Learning Horrors of War from Vets

By the Rev. Chris J. Antal

Veteran’s Day too often only serves to construct and maintain a public narrative that glorifies war and military service and excludes the actual experience of the veteran. This public narrative is characterized by core beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and the world that most citizens readily accept without examination.

The U.S. public narrative reconciles deep religiosity with a penchant for violence with an often unexamined American National Religion. The core beliefs of this religion include the unholy trinity of governmental theism (One Nation Under God, In God We Trust, etc.), global military supremacy, and capitalism as freedom. These core beliefs provide many U.S. citizens with a broad sense of meaning and imbue the public narrative with thematic coherence.

War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, as Christopher Hedges wrote. Yet this kind of coherence has a moral and psychological cost. The consequence of an unexamined faith in American National Religion is a moral dualism that exaggerates U.S. goodness and innocence and projects badness on an “other” who we then demonize as the enemy and kill.

Walter Wink described this moral dualism as a “theology of redemptive violence,” the erroneous belief that somehow good violence can save us from bad violence.

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