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Glorifying Enemy Casualties

November 19, 2010

Has the Medal of Honor been feminized because it hasn’t been awarded lately for killing the enemy? Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association answers in the affirmative, lamenting that the medal has, during our recent conflicts, been given only for saving lives, rather than for taking them.  The heroism of inflicting casualties has become passé, he says.

Adding sacrilegious insult to verbal injury, Fischer uses the image of Jesus on the Cross to support his glorification of enemy casualties: “The significance of the cross is not just that Jesus laid down his life for us, but that he defeated the enemy of our souls in the process.”  Yes, Jesus conquered sin and death and defeated the enemy on the cross, but Fischer’s use of this image of the Cross as a weapon fails.  Fischer misses the theological significance of the defeat of evil achieved by Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  He achieved his victory through sacred and loving self-sacrifice and not by killing the bad guys or sending a legion of angels into battle.  He offered his own life in love and humility.  Christ conquers evil by lovingly suffering violence, not by inflicting it.

In contrast to Fischer soteriology of violence, I offer Sr. Elia Delio’s refection on the mystery of Christ from her book, The Humility of God:

The mystery of Christ and our human lives are intertwined. Because we humans complete the fullness of Christ by our participation in the Christ mystery, we are called to be co-creators of the universe, to “christify” the universe by our actions of love.  We are, as we said before, “little words” of the Word of God.  So when all the little words of creation (us humans) come to the truth of our identity in Christ, when we allow God’s image to shine forth in us, then the mystery of Christ grows because God becomes enfleshed in us—until eventually God becomes all in all.  We are called to “put on Christ,” so that the God who bends low in love bends low not in the historical person of Jesus alone but in Jesus risen—the Christ—in you and me in whom Jesus lives.  God is humbly present among us because God is intimately present in you and me.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

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16 Comments
  1. November 19, 2010 9:16 am

    Disgusting. Thanks for exposing this trash.

  2. November 19, 2010 9:51 am

    The world we live in is imperfect and unjust, and sometimes we have to wage war for the sake of justice (1939-1945).

    A Pole, or Greek, or Czech or Frenchman/woman who killed Germans was saving the lives and honour of his own family and compatriots whom the nazis might rape, torture, kill, etc.

    Killing a nazi was glorious, and the more killed the more glorious.

    Saving lives is also glorious, but killing the enemy may achieve saving the innocent.

  3. November 19, 2010 11:15 am

    So right, Kyle. So very right!

    • Kyle R. Cupp permalink
      November 20, 2010 8:36 am

      @Rodak -It’s rare, but it happens. ;-)

  4. ben permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:44 am

    While it may sometimes be necessary, killing is never glorious, it is always regretable and always something of a defeat, even if it means victory for a just cause.

    In wars our enemies are not orcs or devils, they are men like us, created in the image of God. Christ died for thier sake as much as yours.

  5. Pinky permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:51 am

    I agree that Fischer’s analogy is in bad taste. I also understand the main point he was trying to make about the failure to glorify offensive success, and I would in general agree with it.

    But the problem is that Fischer didn’t read the citation well. Giunta sure did a lot of “engaging” with the enemy, and “engaged” the two enemies who were taking his fellow soldier prisoner. Giunta is a hero by any era’s definition.

  6. November 19, 2010 1:05 pm

    Chris Hedges has described the role of apocalyptic violence in the ideology of the far right in the United States, and Umberto Eco described the salient features of what he described as ur-fascism. Among them was, if I recall, a cult of masculinity and a related horror at “feminization.”

    I fear the Christian Right (including certain elements of the Catholic Right) is moving ever closer to explicit fascism in its ideology.

  7. November 19, 2010 1:22 pm

    A Pole, or Greek, or Czech or Frenchman/woman who killed Germans was saving the lives and honour of his own family and compatriots whom the nazis might rape, torture, kill, etc.

    Really? Killing any German for what that German might or might not do in the future amounted to “saving lives”?

    Killing a nazi was glorious, and the more killed the more glorious.

    In his detailed discussion of killing in self-defense, Aquinas, whose view was worked into official Church teaching, said that even in when it was legitimate to kill an aggressor (which is a rare case for private self-defense), that killing is an evil side-effect. It is never a “glorious” thing, no matter who the aggressor.

  8. November 19, 2010 1:23 pm

    In wars our enemies are not orcs or devils, they are men like us, created in the image of God. Christ died for their sake as much as yours.

    Ben – very well said.

    When I was first in the Army, I had a Sergeant I’ll call Sergeant Williams, who had been in Vietnam. I was telling him one day about my eagerness to see action and so on (I was an especially clueless human being when I was young.)

    He looked at me a moment and then said, “Let me tell you a story.”

    He then told me a story from when he had been a freshly minted private from boot camp, and out on a patrol in the boonies in Vietnam.

