's heart. And that needs to be taken seriously without sparkles, gimmicks, or heightened CGI.