I still need to try to improve the organization of this blog. But this is an Easter post as it is now. The largest part will be a reproduced 2009 note which may or may not be somewhere else in the blog but comes here from Facebook Notes. I will get to that soon,
The Easter Triduum begins with Holy Thursday evening Mass which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. It does not include the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning where the oils for anointing the Sick and those receiving order are blessed and consecrated. It continues through Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I feel like I brought my attention to it a few hours earlier. I went to the Chrism Mass although we did not sit together I went with Mom,Genie Summers and she did most of the seeing for both of us in the standing room only cathedral I had a seat behind the standing folks as I got in later than hoped after parking near the Mouton House after dropping her off. It was still a beautiful mass even for me and a gathering of all the priests in the diocese including Fr. Nunez who celebrated his anniversary of ordination.
Bishop Jarrell’s homily was very good, relevant and Biblical and stands without the old joke he told which got a big laugh. but the joke was one of my favorites too. I heard him speak on the television about Good Friday this evening and so there was some continuity.
I got home in time to do some yard work, water plants, run errand and take out the garbage. But the mass meant a lot and so did parking near the Mouton House. I do not see the death of Alfred Mouton as being very much like that of Jesus Christ but he was a Catholic Christian who doubtless joined his sufferings to those of Christ in prayer. This later than usual date for Easter joined the events more in my mind than normal.
One hundred and fifty years ago and about a week ago General Alfred Mouton died winning what I and most serious historians consider the last major Confederate victory. The battle of Mansfield or Sabine Crossings was major in consequence as it ended the Federal Red River Campaign, involved large armies and was decisive. However while there is no doubt the battle meant less than Mansfield some people refer to the battle at Plymouth North Carolina fought one hundred and fifty years ago today as the last major Confederate victory. A significant garrison and arms stockpile was taken, many prisoners taken and it ought to have mattered but it is hard to show much strategic effect on either side and the numbers are smaller than Mouton’s end. In addition, there is a large list of small details that put his final battle in a higher class of contests. The suffering of the Mouton family in these years was truly enormous. The longest part of this post is about Christianity and war and appear below in quotation form.
I have a lot of links through from this post. In Easter of 2011 I posted this post about what was going on. It seems a fairly happy post. But perhaps I am posting on Good Friday today because I am more attuned to the suffering than the victory today.
I realize that many people around the world are suffering more than I am right now. I have no health insurance and have been exposed to many kinds of threats to my health. But I do not have any way to know what the consequences will be. Just this week I was dealing with someone’s leaky bottle of garden poison and after washing off thoroughly and waiting for reactions and looking up specifics for the chemical online I still called poison control to be sure I did not have to worry. I have been stung, bitten, exposed to rash inducing plants and food poisoned enough times that I cannot help but wonder what may happen from the exposure since I have no infrastructure to deal with this or anything else that may injure me now or may have done so in the past. That was an event of these days. But I have had that in one small eye view while I remember my grandfather’s passing and how much Good Friday meant to Pops and his family. For more on this man’s death and life you can see here and here.
A couple of years ago I came into Holy Week and Easter in a darkened frame of mind. You can capture some of that here. There was a Lent not long ago when I felt thought about security and the Christian world which are not so different from those I could feel this year as Miller shot up the Jewish centers while Mohammed Whitaker shot up the highways nearby. You can get part of that recollection here. In another Lenten and Easter season of so many religious and biblical movies I was pondering the secular Hollywood fare during the season when Pope Benedict was transitioning out of the Papacy and still was troubled with other matters. The world is unstable and while some current fact have changed I reproduce this Facebook Note much as I wrote it in 2009.
