Where is the Reckoning? Reflections on War


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I finished up my latest Gettysburg Staff Ride and as always I end up in a reflective mood. There was so much this time that caught my attention, both in the actual staff ride and my run up and down Cemetery Ridge on Friday evening. I guess the one thing that continues to strike me is a theological question that I began to wonder about after my return from Iraq.

The question is more theological, philosophical, and sociological in nature, and it goes to a place that most of us are unwilling or unable to go. I say this because so many Americans have no idea what war is really about. We tend to exalt the military, say that we “support the troops” but no one asks the hard questions of whether the wars that we are fighting, and the vast amounts of money we are spending are worth it. Frankly I think that the reason is that because for the vast majority of Americans that war is an abstract concept, and they are so disconnected from the military that they do not understand. As such the military is idolized and even mythologized by a public that is willing to send them to war, but unwilling to understand or question decisions of policy that begin and perpetuate war without end.

I see the sacrifice, the broken lives, bodies, minds and families of our military personnel who have deployed so many times. With the expansion of the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State the wars will probably continue indefinitely. Do I think that the war against ISIS/ISIL is worth it? I have to admit I do, they are thugs who have commandeered a religion to justify their crusade against all who do not agree with them and who seek to obliterate all history and culture that they do not agree, and to paraphrase Vice President Biden, Hell is where they will reside.

At the same time I cannot support a war in which a tiny minority of citizens have skin in the game while those who send them to war do so with no cost to themselves. In fact it wearies me to think that those who so loudly call for war refuse to support those who fight with increased taxes, or even war bonds. I have no doubt that those who send people to war, and those who allow them to do so without question, have no interest in actually putting their lives, or the lives of their sons and daughters on the line.

Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top asked the question that I think needs to be asked by all of us today:

“…men made in the image of God, marred by the hand of man, and must we say in the name of God? And where is the reckoning for such things? And who is answerable? One might almost shrink from the sound of his own voice, which had launched into the palpitating air words of order–do we call it? – fraught with such ruin. Was it God’s command that we heard, or His forgiveness that we must forever implore?”

My question for those who advocate war without end, who refuse to serve, and even refuse to sacrifice a wooden nickel to support those wars, is, whose forgiveness will you implore?


Padre Steve+



Filed under civil war, Gettysburg, History, national security, Political Commentary

3 responses to “Where is the Reckoning? Reflections on War

  1. Shirley Dundas

    Very good one, Steve.

  2. johnranta

    This is why I urge a return to the draft. As someone who came of age during the Viet Nam war, I saw how the draft and universal service made war immediate, and personal. Our move to a volunteer army made war, and military service an issue for “them”, not all of us. Many interpret a push for a draft and universal service a call for an increase in militarism. It’s exactly the opposite. When war impacts all of us, we are far more attentive, and far more cautious, to the possibility of war.

    • padresteve

      There is a good article in the Atlantic this week that says exactly what you are saying and more. Thanks for your comments!

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