On Becoming a Catholic Priest

While it was a big step for me, emotionally as well as ministerially, in some ways it should not have been that big a deal for my evangelical friends. I had been an Episcopal priest for 34 years and no one seemed to blink at that. I suppose with people like the Rev. John R. W. Stott, the Rt. Rev. N. T. Wright, and indeed the Rev. J. I. Packer, among others, in the Anglican/ Episcopal camp it was difficult for evangelicals to disapprove. And then there were well-known Anglican lay people, like C. S. Lewis who were evangelical heroes. The Anglican Communion was viewed by Protestants in general (and some evangelical Anglicans) as being very much Reformed and Protestant, even if officially it declared itself a middle way, neither Protestant nor Catholic. In my case, I had also been associated with other free church groups, such as the Vineyard movement and the Plymouth Brethren. While I was not secret about it, only my wife seemed to notice that while I was at times employed as a teacher by churches or organizations within both these groups, I had always kept up a ministry in an Anglican or Episcopal congregation.

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What people did not know or at least did not realize was that I was horrified at the fractiousness of Protestant groups and that I realized that this was endemic, since splits tend to create splits. This was my family emotional systems training being applied to the church. Nor did people realize that ever since the National Catholic Charismatic Conference for Priests and Deacons in 1980, I was heartbroken by the schism in the church. Others were, perhaps, more cognizant that I had a love for the great spiritual tradition that starts with the Apostolic Fathers, goes through the Desert Fathers and then into the west with John Cassian and Benedict of Nursia. I was drawn to St. Francis and the devotion of Ignatius of Loyola and many others. Various Protestants have used and drawn from these people and their traditions (I think of the Renovaré movement in particular), but often this is done by picking and choosing. How can one really get at the essence of what they have to teach without being in total communion with them? This is especially true when one considers the possibility that the “cloud of witnesses” of Heb 12 may be more than a figure of speech.
I was aware of all the above and it was this that probably as much as anything drove me to seek the community that would support my values. I had thought of these values as Anabaptist once, but later concluded that the Anabaptists were rooted in the Devotio Moderna and earlier monastic expressions of Christianity. They were, in essence, an evangelistic third order, not unlike the Franciscan Tertiaries. So I explored some such groups which included Episcopalians.from within the Episcopal Church It was by accident that I came across John Michael Talbot and the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, to whose Domestic expression we now belong. We did find there a community that incorporated and reinforced our values: centered on the Eucharist, deep into contemplation, enriched by charismatic experience and gifts, concerned for the poor, committed to a simple lifestyle, etc. But there was a hitch in that so long as we were not Catholics we could go forward for a blessing during communion in the mass, but we could not partake. We were one, but we still experienced the brokenness of the body of Christ. Some in the BSCD are comfortable with such a situation – they are in churches that are not Eucharist-centered so come to terms with not partaking so long as the others in the BSCD accept them (as they do indeed). I was not comfortable! I did not know it, but God was drawing me, and eventually I gave in to him.
From my point of view there was little change in theology. I suspect that that is not the view of some others, for they judge the Catholic Church on the basis of either the more poorly catechized portions of the Church (which unfortunately are many) or on post-Reformation criticisms of the Church (which are often inaccurate, especially since they rarely interact with Vatican II). I took the time to work through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a post-Vatican II document. It is also carefully argued and thoroughly supported by scripture and the teaching of the church down through the ages. It might surprise some of my friends and colleagues to discover that if anything, it moved me back into a more Augustinian (some might say Reformed) stance on such things as original sin and grace. And, of course, it is fully Trinitarian and incarnational (which, unfortunately is not always the case in evangelical theology, at least in my experience not at the level of the local pastor). I did have to take Heb 12 as more than a metaphor and join that with what Jesus says about people having authority in the age to come (which arrives for the individual at death, when they enter the eternal dimension, if that is viewed as beyond time as God is beyond time). I did have to take the image of Mary in Rev 12 seriously (which I had already done for decades in teaching Revelation) and think about Mary as an icon of the Church and as the Mother of God (God-bearer to use the literal translation of theotokos). I wonder how many of my evangelical friends realize that that title was developed to say something about Jesus being really God incarnate and not to say something about Mary per se? And I did have to realize that Paul exercised a type of patriarchal authority over churches in 1 – 2 Timothy and Titus (and in Acts), appointing presbyters and authorizing delegates to continue to appoint them and that 1 Peter in particular shows Peter in Rome writing authoritatively to churches it is highly unlikely he founded. This is not developed Petrine primacy in action, but this is the roots out of which it developed. I also had to take seriously the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church so that as Israel in the Old Testament developed from primitive nomadic tribes worshipping in a relatively simple shrine to the grandeur of the Solomonic Temple, so the Church has developed (and both have had problems with going after false gods and the like). (Obviously, this is a far too brief discussion of what I either had thought through over the years or needed to work through as I carefully studied the Catechism, but this is a blog, not a book. I would refer those interested in the Catechism and its supporting documents to  Scott Hahn and also to his writings, among others, although I ran into his work only after I was already committed to my transition.)
