Sunday Sermon: Military Glory – Heroism

I grew up reading feats of military derring-do, and watching films like “Seven Samurai” and “Harakiri” – books and movies about martial glory and the character of the warrior. I noticed early on that a big piece of military glory and heroism is the stand against great odds – the acceptance that one’s mission will probably cost one’s life, but that’s a secondary concern: doing the right thing matters more. I read a lot about the samurai and bushido, and I always deeply felt the distinction between katsujin ken (the life-giving sword) and setsunin-to (the life-taking sword). Somehow it all ties together in my formative anarchy as part of something basically anti-authoritarian, because the authority and the establishment usually are the “powers that be” against which the life-giving sword must work.

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Sunday Sermon: Shooting Back

(Content Warning: war, death)

I’m going to begin today’s sermon with a transcript from a podcast I recently heard. It’s David Wood, speaking at Politics and Prose on “What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars.” Wood’s view is that wars can cause “Moral Injury” – a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder to our sense of right and wrong. The bit that stuck in my mind, which I went back and replayed and bookmarked, was an example that he gave – an example that is very typical of the experiences of many soldiers:

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Sunday Sermon: Military Honor

[Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen Seven Samurai, I am going to drop an important plot-point. And what’s wrong with you?]

I grew up reading about feats of derring-do, famous last stands, and martial arts philosophy. My favorite movie was, and remains, “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa – it’s an extended meditation on the different aspects of military honor, courage, despair, humor, and the fleeting moments of peace that warriors can occasionally snatch out of the mud and blood and awfulness.

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Sunday Sermon: Nationalism Is A Lie

The first poem I learned by heart was Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” (here)

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Kipling was more succinct but less visual:
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.