    His unit took fire from a treeline, and a couple guys were hit. Amid the noise of the firefight, his lieutenant came to him, handed him the radio, and said, “we have fast-movers [an air strike] coming in – talk them in.”

    Williams marked their position with smoke, and guided the planes in…and they dropped napalm on that treeline. He then spent the next few minutes (minutes he would give anything to forget) listening to men about his age — just as scared as he was, loved by their mothers just as much — burning to death, because of him.

    “That day gave me some idea of what Hell might be like” said Sgt. Williams, eyes fixed in the middle distance.

    Clueless me said, “Yeah, Sarge, burning is a tough way to go…”

    He looked at me sharply then, and, stabbing his finger into his chest, said: “No, Talbot. I’m talking about the way I felt that day.”

  9. dak permalink
    November 19, 2010 1:32 pm

    Mr. Fischer has a very interesting theology. I don’t recall Jesus saying that killing his creation on his behalf was a great sign of love. I do remember him saying, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I always thought the scandal of the cross was how it turned our notion of victory and defeat on its head.

  10. David Nickol permalink
    November 19, 2010 2:24 pm

    It is heartening to see how many of the commenters on the site disagree with Bryan Fischer (I didn’t see anyone comment expressing agreement) and also nice to see more several people offended (for a variety of reasons) by his use of the term feminization. Fisher’s tone reminded me of the people who used to write letters to the editor expressing alarm that the space program was changing the weather by firing rockets into the air. (In other words, he sounds like a crackpot.)

  11. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    November 19, 2010 3:03 pm

    @leftfooter

    “Killing a nazi was glorious, and the more killed the more glorious.”

    Pope Benedict XVI was a “Nazi.” Closer to home, my postdoctoral advisor was a “Nazi.” He was a 17 year old draftee, given a uniform and a gun and sent to die to protect his homeland. Had he put up a fight (instead of surrendering to the first American unit he ran across) he might have been killed, legitimately. But I see nothing glorious in his death, or the death of tens of thousands others like him.

  12. smf permalink
    November 19, 2010 4:04 pm

    On the point of martyrs for the faith and what not, victory can be achieved in death, because there the true enemy is not one that can be confronted physically.

    However, when the enemy that must be defeated is of this world and must be confronted physically, there is no particular victory in dying, rather victory is in yourself living and in stopping the enemy as is necessary. Thus killing the enemy is in the worldly battles often a necessary part of victory (though no amount of killing is itself is a path to victory, which is why the body count stuff from Vietnam was nonsense).

    On another note, there are wars of kings against kings, and of armies against armies, but also of nations against nations. In that last sort of war defeating the army or king of the other nation does not achieve victory. Sadly too many wars are of this national and total sort, but it has always been thus. I think this is one of the reasons at times Israel was given what we today think of as such extreme commands in dealing with their enemies.

    The use of the cross to suggest glorifying killing is entirely incorrect. The cross glorifies dying a martyrs death and victory, but not killing itself.

  13. phosphorious permalink
    November 19, 2010 11:50 pm

    I don’t trust anyone who uses “feminization” as an insult.

  14. doug permalink
    November 20, 2010 11:31 am

    As a former Army medic, I find that article insulting. As a father and husband, I find his use of the term “feminization” to be both inaccurate and insulting, not because there is anything wrong with femininity, but because it implicitly mischaracterizes it.

    I’m glad my wife and my daughters are “feminine”. There is strength in femininity. Femininity in no way implies an inability to confront and deal with difficult situations. Furthermore, Army medics (and Navy Corpsmen) have been receiving the Medal of Honor for a hundred and fifty years, many times posthumously, and ships have been named after Navy Corpsmen.

    http://history.amedd.army.mil/medal.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_Hospital_Corpsman#Hospital_Corpsmen_who_received_the_Medal_of_Honor

    If one is to accept Fischer’s argument, we must have been “feminizing” the military for a long time. But nothing of the sort has happened. If anything, the fact that no medics or corpsmen have been awarded the Medal of Honor in the current conflict would argue against his thesis.

    Personally, I suggest he go back to playing first person shooter video games, because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Viewing his biography, it doesn’t appear he has served in the military. His experience is quite limited.

    http://action.afa.net/detail.aspx?id=2147486648

  15. doug permalink
    November 20, 2010 12:19 pm

    Okay, I just got done reading the comments on his article. Quite the read! I’m glad he got raked over the coals for that.

    My favorites:

    “I’m surprised no one has quoted the passage in the New Testament, where the Roman Centurian came up to Christ, asked Christ to heal his servant, and Christ pulled out his dagger and cut the throat of the invading soldier. Oh, wait…”

    and

    “As a woman, I’m honored to have my femininity associated with brave, death-defying, awesome rescues.”

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