War & Easter
April 6, 2009 at 11:28am
PublicFriendsFriends except AcquaintancesOnly MeCustomClose FriendsFamilySee all lists…Tulane Universityhumans onlypotential mistressesmission experienceShool ties mostlyeducatorsextended familySpace programsAhim Adonaimediciclergy & religiousWomen I have datedRestorarionsPrincely Name Acadiansknown militaryroyalists – committedChinaMy StudentsBrotherhood of the Crossold tiesiregular. royal wives/misNoneDiocese of LafayetteVermilion Parish School BoardVermilion Parish School BoardUniversity of Louisiana at LafayetteLSULSUFranciscan University of SteubenvilleLouisiana State UniversityFranciscan University of SteubenvilleFranciscan University of SteubenvilleDiocese Of LafayetteAbbeville MeridionalPerry, Louisiana AreaUniversity of Louisiana at LafayetteAcquaintancesGo Back
Many of my fellow Americans are bearing arms in the service of their country in Afghanistan and Iraq.These are the countries in which the US is more or less officially engaged in a war. We have a large number of people, mostly young men who wear uniforms, follow schedules, bear weapons, drill, fight and kill as well as dying and being wounded in those two distant lands.
Perhaps they know Jesus as the Prince of Peace. I certainly know and honor Christ as the holder of that Title. Many of them are certainly Christians and it is to the Christians who serve in the US military that I primarily address this note. I think war should be avoided whenever it is right and possible to do so. Jesus said “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly”, can it be acceptable to Christian families to have their sons, daughters, wives and husbands far away causing pain and injury to other people?
Smaller numbers of Americans are bearing arms in service of the country which has renewed my passport in Korea, Germany, Japan, Cuba, and on ships and planes around the world. In addition there are farflung bases on quasi-American soil or a least not state soil. Tiny detachments hold a position for our interests in American Samoa and larger ones in Guam. There are bases in very powerful and not so powerful countries with whom we have had historic ties — these range from the United Kingdom to the Federated States of Micronesia. Then we have a fleet of nuclear powered and nuclear armed submarines prowling the oceanic depths. This is an impressive amount of coverage for a nation’s military. I actually find the role of the miitary as an institution very interesting. However it is also true that I am interested in the way our toops are mentally affected by their service. I wish all American military service personnel well as military service personnel. That is a simple postion for me to take. As long as I carry an American passport, have credits with the Social Security Agency and vote in our elections in Louisiana as it now and foreseeably exists — then the USA is the country I support as mine and the very important role of the military in that national team is one I have to root for in their role. Some people in uniform are also brave, honest, decent and patriotic. I like those qualities. However, I do not cheer on our folks in uniform because I think they all have these qualities. Rather, I think otherwise.
Jesus said that no man born of woman was greater than John the Baptist although the least born to the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. John the Baptist told soldiers who asked him how to live that they should not steal and should be content with their pay. Is that the sum total of New Testament advice to young Christians headed off into harm’s way to serve their country?
It is important to understand that I never have served in the uniformed services of the United States. Further, it is quite possible that this is one of the more difficult things that I have ever attempted to deal with in writing. However, I would not deal with it at all if I had not reached just a certain point in the process of my life. I am able now to write about many things I hoped I would never want to write
publicly about in the way that I now do. In this note I am tagging some people who are not either Christian, military or American. I am not tagging anyone for whom I do not have respect but I am really addressing my self in my own mind to a certain audience or readership. I am really writing to Americans who are in the armed services and celbrate Easter as a religious holiday .Reflecting on my own life and spiritual journey I am sort of appointing myself a momentary e-chaplain to Christians in the American military. I certainly could avoid discussing war. However, it would not be easy to do all the other things and seek after all the other objectives that I seek after and not acknowledge war.
Jesus healed the servant of a Centurion who had been generous to the Jewish population and never criticized him for representing an occupying army. He told his disciples that when the Roman soldiers conscripted them to carry their heavy Roman packs one mile they should carry them two miles instead. That is where we get the English expression “going the extra mile”.
