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On January 20, 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in as the 34th President of the United States. He was a military man. A five-star General during World War II, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, and Military Governor of Germany following the fall of the Nazis. Even with such a military background, just three months into his presidency, he gave a speech against increased military spending. The speech became known as the Chance for Peace speech or Cross of Iron speech.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” After providing several examples of what could be purchased with all the funds for the American people in the form of schools, hospitals, homes, he continues, “This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
By the end of his presidency, we were deeply mired in the Cold War and even Eisenhower had to give into the necessity of funding wars and rumors of wars. As we all know, that type of spending continues today. We have a warplane that cost $150 million… each.
I believe there are times that we are required to engage an enemy (Just War Theory is a bit too complicated for such a short period of time) and I am not begrudging our soldiers anything, but with $700 billion dollars being spent on the military just in 2018, you do have to wonder what else we might be able to accomplish if we could spend these dollars elsewhere.
Why this talk of military? Today we celebrate Paul Jones who was the Bishop of Utah from 1914 to 1918, and who in 1917, at the height of World War I, had the nerve to to stand against it as a pacifist. In a pamphlet he wrote, “As a Christian Bishop, charged with the responsibility of leadership, I would be deserving only of contempt did I remain silent in the present crisis, when the Christian standards of judgment are apparently being entirely ignored. The day will come when, like slavery, which was once held in good repute, war will be looked upon as thoroughly un-Christian.” I think if you posted that on Facebook today, you would get the same response that Paul Jones received then. His pacifist stance on war eventually led the House of Bishops to call for his resignation: “The underlying contention of the Bishop of Utah seems to be that war is unchristian. With this general statement the Commission cannot agree.” Bishop Jones complied and resigned, but did not give up, going onto assist in the formation of what is now known as the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
I do not believe President Eisenhower would have agreed with Bishop Jones’ pacifist stance, but their distaste for war would have probably been equal, and I don’t believe that there are many who would disagree with that.
What can our part be in a world with so many wars, both big and small, on battlefields with soldiers and on battlefields of politics and social concerns? Calvin and Hobbes, probably the most brilliant comic strip ever written outside of Peanuts. Hobbes is the stuffed tiger who comes to life when no one is looking and Calvin is a young boy and the tiger’s keeper – if tigers can be kept, that is. One day, Hobbes asks Calvin, “How come we play war and not peace.” Calvin’s answer, “Too few role models.” Our part in this world is to be a role model, a disciple of Jesus. As St. Peter taught us in our reading: we are to be those to desire good days, who control their tongues—not speaking evil, who seek good and peace and pursue it, and who desire to do righteousness. Those actions may not be pleasing to many, just as Paul Jones’ actions were not pleasing to many, but they will be pleasing to God who will reward you. As Paul teaches in Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do.” (Ephesians 6:7-8)