Last week I reposted a couple of old posts that triggered a Twitter response from a fellow Southern Baptist pastor. He replied, “@doctodd Making me feel terribly nostalgic… :),” and “@doctodd So I guess I’m not the only one feeling nostalgic, huh? :)”
Memory becomes nostalgic when the action loses connection from its purpose. In church life it is akin to recalling the glory days. More often than not, those days are remembered for what they make us “feel” rather than recalling a period where serving others in the Name of Jesus dominated church life.
On the backside of Memorial Day, I could not help but think of how an original element of Decoration Day dropped off as the commemorative moment expanded to include those beyond the Civil War. Quickly, I don’t see a problem acknowledging those who served our Country and lost their lives during any military action. It is just worth noting there was no call for a Decoration Day following the Revolutionary War. Instead, the declaration by General Logan came after the war that represented a divided Country.
The writer described those early solemn observances as a time for remembering and reconciliation. What more could it mean when those in the North and the South decorated the grave sites of soldiers? On the anniversary of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, survivors from the Blue and the Gray gathered at Gettysburg National Park. Standing together there had to be a very moving moment to see representatives of that division sharing the stage and life.
When we consider two world wars and subsequent military actions, none of them carried the hope of reconciliation. They were more about winning against the enemy, containing ideologies, and preserving power. The U.S. was not looking for reconciliation with Germany or Japan for instance.
The loss of a sense of reconciliation in the face of an increasing sense of honoring the loss of life is unfortunate. Were the aim of negotiations and the attempt to avoid war more about reconciling work than maintaining power, there may be less of a need for war.
From the standpoint of living out the way of Jesus, we often think about past “spiritual moments” for the way they made us “feel” rather than bearing out the fruits of a “ministry of reconciliation.” When that is the case, I am wondering if our memories are not just nostalgic reflections. Rather than continuing the constructive work to create faithful communities in the Way of Jesus, it seems there is more interest in broadening boundaries and spheres of influence along methodological lines. These elements are more about winning the day than seeing folks around us live reconciled lives.