War and the Hero Impulse

12 04 2012


In our culture, the narrative of heroism, the “hero impulse,” gets manipulated into propaganda such as: “be all that you can be,” “an Army of one,” “the few. the proud,” “honor. courage. commitment,” “Army strong,” and the list goes on.

To be an American hero one commits to military service. The intentions of many to enlist are indeed good motivations. But I often wonder if those who become part of the military system of America are in fact trying to make meaning out of their own “hero impulse?” And if so, what if they are misapplying the reason that God gives us that desire?

Recently, a song by the band Rise Against, powerfully spoke to my own personal reflections on heroism and violence. The music video does a good job of…



Jesus teaches us the pathway of peace. He shows us through the cross that the way of non-retaliation, upside-down enemy love, is the path through which God’s kingdom comes to earth. As 1 Peter 2 reminds us: Jesus… “suffered on your behalf…” leaving “you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps…. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed.”

Jesus invites us into a life that looks like crucifixion, a life modeled by enemy love and peace. Christ believed that every human being bears God’s own image. To inflict violence against a human is like inflicting violence against God’s own self. . .

Violence doesn’t simply injure the victim. Such actions destroy the offender’s humanity, be it a private in the Army fighting for homeland security or a drunken man cowardly striking a woman. When someone executes violence something changes within that person. Subtly but surely, violence stifles the movement of the Spirit to transform us into the likeness of the full image-bearer of God, Jesus the crucified and resurrected Messiah.

As Christians, we’ve done a horrendous job following the biblical teachings on nonviolence. From the days of Constantine to the “War on Terror,” well-meaning Christians applauded fellow believers who choose to take up arms against enemies of the state.

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