Kingdom theology that came into my life in seminary in the works of George Eldon Ladd and came to a new dimension with my contact with John Wimber and then developed further as I was influenced by N. T. Wright is very much alive in the Catholic Church (see the DVD series Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron, especially the first one on Jesus). What I saw as Anabaptist theology is, as I have noted, a type of Franciscan spirituality in a Reformation context. I have been Eucharistic-centered since my upbringing in the Plymouth Brethren. (This has made many Vineyard and Baptist services rather unsatisfying – for from my point of view they lack the core of worship, which is the Eucharist, and when they do celebrate it, it is less than central.) And when it comes to proclaiming the good news, Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel is true to Vatican II, true to the New Evangelism strain of Catholic thought, and is just as true to Louis Palau (who is his personal friend) and Billy Graham. All of the streams of my previous thought are there in the life and teaching of the Catholic Church that I have experienced (and I also know that there are many parts of the Catholic Church that are defective, just as there are many parts of evangelical groups and the Episcopal Church that are defective, which the Catholic leaders I know and, from his writings, Pope Francis, wish to reform). So I am as much an evangelical as I ever was, so long as evangelical is not defined as free church, do-your-own-thing. But it was that very do-you-own-thing fractiousness that I emphatically did not think was in tune with the New Testament I was reading.
It does sadden me when I hear people talk about “Christians and Catholics” as if they were two groups. They mean something like “evangelicals and Catholics,” but say that without realizing that the Catholic Church is their mother. The faith was not invented in 1500, nor is there such a thing in reality as sola Scriptura, but rather Luther and others were steeped in the thought of the Patristic period and read their Bible through the lens of this, later tradition and the developing Renaissance, just as we all must read Scripture through the lens of some tradition or other. (I first realized some of this when I read the Lutheran scholar Krister Stendhal’s Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West, and of course there is now the agreement between major Lutheran scholars and the Catholic Church on key issues such as the meaning of faith and works.) My background in psychology and my reading in hermeneutics made me realize that I-and-my Bible-alone is a myth – there is always a perspective inside our head that helps us make sense of the disparate genres of the Scripture, conscious or unconscious. If we say that that is the Holy Spirit, then we need to read Scripture carefully and note that the Spirit is a gift to the Church as a body, so that even the great Paul submitted his understanding of the good news to the scrutiny of the leaders of the larger body (Gal 2).
 It does sadden me when some few people reject me for having made this move (most are happy for me and glad that God called me to where I am, even if they have no impulse themselves to move in that direction). I realize that for the most part either they never really knew me or else they are reacting to a caricature of the Catholic Church. That caricature is not helped by the fact that, as I have noted, there are many Catholics that need to hear the good news – as Pope Francis has so ably said. But I have for years observed that there are many people who have had a “born again” experience that show no signs of the Spirit and thus give us good reason to believe that if Jesus returned he would say to them, “I never knew you.” Both evangelicals and Catholics have the same problem with needing to re-evangelize their churches (although evangelicals prefer to say “revive”). And there have been periodic revivals and reforms in the Catholic Church (some of the abuses that Luther rightly criticized were corrected by renewal movements that remained within the Church; some these corrections became canon law in the Council of Trent). But the caricature of the Catholic Church is a caricature that can only stay alive if one has never immersed oneself in a good parish and if one has never bothered to read the official literature (not an easy job, for it is carefully written, but a rewarding job).
