By Daniel Downs
On this Memorial Day, the victories, tragedies and sacrifices of war remain fresh memories to many Americans. Each soldier who made it home alive and whole is certainly one victory celebrated by family and friends. Another was the Navy Seals accomplishment in executing justice to Osama bin Laden.
The tragedy of 9-11, of loved ones killed in battle, and even the collateral damage of a seemingly unjust military action in Iraq that led soldiers like Timothy McVey to perpetrate the Oklahoma City bombings are all remembered anew today.
Amidst the feelings of sorrow, the honorable sacrifices of those who willingly gave their lives to serve their country, their loved ones, their God, and the ideals of liberty, justice, and peace cannot be forgotten. For sacrificial service is the path to a better life.
America was founded by those who not only exemplified this kind of sacrificial service but they followed the one who made it possible for them to do so. God was their leader in the battle for liberty, justice, and peace. After the war for Independence has been won, General George Washington gave God the providential honors for the rag-tag militia’s final victory. That was also the reason why America celebrated the Declaration of Independence above the Constitution until after the Civil War era.
It is right that America honors all of those men and women who have devoted their lives to protecting and to serving us. Yet, it would not be right to regard their military service as the sole means of our collective protection. The war against injustice is waged by all of those involved in our system of justice whether police, intelligence services, lawyers, judges, and even private sector advocates. Just as George Washington confirmed our national covenant, the protection of a free nation such as ours ultimately is realized through God’s actions. It may also be said that by our collective honor of and obedience to God we become better equipped to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and our nation.
American founders like Thomas Jefferson envisioned America as a kind of new Israel. Their model is found in the Bible. As depicted in the second book called Exodus, God may have delivered Israel from the enslaving power of the Egyptian government, but it was the liberated men of Israel, empowered by the presence of God, who defeated all of their enemies in Canaan; that is, when they were following the instructions and strategies revealed by God. The founders similarly viewed American liberty. They viewed the victory of the war for independence as God delivering them from the Pharisaic power of the enslaving British imperial military in the colonies. It was won through divinely empowered colonists who willingly sacrificed their lives to liberate and protect their families, communities, their colonial states.
Therefore, in the tradition of remembering those who devote their lives to the divinely ordained sacrificial service of liberty and justice, thanks is offered to God first and secondly to all of those men and women whose service honors that tradition.
And yet, in light of the expansion of America’s empire from 50 federated republican states to world dominance, can it be said of America that it is still the champion of life, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness? More importantly, can it still be said that the tradition of sacrificial service to defend life and liberty is still honored while millions of unborn Americans are not allowed to live to enjoy the same? Does not this tragedy of our unabated cultural war cast a dark and heavy shadow over the past shining examples of liberty and justice, duty and honor?
Yes, a more fundamental and more important war has yet to be won. If won, life will be better and a greater measure of peace will be realized. The right to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness will no longer be threatened. For without the absolute right to life, all other rights and privileges are empty words in the mouths of tyrants.