St Martin, Soldier and Conscientious Objector

Statue of Saint Martin cutting his cloak in two, above the gate of Höchst CastleToday, on both sides of the Atlantic, we mark 11.11.11, Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day in the USA), and also, as Shane Claiborne reminds us, the feast of St Martin of Tours (316-397). Claiborne marks the day by sharing the testimony of a modern equivalent of Martin, a soldier who became a Christian and chose not to fight any more. He writes:

As the son of a Vietnam veteran who died when I was 9, I can’t imagine a better way to honor the soldiers and veterans today than by sharing Logan’s testimony …

The testimony ends:

Let us follow this subversive centurion in the way of Jesus, our ultimate Commander and the last, best hope for human kind. There is an entire guild of contemporary centurions marching to the beat of a different drummer, a Prince that grants peace nothing like that of Rome. War has been conquered, it is over, if we want it…

Meanwhile Jim West quotes Erasmus, from his book Against War – I have updated the English:

Where is the kingdom of the devil, if it is not in war? Why do we draw Christ into war, when a brothel suits him more than war? St Paul says that it is wrong for there to be any disagreement between Christian people so great that they would need a judge to mediate between them. What if he were to come and see us now, making war all round the world for minor and trivial reasons, fighting more cruelly than any heathen or barbarous people?

So today, let us remember those who have lost life or limb fighting other people’s battles, often without caring or even knowing what cause they are fighting for. But let us also carefully avoid glorifying war or presenting it as God’s will. And above all keep out of the trap of expecting God to be fighting on your side and against your enemies. If you are not sure why this is important, read, as conveniently posted at Experimental Theology, Mark Twain’s short story The War Prayer.

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