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My wife and I are coming up on our 10th wedding anniversary this weekend. Every year around this time, we talk about our marriage—the highs, the lows, and everything in between. It's not about putting together a highlight reel of our relationship because... well... that wouldn't really be the truth. And we certainly wouldn't learn and grow from skipping over all the bad.
Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. Memorials are things to remind people of important events. Memorial Day is meant to be a day in which we remember all Americans who died in active military service.
But all too often (and especially in the church) Memorial Day is filled with pomp and circumstance, whitewashing the harsh realities of war. When we celebrate only the virtues of soldiers—sacrifice, duty, hard work—is it really a memorial? And if we're only remembering "our" men and women, are we really celebrating Memorial Day the way it was intended?
Memorial Day started shortly after the Civil War as Decoration Day in 1868. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. After speeches, children made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
The origins of Memorial Day are rooted remembering not just Union soldiers, but Confederate soldiers as well. It was a solemn day of unity. War is an ugly and terrible thing, and remembering everyone who fought and died reinforced that.
But lately, Memorial Day has turned into something else.
Instead of sorrow, it's supremacy.
Instead of remembering, it's imagining.
Instead of truth, it's... well, it's something else entirely.
War is an ugly and terrible thing. As Christians, we should want an end to war... and sometimes Memorial Day turns into an exercise for glorifying war. And when we do that—when we remember the good and ignore the bad—we don't learn from war.
We just keep on fighting.
Americans who died in service should be remembered. It's a good thing! Soldiers put themselves in harm's way.
But this Memorial Day, we should speak truth: war is not good. Not when we "win" and not when we "lose". Because there is no such thing as winning when it comes war.