Which War Are We Fighting?

| December 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

In 1990, Saddam Hussein, his elite Iraq Republican Guard, and the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait. Kuwait was a tiny border country in the Persian Gulf. The United States and 38 other nations sent troops, machinery, and money to liberate Kuwait.

I was 16 years old at the time and was very fascinated by the “modern” way of fighting wars. Our family subscribed to US News and World Report, and I pored over the articles and photographs of the multi-national war that was happening at the time. I was particularly amazed at the advanced technology being used by the USA and Great Britain and its allies, as compared to the older technology being used by the Iraqis. The Iraqis didn’t really stand a chance, and secretly (or not so secretly), I was very glad. Even though I was a Christian and would never have considered participating in taking the life of another, my parents became increasingly concerned by how fascinated I was with the reports of the war. They had reason to be concerned. Many young men from Anabaptist communities over the centuries did not resist the call to take up arms whenever their fellow citizens urged them to do so. While only a minority took up arms, many of their Anabaptist contemporaries who did not take up arms still supported certain military efforts in their minds and hearts. After a number of weeks, my father thought it was time to address the amount of interest I was showing in an operation that was taking the lives of other human beings. To this day I am glad that he cared enough about me to talk about this.

The year 2020 has been a very unusual year: historic political fights, coronavirus, riots, forest fires, droughts, and a grueling election season. As we near the end of this year, have the experiences of the year made us better ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven? Are we more aligned with the heart and mind of God than when we began the year? As our neighbors got wrapped up in ideological wars, did we manage to stay focused on the work God has called his people to?? Which kingdom gained more territory in our minds and hearts this year: the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Darkness?

We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood
The decision to join the armed forces, an earthly political fray, or a divisive church conflict does not generally happen in a moment’s time. These decisions build traction over time in our minds and hearts. Battles are first fought in the mind and heart. Attached is an article written by a friend and co-worker from Oregon. Given the strong opinions and feelings many Anabaptist people have right now about their political leaders, I believe this article (Mennonite Militia) is timely. I hope its message will spur us towards greater faithfulness in building up the Kingdom of God in the coming days and months.

One concern we have as a Plain News editorial team is that when we speak against involvement in this world’s affairs, we should also offer plenty of alternatives. In 2021 we hope to publish more news about Christians who are serving the poor and preaching the Gospel around the world. In the meantime, how can we serve right now?

In the spring we helped encourage an army of seamstresses to sew face masks for healthcare workers and others in the hardest hit areas. We published ways fellow Christians were providing meals for healthcare workers and the poor. And we listed financial ways to assist with the increasing needs around the world.

Now that Covid-19 appears to have mutated into a form that is not as deadly, we can tend to become calloused to the needs that do still exist. With companies and political organizations profiting from the pandemic in various ways, it is easy to become cynical. But the needs are still great even though the newness of the pandemic has worn off. People who have lost and are losing loved ones still need to be comforted. (Of the 311,000 Covid-19-related deaths in the USA, 80% were people 65 years and older. This leaves 62,000 deaths under age 65. Many people are still grieving these losses.) Shut-ins still need love and care. Approximately 1,700 healthcare workers have lost their lives as a result of Covid-19 complications—while they served the sick and the dying. That is 1,700 families who have sacrificed family members on behalf of others. Many healthcare workers (including some Anabaptists) have been putting in long hours on the front lines the last nine months—helping with emergency care and hospital stays. Many workers are weary and tired, and they still have a long winter in front of them. Quite a few are exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. This state of mind and body is not good for their own long-term health. It is also not good for their family life. The more patients they work with each day, the more likely it is that they will come down with Covid-19, and perhaps a severe case of it. With some healthcare workers needing to stay home sick, it creates an added load on those who are still working. The U.S. healthcare system already had a shortage of doctors and nurses before the pandemic hit.

All of us are dealing with Covid-19 fatigue, and we all wish it would all go away. Yet I think that healthcare workers have good reason to wish for this more than the rest of us. Some of our Anabaptist healthcare workers feel unappreciated by their own people—until someone has a loved one who needs oxygen or critical care.

So here are some suggestions for how we can care for healthcare workers who are weary with the added work of the pandemic this winter:

  1. Ask your local health providers who to help and how you can help.
  2. Organize volunteers and youth to help healthcare workers who have had a heavy load the last while. Some examples: clean their house, offer to take their children for a day, serve them meals either at home or at work, offer to do grocery shopping for them, shovel their snow, etc.
  3. Think creatively about how to experience fellowship and interaction with others in a way that will reduce the spread of Covid-19.  (God has designed us for fellowship and interaction with other people and this is good. During this present distress we could focus on interactions that are needful and helpful and decrease activities that have little to no real benefit.)
  4. Talk to your healthcare providers about the activities you would like to host, and get their recommendation on if and how you should conduct them. (If we were not taking our really sick people to the doctors, perhaps this suggestion might not be advisable. But from what I am hearing, most of us expect our healthcare workers to be alert and ready to help us 24/7 if our loved ones need them. With that backdrop, it seems reasonable to me that we should consider their perspective in light of the present distress.

In the letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” In his letter to the Roman Christians he says, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself.” I think this two-thousand-year-old instruction has as much relevance today as ever.

After presenting these suggestions to a group of people recently, one conservative Anabaptist wife and mother replied, “This actually brought tears to my eyes. We are the only healthcare workers in our church (I’m not working currently), and it has been one of the loneliest times in our lives. I can only imagine what it would feel like if #4 would happen.”

If you are minded to bless some healthcare workers, you can bless anyone, but let’s especially bless those of the household of faith who have been serving mostly unnoticed.

One difference between now and this past spring is that many in our circles have now had Covid-19, and most are likely immune at least for a while. Those who have returned to good health are now in a much better position to help and bless others than even before.

All of us can do something for someone regardless of what conclusions we have come to during 2020. Let’s fight against callousness and cynicism, and let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus!

-Ernest Eby | Managing Editor

Mennonite Militia

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