Shuck and Jive

Friday, February 01, 2008

War is Hell: 40 Years Ago Today

Heard this on NPR's Morning Edition. This photo was taken 40 years ago today.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.
--Psalm 144:1

Forty years ago Friday, photojournalist Eddie Adams captured one history's most memorable images. The 1968 photo of a South Vietnamese officer executing a Viet Cong guerrilla on a Saigon street helped change American opinion of the Vietnam War. (Read More)
I am preaching on the book of Joshua Sunday. We are going through the Bible cover to cover. This has always been the most difficult part of the Bible for me. These texts are not just about violent people. YHWH wills the violence.

Then they devoted to destruction
by the edge of the sword
all in the city, both men and women, young and old,
oxen, sheep, and donkeys.

--Joshua 6:21

It won't be an easy sermon. But it is something that needs preaching. What do we do with the violent god we have inherited? What do we say about this god who is so firmly entrenched in our collective psyches that we can scarcely imagine life without him and without the war and violence he commands?

Walter Brueggemann comments:

“Thus if we take the texts with some theological “realism,” in my judgment we are bound to say that YHWH is here implicated in the violence, that YHWH’s violence is rooted in the violent propensity in YHWH’s own character. I believe that this is deeply problematic for us, but any other reading is likely to be a dishonest cover-up of the disclosure of YHWH given in these texts.”

--Walter Brueggemann, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 117

We could say of course, that YHWH is a projection, a creation to justify our own violence and greed. We could. We could say that we are above it. We have outgrown this god. But have we?


  1. My firend Todd had to take a class called "The Bible as Literature" at UT one year. He was told he had to write a paper on the book of Joshua, so being an avowed athiest he wrote one entitled, "The Book of Joshua: How the Murdering, Lying, Theiving Israelites Got Their Groove On." He said he could audible gasps and the sound of chairs scooting away from him when he read the title aloud.

  2. If you've never seen the movie "Hearts and Minds" (which won an Academy Award back in the early 1970s), I heartily recommend it. There is actual a video of the same events involving the prisoner being shot, so you can see it in all its brutality, and then the man doing the shooting just walking away like it was nothing while the man he shot is spurting blood from his head.

    War really is hell.