Military spending is the Sacred Cow of present-day America.
It makes no difference who the President is or which party has a Congressional majority. There can be heated debate about whether there is enough money for healthcare or education or infrastructure maintenance but there is to be no consideration whatsoever to the idea of reducing defense spending in order to allocate those funds to other purposes. This Sacred Cow must be fully insulated from all critical thinking and examination. Its virtues are assumed to be self-evident and are not to be questioned.
We must not question or criticize the Military-Industrial Complex or any of its supporters. Instead we must keep repeating the National Mantra of “Support the troops”. We must always remember to say “Thank you for your service” when speaking to someone who is or has been in the military. Beyond this point of social etiquette there are to be no serious discussions about the actual merits of the Multiple Wars that America is currently engaged in. Or how much this costs us. Asking veterans how they actually feel about their time in uniform and really listening to what they say is not part of our protocol.
When we thank a veteran for their service to our country we need to remember that this person has chosen to risk their life on our behalf. This willingness to make the Ultimate Sacrifice deserves the greatest respect. If we are being fully honest, however, there is more appreciation that we need to express to every veteran that we acknowledge in this way. Not only must we thank them for their willingness to die on our behalf, we must also thank them for their willingness to kill on our behalf. The truth is that every member of the armed services is making a contribution, directly or indirectly, to the death of the designated enemy. They risk being killed by strangers while they try to kill those same strangers.
Why do so many veterans struggle with their return to civilian life? Is it improper ask why so many in the military are committing suicide every day during and after their time in uniform? Can we ignore the meaning of “moral injury” sustained by the men and women who have served in our military? Should we seriously investigate the extent to which soldiers during and after their time in the service are suffering from PTSD and CTE? Posing such questions will make people too uncomfortable.
Another uncomfortable question to avoid is the matter of why the most powerful military force in human history has not been able to “win” the War on Terror after 16 years of fighting. Don’t ask that one.
We must certainly not inquire about who in our society has benefitted financially from so many years of continuous warfare. That sort of question is unwelcome in polite society. That sort of question might suggest that the “War on Terror” is not actually meant to be won but rather is meant to go on indefinitely so that certain groups of people can become exceedingly wealthy. It is not appropriate for us to think about these possibilities.
It is in poor taste to question if, as a nation, we are doing what is right as we intervene around the world. It is improper to ask whether or not spending millions of dollars per day for the past 16 years to pay for these wars has been money well spent.
We certainly should not wonder if this Sacred Cow is just a Cash Cow in disguise.
The never-ending quest for “National Security” ends up being the worshiping of a kind of false god. We go to great lengths to convince ourselves that if we have enough weapons we will finally be safe. We may imagine that our legitimate desire to feel safe can only be accomplished by making others sufficiently afraid of us. As we have come to believe that this is true, we have made a modern-day Golden Calf in the shape of a Pentagon. In various ways we have been taught to worship this false god as if it the source of our salvation.
What if real security does not flow out of the Department of Defense? What if our safety does not depend on threatening someone else with superior firepower?
What if we actually consider embracing the radical idea that real safety and security comes from God?
Imagine a group of children placed in a very large playroom. Almost immediately they discover that it’s full of Legos that they can use to build whatever they want. They quickly start building all sorts of things. We notice that some of the children seem to like each other and play well together and others do not. The children start to arrange themselves and the playroom accordingly. They form groups and try to create ways to feel safe in the playroom. They fortify their territories, develop defense strategies and build various Lego weapons because they feel unsafe with the “other children” who are part of other groups in the playroom. Every group is fearful to some degree that if they are not strong enough and careful enough the others will quickly act to take or destroy the little societies they have created.
This is the situation we find ourselves in.
Here is an experiment to attempt to answer the question about where our true security can be found.
Imagine having a private audience with Jesus. Imagine being face to face with him. You look him in the eye and tell him that his teachings are wrong. Tell him that he is wrong about teaching us to have faith in God. Wrong in how he taught us about God’s love for us. Wrong in what he taught us about who we really are as human beings.
Tell him how wrong he was for teaching us to love each other the way he loves us.
Can you imagine doing this without hesitation or is there something inside you that doesn’t want to allow such a confrontation? If there is something inside you that doesn’t want to let you go through with the experiment, what do you suppose it might be?
So we come back to the central question: How can we trust God for our security?
The problem with this question lies in our desire to answer it in accordance with the rules we have established for ourselves in the Lego World we have created in the playroom. We assume that our rules, based on our perceptions, are the correct ones. We make the assumption that the playroom is ours because we created everything in it out of the Legos. We “forget” that our playroom is just one of a great many such rooms in an incredibly expansive House.
The real Builder and Master of the House must not be confused with the sacred cows and false gods fantasized by some of the children in the playroom.
We need to be clear about what trusting our security to God actually means and what it does not mean. It does not mean that we have some sort of mystical permission to behave recklessly. We still need to look both ways before crossing busy streets. It does not mean that we wash our hands of personal responsibility. What we choose to do matters and has consequences.
It does mean that we need to remember whose House we’re living in and that we have a responsibility to be good guests in that House.