For many of us a memory that stands out from our childhood summers is Vacation Bible School (VBS). Singing, making crafts, and Christian instruction were staples of the program. As an aside, I admit complaining once to my mother, a VBS teacher, that there wasn’t much of a break between regular school ending and Vacation Bible School starting.
Even back then, I believe VBS had a theme each year, meant to make the experience fun and more interesting for youngsters.
Locally this summer, the graphics for a VBS theme “Bible Boot Camp” featured a tank and helicopter set alongside smiling, happy-looking cartoon soldiers. To be honest, overall the imagery to me feels at ease with the destructive path of going to war. And more specifically, the VBS picture’s contents gave an impression of a preordained readiness to accept Washington’s wars: The images included two U.S. flags, though Christianity has a presence around the world.
Within Christianity, it is of course the case that there are differing points-of-view concerning which acts of warfare are justifiable. Even so, many have considered Jesus’ work and teachings as leading to a path where people are healed and saved, rather than destroyed. Is not the religion of Jesus a life-serving and life-preserving religion? Did not Jesus direct his followers to be peacemakers?
Moreover, when it comes to an ultimate life commitment, it is telling that in World War I many soldiers on both sides were sincere, professing Christians, yet nevertheless they killed each other. Loyalty and service to the nation-state prevailed, while their common Christian fellowship came in a poor second (except during a famous soldiers-initiated Christmas truce when enemy combatants joined together in singing “Silent Night”).
For my part the massively life-destroying nature of warfare is enough to make we Christians, at a minimum, seriously question many wars, including those waged by our own national governments.
We all can hope the VBS cartoon soldiers had happy faces because they were enjoying a time of peace.