Epistle: Pax Romana– Remembering Rightly and Memorializing Righteously
As you memorialize those who die for what is good in the world (right, wrong, or indifferent), may you also remember an obscure, Jewish rabbi who lived two thousand years ago in the Roman-occupied Near East. He was betrayed by his closest friends– tortured and killed by the treachery of the religious elite and conquering powers of his day (Rome). May you also remember (or come to accept) that he died for all that is good in this world and, therefore, remember that there is no need to celebrate death given at the hands of nationalism any longer.
May you remember that his death has left an alternative to the violence of the world called the Church; a gathering of Christ’s followers who live as if this death has left an immanent call on our lives to do as Christ did by defeating powers that cannot worship the free G-d but only the divine appointment of themselves that often results in something like this:
On this Memorial Day, may you remember that this sort of death and sacrifice is what is worth memorializing; and may you also remember those heroes called saints and martyrs who have stood in the face of the world’s violence to preserve the meaning of Christ’s life and death; the sort of death that births life through selfless mercy rather than the perpetuation of death posed by the arrogance of empire, the temporariness of domain, and the futility of war.
Let us remember Jesus received his penalty for being perceived as a revolutionary– a threat to “peaceful” society, as He preached the radically subversive Gospel of G-d’s Kingdom that dismantled the theological need for nationalistic pageantry in all its forms (whether Roman, Jewish, pagan, or American).
Let us remember that Jesus was a social critic and an agitator; a drop-out from the social climb that assumes one can attain true peace through the peace of empire (Pax Romana) that cannot believe beyond the authority and supremacy of their self-justified cult celebrated on holidays that look much like Memorial Day.
Let us remember that the “Pax Romana” is peace by the security of the empire’s sword rather than the grace and liberation of G-d.
Let us remember that Jesus– amidst a culture whose minds were completely captive to the “Pax Romana”– was the spokesperson of a counterculture; an “upside-down”, alternative kingdom; one he perceived truly liberates people from the farcical “peace” of the violent Pax Romana that knows nothing of G-d’s grace but only the self-important genius of self-justification.
Today, it has become quite clear that the common American patriot and many American Christians can hardly be distinguished from each other. It seems we would rather choose to remember the self-justified works of our guns, bombs, and military genius of soldiery that only perpetuate the violence of the world. Today, I am overcome with sadness as I lament that distinguishing from the Pax Romana and the Pax Americana is increasingly difficult on days like these; because by celebrating this day’s idolatrous pageantry, you celebrate the war crimes of those of those “fallen:”
On “holidays” like today, I am reminded that American Christians have widely fallen into the same historical delusion that killed Jesus; and such idolatry continues to kill Jesus and the Spirit from which he acted as it is manipulated into another representation of what Jesus clearly renounced through his death on the Cross.
My call to you today is refusing to be fooled by the propaganda of the empire you live in. Do not believe in the straw men and twisted propaganda that the American media sends out to convince the public they are fighting for peace. Jesus knew nothing of such “peace” as that defined by the cult of empire.
When defended with violence by his close friend Peter, Jesus says, “All who use swords are destroyed by swords” (Matt 2652 MSG). Then Jesus asks those arresting him, “Am I leading a rebellion…that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” (Matt 26:55 TNIV). I am sure that the casualities of the many American bombings on Middle Eastern soil were thinking similar when they were bombed, shot, and murdered. Perhaps they were thinking, “Are the people bombing me so threatened by me that they must kill my family, friends, and neighbors?”
Therefore, may you believe better for yourselves, your families, and your communities and choose to worship an authority that calls us out of intellectual and physical slavery to the temporary kingdoms of this world. Today, do not say “God Bless America” and call it righteous remembrance or a righteous memorial. Nothing could be further from the truth given our current circumstances.
Today, on Memorial Day, may you remember that this:
Is this similar to this:
Today, may you remember and celebrate the ways of war no more. Do not believe in the “peace” of security but the “peace” that comes through long-suffering and mercy. Today, may you memorialize the death of the “peace of empire” brought to judgement on Calvary through remembering the saints of martyrs of the Church; not the tragic deaths of those who were were led to sin like cattle to the slaughter through their idolatrous worship of militant nationalism.