Protesters gathered outside Senator Norm Coleman’s office in St. Paul this evening, blocking the eastbound lane of University Avenue at rush hour. The Metro Transit officials scrambled to reroute the buses around the blockage, keeping things moving on time. The woman sitting next to me remarked that she should get off and join the protesters. I wanted to say something in response, but didn’t quite know what.
I respect protesters. They’re exercising a basic right every American enjoys. But sometimes protesters baffle me. Protesting war can certainly be justifiable. But what I don’t understand is the people who protest any and all war. On Sunday I saw a protest sign that said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” That’s an odd way to invoke the Bible, especially when the Old Testament is full of killing, much of it seemingly God-sanctioned. You’re more than welcome to disagree with some wars, but how far can you take it?
Would today’s protesters have wanted us to stay out of World War II? What about the Civil War? What about the American Revolution? As I walked home tonight, I thought it’d be fun to join a protest carrying a sign that says, “If this protest were in Iraq, we’d all be shot.”
Protesting any and all war is a dismissal of the very right to protest. War ensures that right. I suppose if the protesters were willing to sacrifice their freedoms to achieve a warless society, then they’d be consistent and I’d respect them. But somehow I doubt they’d welcome censorship and oppression.
Yesterday morning during church I found the lack of application to the war in Iraq during the sermon distressing. I wasn’t looking for the kind of war mongering I remember during the Gulf War, but I was hoping for some peace and hope in a tumultuous time. With the sermon lacking, I came up with my own thoughts.
This is a terrible metaphor that doesn’t fully stand up, and implies a lot of things that aren’t at all true, but just bear with me. We’re a lot like Saddam Hussien. God is a lot like the United States. (See, I told you it implied some not so happy stuff.) The United States has given Saddam so many chances to fess up, to come clean, and to join the peaceful world. We’ve asked him to get rid of his weapons, his malicious ways, his dangerous weapons. For a while he agrees, he goes along with our demands. But then we find he’s been lying, or deceiving, or doing whatever he can to get away with what he wants to do. And so we step in and correct him, albeit with missiles and bombs. For a while he follows the rules, but it’s not long before we realize he’s at it again. For twelve long years we went through this.
It reminds me so much of our relationship with God. He calls us to a certain standard and asks us to follow it. We try, we do our best, but we so often fail. God corrects us, forgives us, gives us another chance. We get up and again carry our cross, only to fall again. Thankfully, God is not a U.N. weapon’s inspector, he knows what we’ve done (and no, that isn’t an original Kevin Hendricks line. I stole it.). But thankfully, God is also not the United States. He offers grace. He offers salvation, some sort of holy U.N. that comes in and clears out the weapons of mass destruction and all the corruption and greed and leaves new life.
I told you it was odd. I imagine most of us bristle at being compared to Saddam. But he’s human just like us, a sinner like you or me, in need of Christ’s grace as much as you or me. And I bristle at comparing the United States to God. We think ourselves God’s chosen nation far too often. Unfortunately, the title of chosen nation comes with a responsibility that we could never hope to carry.