So I’m sitting in my bedroom, watching my wife change the diaper of our ultra-cute (yet manly) little boy. He’s only been alive for two months, and he doesn’t do much but eat, poop, cry, and smile. And I love him. I would die to save his life. But would I kill for him? The comment above is not a question. It is a statement that argues that I cannot die to save my son’s life, that I can only kill to save his life. It contains the Myth of Redemptive Violence in all its power, and is rooted in a sort of material agnosticism. Saving life requires the salvation of both body and soul, not simply the protection of our skin and organs. Defeating evil looks a lot more like a cross than a gun.
I will not sit back and let my son’s life be destroyed. But our Tradition and our Gospel makes a startling claim: evil cannot be conquered by the shedding of blood, unless it is our blood that is shed. It is every Christian’s good lot to suffer and die for the Kingdom of God. It’s Lent, folks. We should know that goodness in this world means sacrifice. Refusing to hate means becoming vulnerable to the cross. That’s a ‘duh’ part of our faith. What’s more difficult for us to understand is “why” and “how”. Why does the cross defeat evil? How does the cross defeat evil?
This is the question that prevented me from re-enlisting in the Army once my 4 years were up; it was not so much dying that scared me, but killing. What happens to the soul of someone who is killed in the act of using a flame thrower on his fellow men? I never had a good answer to that question, and so I could not in good conscience continue my military service.
More to the point, I perceived that giving oneself over to the false god of Violence was in some way necessary for success in the military.