I think that Christianity is entirely relevant to the discussion of war and arms in the United States. I think that Easter week especially is a relevant time to join the two discussions. It may prove to be a very thankless task indeed. I think of my countrymen and women who are coming from the aging congregations of urban Catholic Cathedral parishes, small rural Catholic chapels, incense filled Orthodox churches in ethnic neighborhoods, hardshell Baptist churches on red dirt roads near old sawmills and bait shops, Mega Churches with Protestant preacching and modern audio-visual equipment and the average sized Catholic churches filled with families. I think of young men of 17, 18, 20, 24, 25 and 27 heading off to boot camps, training, transports and war. I think of the secular ideas which guide so much of the military structure and the whispers and influences of men as diverse as George Washington, Hitler, Clausewitz, Mohammed, Mao Zhe Dong, Napoleon, Ghengis Khan, Horatio Nelson, Andrew Jackson and Patton who may influence their thoughts about war. I have nothing against their learning from, and studying either the good men or the bad. However, I am driven against all sane reasoning to put down a few of my own thoughts about Jesus Christ and the Christians view of war and military service.
Jesus’s Apostles had nicknames, given names or nommes de guerr that included: the Rock, Sons of Thunder, the Zealot ( a member of a known military and anti-Roman organization) and were accustomed to life threatening situations. Crucifixion and stoning were among their regular subjects of conversation. Jesus also spoke propheticaly of the coming siege of Jerusalem. Is this post of engaged observation all their Savior has to offer those who serve in the military and honor his name?
Over the course of these notes I have discussed my own life experience as it relates to this subject. However, I always repeat something from an old note in each note. I do not expect whoever chooses to read a given note to have read all the other notes. I think that it is a really dificult subject for me to deal with in conversation or writing. However, no subject is all that dificult for me to deal with. I am someone who communicates a great deal. Further, this is not the New York Times this is my Facebook notes section. It is more like drunken ramblings at a bar in some ways than it is like shouting and proclaiming from a podium. So I will try to summarize or paint a verbal picture of my background as regards this whole world of warfare. I will try to relate this to my own faith journey as well.
Jesus said ” Do you think I have come to bring peace to the Earth? I assure you that I have not come to bring peace but fire and a sword”. Is a sense of social revolution or social consciousness all these young people can bring into the upheaval of armed conflict from the one who is their model of perfection?
My grandfathers both served in the US military. I have a rather complex and rather large warrior heritage. It extends in varied directions. My mother’s father Cecil Bruce Germillion served as a bombadeer instructor in the Army Air Corp. My paternal grandfather served as an officer in the US Navy. He said he commanded a golrified private yacht in the Gulf of Mexico early in the war. Later he was part of the large fleet of vessels headed towrd the invasion of Japan’s home islands when the atomic bomb ended the war. He used to say that although he saw some action in the Pacific his real anxiety was just as great in the Gulf. He said only once but with great passion that while in the Pacific he was well armed and supported in the Gulf he and his next subordinate (perhaps an Ex. O. or a Chief I do not recall) sometimes referred to the yacht secretly as the “USS Sitting Duck” which had to do with his evaluation of the vessel’s capacity to take on a wolfpack of German submarines in full out combat.
When Jesus was criticized for failing to keep some laws of the Sabbath by gleaning grain on that day he defended his behavior by sighting the example of King David who ate the Show bread because David was a king and he and his men were under the duress of warfare. Is Jesus’s example merely that of seeing his ministry in the pattern of military operations in his familial and national history?
I am a child of the sixties. I lived in New york and London in the 1960s and had relatives who were on elite college campuses during the heyday of the Peace Movement and the movement known as the Hippies. I never really felt that wearing black hats made some people bad and wearing white ones made other people good. I do not have the space and presume of the reader’s time enough to really cover the personal aspect fully. I am not a trusting blind supporter of the military or its policies. I would not describe myself that way at all. I am not ashamed of my own lack of courage or experience with conflict or danger. I would not describe myself that way at all.
