I was in 7th grade when my parents gave me permission to leave school early to attend a protest against the Vietnam War. For several days prior to that, some friends and I had gathered to make arm bands that said, “Peace.”
I was an early teen with little understanding of world events or military strategy. At that age, many people see the world rigidly, with little room for nuances and the complication of multiple perspectives. All I knew was that I thought war was wrong and that one in particular.
In the years since I have not marched in many other protests. My understanding of world events is, I hope, a little more mature, though I admit I still do not fully understand the complexity of world history and certainly not of military strategy. I’ve still believed that war is wrong and I’ve agonized when my country has been involved in other wars.
I’m startled at myself, as I have reflected on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the United State’s response. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is clearly wrong to me and I agonize over the trauma inflicted on Ukraine. What is the appropriate response from NATO members, the USA in particular? I’m glad we are sending aid, glad we are exercising extreme economic sanctions. Are those enough? Clearly, they are doing little to stop the invasion. For the first time in my life, a piece of me thinks we should inflict military damage on Russia, at least to enforce a no-fly zone in Ukraine. Do we dare risk Russia’s response, which could well spark World War III? On the other hand, if we don’t stop Russia now, who will be next? If ever there was a time when war was necessary, this is it.
Our United Methodist Social Principles deplore war and recognize that its violence is evil. They also recognize, “that when peaceful alternatives have failed, the force of arms may regretfully be preferable to unchecked aggression, tyranny and genocide.” In our baptismal vows we promise to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and reject the evil powers of this world” and “accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an evil power attempting to oppress Ukrainian people.” What does it mean for me, and for my country, to resist that evil?
I do not have any clear answers here. I’m relieved I am not in a position to have to make those difficult decisions. And my faith calls me to support those who are suffering, to pray for wisdom for those who must make the big decision and to plead for peace, a true peace that establishes justice for those with the least power.
Faith does not always lead to clear answers. Often faith simply places us in the murky middle where we wrestle with the questions and respond in love to those who are most directly impacted.