Friday, November 22, 2013

Do We Worship God or America?

This weekend is the annual protest against the Western HemisphereInstitute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. This military institute has been known to train Latin American general in brutal tactics that have been used to silence the opposition in numerous ways. Some of the victims have been Catholic priests and nuns working alongside the poor.

Photo by Patrick Mulvaney of 2004 SOA Protest Funeral Procession
Read his recount here
The vigil is held the weekend before Thanksgiving annually to commemorate the anniversary of the deaths of 6 priests, theirhousekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador on November 16, 1989, just eight people of the thousands killed by the graduates of SOA. About 15,000-20,000 people will attend this vigil. School groups, college groups, peace activists, Catholics, and Protestants from the US and Latin America comes to peacefully protest this institute. I went twice with fellow classmates from Earlham College. Every year the vigil ends in a giant funeral procession remembering all the people who have been killed by the graduates of the School of the Americas.

Yet, outside of a handful of Catholic and Protestant churches, will this protest get any attention this Sunday in our churches? How many churches will remember the victims of our military actions in their prayers of the people? Will there be any special services to commemorate this ongoing suffering tragedy?

I want to contrast this with what I saw earlier this month all over social media, in the news and with my own eyes. On the Sunday before Veterans Day, there were special services, invitations to military families, and prayers for our troops. Here is just one of many examples: Rick Warren's Saddleback Church had a special invitation to military families.
When will Saddleback Church make a special invitation to peacemakers and their families? Or any church for that matter?

When will churches give prayers for the victims of war in the Prayers of the People? When will we remember the deaths of our fellow Christians or even humans affected by our extremely large military? Even more, when will we recognize that we are all complicit with the military industrial complex that feed off a patriotic Christianity in the United States? This is one of our sins that we need to recognize!

I have seen pastors who are worried about saying anything to disrupt their congregants on Veterans Day weekend. If they didn't want to glorify war, most of them stay silent and did not mention their real beliefs. Veterans Day weekend in the Church should have been one of mourning. Yes, mourning that the War to End All Wars did not do accomplish that. Instead it continued a brutal and violent history. We should mourn how we so eagerly send off young people to fight to keep the Defense Industry wealthy, while we ignore veterans on the streets?

Sadly American Christianity is currently more interested in upholding American Exceptionalism rather than having a prophetic voice. When will we recognize that God does not just love us but the whole world? Until that point, American Christianity will continue to worship America more than God.  


  1. Well, Dear Greg, apropos that last paragraph, I am convinced that YOU are one of those Prophetic Voices, and I admire that you have chosen to work within the Church rather than just denounce it from outside. That was in the character of the original (genuine) Hebraic Prophets -- who could feel their People's pain as their mourned and denounced their sin.
    Keep preaching, Brother, about American Exceptionalism (the operative religion of so much of this nation), and contrast it to the True Gospel of Our Teacher, Jesus as the Christ.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly that veterans day should be used to speak against sending young people off to battle for the sake of the defense industry and ignoring the many disadvantaged veterans walking, and too often living on, our streets who come back from those battles unable to assimilate themselves into the society they supposedly went to battle to protect.