Militarism Invades Christmas

I went to the Catholic church across town tonight, and this is what I saw. There is the tabernacle in the middle. On the left, a banner quoting Matthew 2:2. On the right, three people employed by the U.S. military, one from each branch, looking very prayerful, an American flag flying above them, and above that a cross in the sky (which eerily resembles the “cross of light” that Constantine saw, according to some legends of the Battle of Milvian Bridge).

Altar at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Athens, GA, Christmas 2013

Altar at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Athens, GA, Christmas 2013

Visually, what is the most prominent symbol in this display? The American flag, of course. The baby in the manger is upstaged by the reverent looking woman in fatigues and her comrades-in-arms. The cross is like a faint wisp of cloud compared to Old Glory!

Does this strike anyone else as out of place, offensive, and inappropriate, not to mention totally creepy? I am going to write to the priests and find out why this was placed on the altar at Christmas. Here is a better look…

Altar of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Athens, GA, 2013

Altar of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Athens, GA, 2013

Barf. Is Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day not enough? Must we be subjected to military worship in church on Christmas, too? What is the purpose? What has this to do with the birth of Christ? More importantly, what kind of message is this sending, and does that message reinforce or contradict what Pope Francis had to say in his Christmas message?

“True peace  – we know this well – is not a balance of  opposing forces…Peace calls for daily commitment, but making peace is an art…Looking at the Child in the manger, Child of peace, our thoughts  turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of warsWars shatter and hurt so  many lives!Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and  inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue….Heal  the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of  violence…. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed  conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become  soldiers.God is peace: let  us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families,  in our cities and nations, in the whole world.”

Is it not a contradiction to see this in church and then hear this from a Bishop:

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis’ first message for World Day of Peace offers a profound challenge to all people to see each other’s humanity and pursue dialogue and peace over war and conflict, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, welcomed the release of “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace,” December 12.

“Pope Francis offers a message both simple and profound: when we fail to recognize other people as our brothers and sisters, we destroy each other and ourselves,” Bishop Pates said. “This challenges everyone from governments and corporations to individuals and families in the course of our daily lives.”

In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father,” Pope Francis wrote, “there are no ‘disposable lives.’” The pope drew on the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis to illustrate that “we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling.”

The pope listed war, globalization, threats to religious freedom, human trafficking, economic disparity and abuses of the financial system as examples of fraternity breaking down and leading to violence against people.

“In disagreements, which are an unavoidable part of life, we should always remember that we are brothers and sisters, and therefore teach others and teach ourselves not to consider our neighbor as an enemy or as an adversary to be eliminated,” the pope wrote. “Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

There is just no way around this: The military represents “the way of arms” that Pope Francis is blatantly saying must be “given up.” If individual Catholics want to join the military and fight the U.S. government’s wars, that’s their business, but let’s keep militarism away from the Mass and out of our churches, especially at Christmas! It should not be implied that “the troops,” in spite of their chosen vocations of war making, let alone because of their chosen vocations of war-making, have somehow been elected to sit at the right hand of God. Enough, enough, enough.

Never forget: “With the Holy See and bishops from the Middle East and around the world, we fear that resort to war, under present circumstances and in light of current public information, would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force.” — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 2002

13 thoughts on “Militarism Invades Christmas

  1. Tony Pivetta

    I’ve had my fill of pox (sic) americana! Whatever became of anti-imperial Church heroes like St. Ambrose, who stiff-armed the mass-murdering Emperor Theodosius when he tried to enter the cathedral?

    1. Cammy Post author

      Tony, check out our “Saints and Soldiers” section on the blog. I’ve been reading about the lives of the saints and have been trying to create a post for every saint I come across who exhibited that spirit of resistance that you’re talking about. There were a lot of them, of course! Too bad we only ever hear about St. George and St. Joan of Arc, the “military saints.” The military has even “claimed” St. Martin of Tours as a “warrior saint.” But he walked away from his job as a soldier once he decided to follow Christ. That’s a common theme actually. There are plenty of saints who were former soldiers. Finding a saint who remained a soldier is more difficult. I’ve been trying to find a “military saint” from the last 100 years. None have turned up so far… One could almost draw the conclusion that slaughtering people in war has nothing to do with holiness. Hmm….

  2. SK

    Isn’t this display just more proof of the havoc filled, anti-Catholic Vatican 2 clergy in charge of the formerly Catholic buildings and offices?

    Match this display with the Looney Tunes non-pope in charge now.

    More craziness to come….

    1. Michael the Archangel

      Given that the “church” in question was in Athens, GA, maybe it was a Baptist church masquerading as a Catholic church? Up until the turn of the millennium, Catholics were not welcome in Dixie (see: KKK). It could be “St. Joseph’s” way of fitting in?
      (That stand holding up the whatever is NOT an altar, and the whatever is NOT a tabernacle. That display is 100% Protestant.)

      1. Cammy Post author

        This is probably beside the point, but the church is being rebuilt so they’ve been having Mass in what appears to be the school gym.

  3. Dave in Ann Arbor

    Who produces all this trash anyway? I mean the “praying military” crap? And do the people in the military pray before or after raping each other and murdering innocents?

  4. William Freeman

    Is there anything you won’t whine about? The idea is clearly to seek the protection of the nation and of the service people- If Christians are in the military they deserve our attention and respect. If you don’t like it go to another church- somewhere where your “feel-good” attitude will be more accepted.

    1. Cammy Post author

      Actually it is a “feel good” attitude that I am objecting to. Displays like this are meant to make American Catholics feel good about our unjust wars and the people who fight them.

    2. Brutus

      Mr. Freeman,
      I heartily recommend several intense readings of Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” , followed by a solid dose of Torin Finney’s “The Life and Witness of Ben Salmon, Unsung Hero of the Great War”. Hopefully, this will cure you of blind confidence in and obedience to the state, that disease which is always fatal to ( pardon the pun) free-man!

  5. Maria

    People like William Freeman are what is wrong with not only the Catholic Church in America, but the evangelical churches as well. Flags in the foyers. Honoring the military. Military symbols on the stage. “Mark” – the commenter above – is right – – Baptist churches are FAR more militaristic than the Catholic Church, but that doesn’t make the symbolism above any less sickening.

  6. Brutus

    “War is a game, which were their subjects wiser, kings would not play at.” William Cowper
    The concept of “God and Country” is totally un-biblical. Christians should be in the vanguard when it comes to showing contempt for militarism in all it’s forms. God has never saved a nation yet. The only nation He ever made a covenant with, Ancient Israel, He eventually divorced for unfaithfulness. God saves individuals, not entities. Every nation He raises up for His own purposes, and eventually He brings them down. While God ordains all authorities, we should never think He condones what they do. The US has a lot to answer for, military idolatry just one of it’s many sins. The only form of government God ever blessed is the family. And secular government, in any form is the arch enemy of the family. Ancient Israel’s downfall came with their demand to “have a king like other nations”, rather than be governed by God. Read about it in 1 Sam 8. A pox on patriotism! As Johnson defined it; “The last refuge of scoundrels”.


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