So I wonder what I might say to those spending Holy Week and Easter in the forward zone or any other zone of the US military. First, I would say that Jesus did have you in his heart as he prayed for you that night in the Garden of Gethsemane becuase you are one of those who has believed. That is a great comfort in many ways. But it is also true that is evidence that God holds you to a personal standard. A Christian cannot believe that our personal lives and consciences disappear entirely into the duties and rights of a military force or a country. God will still hold you accountable for all that you do and become while you are in the services. God will not expect you to behave as if you were not a soldier, sailor, marine or airman but he still sees your heart and weighs your deeds. Of course when Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” he no doubt included martial trespasses in the economy of God’s mercy. God’s mercy is certainly a very big part of what we celebrate on Holy Week and Easter.
On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus, the Son of David entering the City of David. We remember that the crowds were shouting “Hosana, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus had many who supported him his claims and his ministry.He did not shy away from leadership, rank or office and he was very open and brave.
So far everything I have written in this note is something I can live with and not regret. But now I am going to start the part that I already regret before having written it. In a sense all war is wrong and even military service. I say that as one who believes that in the Holy center of the Universes around the throne of God the angels wear and use weapons and are organized in armies. But ideally and perfectly there would be no war or planning for war. So I am writing this to an audience I want to encourage who at the same time I do not hesitate to say should ideally be doing something else. I look out at the world and the church today and feel that I too must do something immoral and which will stink in my conscience for a long time. I feel that I must reveal the some of secrets of a society which has done great good and kept its secrets since the time of Jesus. I do not see Knightly orders, Popes,their Catholic Majesties of Spain or anyone else standing between me and this day. So I write what is precious to me hoping I am not violating Jesus’s injunction not to throw pearls before swine.
The secrets of our ancient order which I am going to reveal are hidden in the gospels themselves. Are there things hidden in the Gospels? It is a reasonable question.
“The disciples approached him (Jesus) and said, ” Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you but to them it has not been granted, To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not even what he has will be taken away. That is why I speak to them in parables, because they “look but do not see and hear but do not isten or understand”.” Matthew 13:10-13 New American Bible.
Jesus was, among all the other things he was, a warrior. He did not do many of the things that leaders who inspire others have done. He did not besiege or sack cities like Mohammed or his own namesake Joshua. He did not burn down the temples of idols like these same men. He did not rejoice in blood and mayhem like Ghengis Khan or the Viking Pagans. Your savior was a warrior who took his joy in weddings, Passover feasts, the Eucharist he was founding, flowers, birds and children. He did not take his joy in the sufferings of others. Our age is very different from the spirit of that secret warrior Jesus but nonetheless in following the warrior’s path you are not straying from the path of Jesus’s own experience.
Josephus either implies or states that during the siege of Jerusalem the Jews turned to Cannibalism and ate one another. People eating other people is a huge and undiscussed part of human history and experience. It is one of the most important struggles of human history. Many societies have been proudly and openly cannibalistic. Many people in the world in 2009 are cannibals. Rome was a place where public law and morals condemned cannibalism. It was a place where officials would have been ashamed to admit to having dealings with merchants trafficking in human flesh. I know to my own satisfaction that here were non Jews eating and butchering Jews at that siege. By mentioning cannibalism at all, even blaming it on the Jews, Josephus put his own life at risk. In Rome there were a group of unofficial but sophisticated pirates who participated in the war machine by buying slaves on the cheap after battles and sieges as well as capturing all they could in the invaded country. They killed these people, often with torture and sport and then made sausage or pies out of them mixing the human flesh with pork.They made a very good profit on this in part because they worked the people as slaves before reducing them to food and extorted knowledge about the new lands fallen before the Roman banner. For this purpose they located large herds of swine near the lands to be destroyed in advance. They were wealthy, powerful, cunning, well armed, possessed of assasins corps and called themselves demons. They had a handful of key agents throughout every Roman Imperial governnment. They were an order older than Rome itself and not entirely Roman. There were at least tens of thousands of men at arms at their command both in the Empire and in non Roman lands. These were the enemies Jesus fought with 12 Apostles, 72 zealous highly trained disciples divided into groups of six for each Apostle. Then he had 38 reserve guards. All were also trained in charitable ministry and his preaching this was not a made up addition later on and yet with 133 part-timers(the ten not enumerated are my last nod towards a disappearing tradition) and the women officials and crowds who supported them Jesus opposed one of the most fierce and powerful forces ever to have existed.
