Those Who Gave Their Lives: What Is Their True Memorial?
Over the weekend, in the context of Memorial Day, I spent much time in prayer and reflection about what it means to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the understanding of justice and liberty upon which the United States is founded. Though some would rather I say that they acted in defense of their country, I demur. At present, this leaves too much leeway for the materialist concept of our nation dictated by the soulless socialist, or else supposedly “pragmatic”, obsessions presently dominant among America’s elitist faction. But now, more perhaps than ever before in our history, the crude money and mortar views of our nation are a tragically inadequate basis for preserving any semblance of the common identity of the people of the United States.
It’s certainly true that the people who came from all parts of the world to swell the population of the United States saw, and were determined to make much of, the material opportunities our continent offered in abundance. But it was their enterprising spirit that, most of all, accounted for their success in doing so. Prosperity was indeed here for the taking. But such takings were often a life and death proposition. In every part of the world, this deadly aspect of material ambition has produced societies dominated by the morally blind ambition of those inured to it. Like Cain’s Lamech in the Bible (Genesis 4:19-24), they set no limits upon the manner of their takings, except the reaches of their materially destructive strength. It offends their pride to see anything they desire in the hands of people who cannot defend it against their depredations.
Their victims certainly experience these depredations as evils. But to the children of Cain they are righteous rituals of human sacrifice, not infrequently in the literal sense. Indeed, other than the craftiness of war and mayhem, the only work of the imagination Cain’s offspring routinely value is the invention of idols—gods and demigods, whose rituals of worship are triumphant celebrations of materially destructive power. They christen the fruits of deadly rapine as the only goods of worth.
Nations were, in fact, formed in the traditions of such rituals, carrying them from one place to another, as they espied new fields to conquer. Those fields bore fruit, however, because of people for whom their fruits were the result of a different kind of imagination. They came from seeing, in prospect, how flocks could spring from caring wholesomely for living things; or diverse crops abound in fertile lands; or in wasted lands, once they were etched with patterns of irrigation.
But the harvest of this productive imagination came from a sense of respect for the order that informed it. It bespoke a mind unnoticed but in the good effects those who followed it could command. Rather than rituals of human slaughter, respect for this mind led to the rituals of planting and sowing, birthing and nourishing, rituals dictated by the days and the seasons, the hours and the years—not only as they were experienced, but as they were understood from gazing at patterns, which changed according to the times.
…[All] the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (1 Chronicles)
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork (Psalms 19:1)
…you shall see the glory of the Lord…When the Lord gives you…meat to eat and…bread to the full…. (Exodus 16:7, 8)
When human beings act upon the knowledge derived from respecting the order of God’s Creation, this has productive effects. They bespeak a power beyond human comprehension, which dwarfs the power of any strength save that which comes from following God’s order. I know that some people fail to appreciate the point, (which I made in an article last week) that any power our empirical science allows human beings to command ultimately, relies on this disciplined adherence to the rules that governs our mind, rules we apprehend in effect, but which our understanding cannot fully explain. Responsible for them remains forever beyond the purview of the mirror (human understanding) we use to observe the effects of its activity.
There is a difference between those who acknowledge and follow God’s order to reap, in effect, its good fruit; and those who pervert the power derived from that order to wreak havoc, so that they may boastfully claim fruits as their own simply because they can destroy humanity using provisions God intended to make our lives productive. That difference is humility. Until our own benighted times, the identity of the America people was predicated on the idea that government exists to represent those who see no wrong in bowing humbly to God’s standard of right; but who, therefore, refuse to stand, humiliated, silent and inactive against wrongs that violate it.
A nation that thus sees itself most clearly in the exercise of right is not simply defined by borders and territory. It most certainly is not defined by what some know as race or ethnicity. It exists in adversity and seeming loss (as in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor Attacks); as well as in prosperity and the preeminence of power. We are best defined in the moments when we rise to the occasion, in times that call for the defense and exercise of right—whether on the battlefields of Nazi invaded Europe; the streets of Little Rock and Selma; or the seclusion of the voting booth, pondering the destiny of our common good.
There have been people of all kinds, and in all places, who answered the call of this vocation. But we have been a nation for whom the defense of right was, as it were, our profession. Whatever we look like, whatever ties we bear to territories, countries and traditions throughout the earth, as a people we were once clothed in the vestments of that calling—unseen perhaps, but never unmoving in our hearts. Once, by God’s Providence, we found leaders to speak for us, especially in our times of greatest need. But as we surrender our reverence for His will, we have surrendered the willingness to seek or value such leadership. We live on empty promises of walls, wealth and government largess-which will never be fulfilled but for those who repeat the rapine of the past by falsely using such promises to lure us back toward elitist tyranny.
This Memorial Day I think of those who gave themselves in service to our nation. Always, we best remember them by honoring the vocation of right, of justice and good hope in God, for which they time and again were called to give their all, and not in vain. But now we stand for the slaughter of innocents in the womb, (the first home of all humanity), and cast aside God’s order at the most basic level of society, the life of the family. Do we thus keep faith with those who died for right, justice and decent liberty? Or do we contemn their sacrifice; and prepare a future bereft of all they died to preserve?
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