Chaplain (Major) John Kiser (U.S. Army) spoke in Chapel this morning at Princeton. One of the first things he said was that the pacifists in the group normally don’t know how to respond to man or woman in uniform preaching, which is true. For those of you who don’t know, my mother comes from a Mennonite background (and would still consider herself Mennonite) and there are many aspects of the Mennonite/Anabaptist faith that have informed my own faith commitments (non-violence & pacifism, strong focus on the New Testament and the teachings of Christ). So I thanked Kiser for helping me admit my own bias from the beginning.
Kiser spoke on the faith of the soldier in Luke 7, and on how Jesus never told him to leave military service, etc. It was a good message, but I was more impressed with the liturgy of the service. The prayers of the people were prayers for our soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, all of our enemies, the civilians caught in the middle of the fallenness of our world, made evident by the very presence of war.
Kiser made it very clear that he was not pro-war and that he prayed for peace constantly. It was encouraging to see and hear American soldiers and Chaplains praying for the enemy, praying for their safety and that they would be able to return to their homes and families soon. In some way, hearing Kiser speak helped redeem my notion of American soldiers of faith.
However, I did object to one thing he said (I’m too critical I guess). He was talking about how the chaplains go with the infantrymen, go with them into battle, but “we don’t carry any guns, we don’t carry any weapons, other than the word of God.” It reminded me of the scene in Saved! where Mandy Moore has just thrown the Bible at Jena Malone’s character and says, “I’m loving you with the love of Jesus!” Malone picks up the Bible and says, “You idiot! This is not a weapon!”
Scripture, the bible, the word of God (however you view it) should never be viewed as a weapon. I am fairly confident that if Kiser and I sat down, we’d actually speak about scripture in many of the same ways, but this is just one example again of the power of language, and how we must be careful what words we use when describing that which is precious to us, the word of God.