The events of Jesus’s war are chronicled in specific events:
Matthew 8:22-27 / Mark 4: 35-41
Jesus calms the storm at Sea
Matthew 8:28-34 / Mark 5:1-20
Jesus crosses the sea of Galilee
Demons are confronted
a herd of swine are destroyed
Jesus leaves the region with the ones remaining very upset
Matthew 14: 13-21 / Mark 6;34-44
Jesus feeds 5000 pople mysteriously
the disciples are instructed to collect all the fragments
Matthew 14:22-33 / Mark 6:45-52
Jesus is seen walking on the water with Peter.
Jesus feeds 4000 people. Mark makes it clear that these were multiple events.
Matthew 16: 21-23 / Mark 8: 31-33
Jesus begins to predict the Passion and Crucifixion in Jerusalem as inevitably the end of his life.
Jesus and his elite units used to wait for the worst storms on the Sea of Galilee. They crossed the sea in those storms under his fearless leadership. They opened the early pens located by the demons there in anticipation of the Roman destruction of the Jews and they liberated the prisoners. They then drove the pigs from the demons herds into the sea. Jesus was a carpenter and he located wooden buthcering sites at hudden spots in the out in the lake. The crews would remove nets filled with rocks and the rafts would float to the surface. Then his crew would attach inflated pig skins and pig bladders to increase bouyancy. On these non freeboard platforms they would slaughter the pigs and butcher them into boneless slabs of fish shaped meats. They would dump the entrails, guts, bones and heads in the lake. Knowledge of these dumps enbaled him to instruct fisherman as to where to put down their nets to get a great catch. Then they would cover the platforms with nets filled with rocks and arrive at shore near guarded ovens. Reusing fish bones frm each feeding and buying distressed fish from other fishermen with knowledge of where great catches could be found they would take a breading and adhere two pork steaks to the fish skeletons. They mixed these porkfish with regular bread and fish and fed thousands repeatedly. This also attracted donations from those who wanted to contribute something and these resources funded a large ministry of healing and teaching. Jesus constantly taught that eating unclean food (such as pork) did not make someone imoral. Once Peter and Jesus were seen using these platforms it was inevitable that Jesus would be killed. He chose to make this happen in a very specific public way in Jerusalem and create pressures on the demons.
After cleansing the Temple, Jesus managed to give on last speech to a huge crowd before being arrested and killed. He said two things at once. To his disciples he said that he was the living water and if they recognized him and believed in him then he would flow out of their hearts and meet their needs for courage and peace of soul. To the handful of demon spies the same words literaly were: if you recognize me from the stormy waters, I am the water that made your guards thirst no more and living water (blood) flow from their chest.
Jesus was not a great general, he had no palaces, published glories,nor vast armies and suffered more than he made his enemies suffer. He spent time healing, forgiving and seeking peace, he was humble and meek at many times (not always meek and almost never mild) but he was a warrior. In terms only of skill and bravery he was as he was at everyhting– arguably the best there has ever been. Yes, I mean that seriously. Your churches and mine may in the end condemn me for what I write and I think his contribution to war is lost in the mists of time. But your Savior has not left you as orphans in this world of war. There are no simple answers, no excuses, no bloodlust but the Prince of Peace was a man of war and you need not doubt him as you celebrate his legacy in an armed camp.
Happy Easter! I hope this note which makes me so unhappy is useful to someone. I have no doubt that it is largely correct.
Easter has always been an occasion of me reflecting on all of the meaning of my faith and the world I understand through those meanings. For how that played out in my mind one year in a rambling note you could look here. I wish you all a happy and blessed Easter Weekend. I will edit tags on this post later and make small corrections but it will remain as it is more or less on the link.