My wife and I have spent a delightful weekend in McMinnville, OR, an appreciated little getaway for our 25th anniversary–holy cow, has it really been that long?–and one of the things we did was visit the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, now the home of the Spruce Goose, among other aircraft. I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes. When I was younger, I read a lot about WWII fighters and bombers, along with histories of various battles and even a book about the Luftwaffe, the air force of Nazi Germany; so it was cool to see several planes from that era.
As I have gotten older, though, and have become a supporter of non-violence, the allure of military aircraft has mystified me. Why do I find these machines so captivating when they are designed to destroy and kill, to train those who will destroy and kill, and to offer operational support to those who destroy and kill? I made a comment to my wife about how seeing all the military aircraft made me think of the natural and human resources used to develop and produce these Waffen (weapons). “What kind of world would this be if we had put those resources to use to solve problems of hunger and suffering?” I asked.
I thought of Pres. Spencer W. Kimball’s “The False Gods We Worship,” of the passage in which he observes:
We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
The Lord gave us so many resources, why do we use them to destroy and kill? This, of course, flies in the face of Christ’s admonitions to love all. Even, maybe especially, our enemies. Christ taught such a radically different way to relate to one another. I know there are many who will cite the presence of evil in the world and say that war in a tragic/horrible/necessary result of that evil. Yes. I know there is evil and darkness in the world, but there is also goodness and light and light can defeat darkness.
Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans wrote that “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21, NIV). Aside from the Schadenfreude inherent in heaping burning coals on the heads of our “enemies” (if we show kindness to our enemies for this reason, though, I am sure it would not be counted as righteousness), I love this passage. It reinforces the notion that good can be stronger than evil, that our “enemies” are human, have human needs, which should remind us that they are also children of God.
In Mormonism, we are fond of the statement from King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon: “For the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). We often times use that scripture in discussions on sexuality and materialism, but President Kimball’s “False Gods” points out that the impulses that lead to war are also part of the natural man that we must learn to put off. Oh that we would! Again, what would the world be like if we used those natural and human resources to help famine stricken parts of the world? If we poured that same energy into extending the benefits of modern medicine to everyone? If we applied that zeal to help build up infrastructure(s) everywhere?