It’s not lost on me that I’m writing about these texts on American Memorial Day; after all, yesterday’s song service led off with a hymn neither to Father nor Son nor Spirit but to Homeland. Folks are wearing “patriotic colors” today (whatever that phrase means), and if the thunderstorms clear up, the local minor league baseball team is having fireworks after tonight’s game. The signs are everywhere that today is a holy day.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Memorial Day falls somewhere in the neighborhood of two months after Good Friday, and I’m sure nobody had any conspiratorial motives. But it’s not lost on me that the ritual language of of this Holy Day resembles so strongly the ritual language of that. We talk about those who died killing enemies of Empire in the same terms that we used to talk about the One executed by Empire. And it doesn’t escape me that to that rhetoric the American religion adds the claim that, were it not for the protection of those died in the pursuit of killing the enemies of America, Christianity would not survive, would not be free if it did. Where the Church calendar remembered saints and martyrs, Memorial Day would have us remember fallen soldiers.
As we read these stories of a God who overcomes even death, may our faithfulness be first and foremost to the God whose Son did in fact die for our freedom, and in the way set forth by Tertullian may we pray for those who govern, not as fearful subjects of tyrants but as resident aliens who nonetheless love and pray for the repentance even of those who think that we owe our existence to their blood sacrifices.