Because all life is connected, I seek to understand the values that are being promoted in the realm of politics. I grasp toward the ultimate results of those values. I see what dominant political parties, the media and the market value and uphold: the military. We love, adore and serve the military.
We use more of our tax dollars to sustain and enlarge the military than any other part of our budget. Most folk, of course, have no clue that we are spending well past $1 trillion annually, hidden away throughout the various spheres of government, such that no one can actually point to one particular line-item and say, “Oh, that’s the amount!” No one really cares how much we spend. No one cares that the Pentagon can’t pass an audit and that its budget books are closed to the public.
Publicly we never debate the cost of the military. Politicians never dare attempt to cut those costs. Obviously no one dares equate the military with the domestic police. In my mind, the military is the biggest sacred taboo of our society. In religious language it is the object of our worship and devotion.
But what is the goal of our military? What is its purpose spread throughout the Earth on hundreds of bases, operating thousands of military missions in just about every nation of the world? What is the purpose of my cousin Kenny in Afghanistan, of my nephew Ryan on a drone base, of my friend Todd in Okinawa? Why does President Donald Trump surround himself with generals who make for great photo ops and who fill the public with a sense of reverence and awe, indeed a feeling of security? What is it about supporting the troops that stands beyond critique? Why are the followers of the nonviolent Jesus so proud when their children join the military? And why do the preachers dare not counsel their congregations to reject military entanglements?
Let’s face it: The military is the sacred idol of our society. It is the image that embodies America. The market can go up or down, the government can go elephant or donkey, but through it all the military will continue to grow and to be sent throughout the world and increasingly right here in our towns and cities. And no one is bothered too much about that. And most certainly no one even tries to connect the dots between our large military and the trauma and turmoil of the political events that trouble the Earth today.
It is the nature of worship to get lost in gratitude for the security and affirmation that one receives from the object of worship. What does it say about America, and our future, that the object of our devotion is an instrument of death?
Rev. Rich Lang is the District Superintendent of the King County United Methodist Church and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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