It was a hard twenty-four hours. I’m talking about the 22½ hours at Windermere last Friday and Saturday and the first hour and a half driving the church van back through the snow and icy roads. The good news is we made it back to Liberty safely. But the conflicted feelings remain.
I don’t get many invitations to speak about Japan anymore, so I was pleased to be asked to be one of the “faculty” members at the Girls on Mission annual meeting on March 19-20 at Windermere, the beleaguered Baptist retreat center on the Lake of the Ozarks in Camden County (MO). I enjoyed the four sessions with the girls and their leaders, totaling nearly 100 people.
Girls on Mission (GoM) is for girls in grades one through six, but some of what happened in the general sessions seemed inappropriate for a Christian conference, and especially so for elementary school girls.
I knew before going that the “mission project” was collecting and sending items for “our active military personnel.” But I didn’t expect there to be in the entrance to the assembly hall a large cutout poster of a soldier in full uniform with the words “Gifts 4 Heroes.”
I knew before going that the GoM conference theme was “Dressed for Service” (based on Luke 12:35), but I didn’t expect the young women who were the worship leaders in the opening session to be dressed in military camouflage clothing. (They seemed dressed for military service.)
And I certainly did not expect there to be a video shown at the general session on Saturday morning that seemed very much like a recruitment film for the U.S. Marines. And the only “missionary” who spoke (briefly) at that service was a young man who spent a year in Iraq as an MP.
Those who planned the program were no doubt sincere in their linking of Christianity and patriotism, and the young man just mentioned was a dedicated Christian. But that certainly doesn’t mean that the military emphasis at a meeting of Girls on Missions was appropriate or that those who serve in the military are heroes (or sheroes, as some women are now being called).
The preemptive war in Iraq was highly questionable from the beginning and continues to fail the tests for a just war. There is no proof whatsoever that the U.S. military presence there has protected American freedom and kept us safe from terrorists. To the contrary, it has likely increased animosity toward the U.S. and made us less safe.
Moreover, and most significantly, there have been around 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the onset of the Iraq War. (This figure comes from the Iraq Body Count project.) How can Christians possibly countenance such wanton destruction of human life?
While I do not wish to question people’s motives or to criticize individuals, I think there is ample reason to insist that a military emphasis at a GoM conference is not appropriate. And I want to be sensitive to the feelings of those (or those who have loved ones) in military service, but are they, especially those who serve in Iraq, really heroes?