[This follows on from yesterday’s post]
I was driving alone, anticipating the peace of a candlelit service of chants in a very beautiful old church in the middle of nowhere, and I was thinking about yesterday’s post. I wondered whether we did not celebrate the returning soldier because we no longer believe that war is ever the answer. I thought that perhaps more women than men thought this, but that more men than before thought that diplomacy, sanctions and international pressure were preferable, that only “just” wars could be supported and that, for a war to be just, every stone must have been turned over in the search for a peaceful solution. I thought of the ridiculous cowboy film we had watched the previous night, the ridiculous fake blood, the hideous bullet wounds, the glorification of violence and prostitution. I wondered if more Americans still believed that might would win, whether more Americans espoused a jingoist, realist view of international relations. Whether it was no bad thing that we left the celebrations to personal homecomings. Whether we’d be happy with just a defensive shield of nuclear submarines. I thought of the exhortation in the Bible to turn our swords into ploughshares.
I thought my thoughts had moved on from yesterday.
It takes a while for the gentle light and peace of the church to untangle the frenetic pace of the weekend. To begin with my thoughts race around, the chants are difficult to follow, distractions are everywhere as I read the translations of the English words in the languages I can understand and those that I cannot. Gradually I calm down and my mind sinks into quietness. After several slow chants which repeat over and over again, the reading from the Old Testament begins with words which make me wonder if anyone reads the Bible any more – all this talk of Zion and going up mountains, whether it is truly relevant to our life today. I only began to come back from my reverie when the words sound vaguely legal.
Here is the Old Testament extract – from Isaiah. Chapter 2, verses 3-4:
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.”
Well, fancy that.
[The pictures shows a statue which stands outside the UN Headquarters in New York, and was donated by the Soviet Union in 1959]