I am a Christmas-light tourist. I enjoy driving, during the earliest evenings of the year, around neighborhoods where people take seriously the tradition of decorating the fronts of their houses with strings of gaudy electric lights and making kitschy sculptures with them. Sometimes there are messages — MERRY CHRISTMAS, SEASON’S GREETINGS, PEACE ON EARTH. I especially like the last one.
But this past December I noticed (specifically in the streets of Henderson, Nevada) a message that was the opposite of the pacific one. It didn’t actually say WAR ON EARTH, but rather GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS. But I don’t see much difference. Traditionally, when people seek the blessings of a deity for an armed force, it is to lead the force to victory over some enemy (who is also regarded as the deity’s enemy). If there is any thought of peace, it’s the peace that follows victory, not a truce or a cease-fire that might save lives.
If someone were to argue that the message only expresses support for the troops, I would ask: what does it mean to “support the troops” without supporting what they are doing? What they are doing is waging, in our behalf, two destructive, wasteful and counterproductive wars in far-away countries that have never, as such, posed any threat to us, against an abstract enemy called “Islamic terrorism.” The United States has a history of referring to campaigns against abstract enemies as “wars” — we have had a War on Crime, on Poverty, Cancer, Drugs and so forth — but these have been metaphorical wars. The ones in the Middle East are literal.
I am vehemently opposed to these wars, and the only way that I support the troops fighting them is by wanting them to be sent home (or wherever they want to go), safe and sound. If this were how those who believe in God interpreted God’s blessing, then I would be on their side. But I doubt it.