Well, I have crossed the English Channel (according to Sheldon Vanauken, whom I met in 1978) or swum the Tiber (the more usual expression). And not only have I done so, but, by the grace of God through Pope Benedict XVI’s provision and Pope Francis actualization of this permission for me personally, I have been allowed to take something of my ministry with me. I was ordained in the Catholic Church – my ordination in the Episcopal Church did not simply transfer, so I had to be re-ordained. But I was ordinand because I had been an Episcopal priest for 34 years and because the rest of my life was in order. Celibacy was waived as long as Judy is alive. The whole process from resignation from my Episcopal orders to Catholic ordination only took 10 months – lightning speed for Rome. I have made the transition.
What my friends will need to accept is that being a Catholic priest is not a role that one can shed when convenient. It is not a job. Holy Orders is a sacrament, and in a sense one becomes a sacrament. One is always to act and be “in persona Christi.” Now, in a sense every Christian should act that way, but for a priest it is part of his vows and part of his public life on behalf of Jesus and the Church. And, in a sense it is a profession, not like profession= job, but like a monastic profession. One promises to keep the Liturgy of the Hours, one vows obedience to one’s Ordinary. There is a type of stability in that only 5% of Catholic priests ever change the diocese of their incardination. That is important, for the call is to go deep and out of the depths of spirituality to hear confessions, to preach the word, to celebrate the mass. This same spirituality is to be expressed in everyday life.
So in one way I have just taken my bearings “further in and higher up” (as the call is in C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle). I have finished the preparation and now need to live into this calling from God. My life in the past has been an adventure, and now I continue that adventure. Part of that adventure is, according to Cardinal DiNardo, bridge-building. Rather than withdrawing into a Catholic enclave, I will continue my relationships with biblical scholarship, with evangelical friends, with Episcopal friends. I will live out my life as a Catholic priest in continuity with my previous life or (at least to some) lives. Let the adventure begin.
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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – The Martyrs Win

Over the past weeks we have heard very saddening news about the state of the church in areas of Iraq and Syria (and to a lesser extent Nigeria). We have heard of beheadings, crucifixions, and destruction. We realize that Christian communities that have been around for close to 2000 years are being destroyed, or so it seems. While we cannot be sure of the accuracy of all of the reports since ISIS is not exactly reporter-friendly, we can be reasonably certain of the death of many Christians and the burning of many churches and the treasures (including ancient manuscripts) they contained.   6a00d834515f9b69e20168e62076d2970c-800wi

Now nothing in my comments should be construed as indicating that this is not a tragedy. Nor do we wish the tragedy to continue. And we certainly pray that it does not continue. Yet the Christian response is not the response of the world. The world’s response is to meet violence with violence, and that sooner or later results in a game of Whack-a-Mole. Violence is used on the evil forces here (and often it also means the killing of innocent victims) and sooner or later the same or a similar evil group pops up over there. So we whack over there, and it pops up in a third place. Violence never really solves a problem, for it injects something of the same spirit into the situation.
The Christian response is, first, to pray that the martyrs will stay faithful and confess the faith well. Revelation 12 makes it clear that the force attacking Christians is at root spiritual, and by that I do not mean Islam, but Satan and his “angels” that lay behind the Roman Empire in Rev 12 and behind various other types of persecution down through the ages. Revelation also makes it clear that the battle, while fought in heaven, is paralleled on earth and that the “they” who win in the end is the martyrs, who held onto their witness to Jesus and “did not love their lives even unto death.” So we pray for our brothers and sisters that they stay faithful, stand firm. After all, Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead. Revelation also gives us the picture of the martyrs in heaven, in the divine sphere, and none of them is saying, “Poor me.” The Church traditionally points to them as purified, beholding the Beatific Vision, as having a special place due to their “baptism of blood.”
The second Christian response is to pray with compassion for the persecutors. After all, they are under the influence of evil spiritual forces. If they continue in their way and do not repent the future does not bode well for them. We are told to pray for those who persecute us, and they surely need it. We also know that God can take a persecutor like Saul of Tarsus and make a saint out of him. So our response should be one of compassion, not hatred. We may hate the evil being done, but we should love the perpetrators.
The third Christian response is to pray for God’s intervention. He can change the situation, but only he can do it without ending up in a game of Whack-a-Mole, a recurring cycle of violence. Only he can see the real evil forces that hold the perpetrators captive. So fasting and prayer, calling out to him to intervene, is appropriate.
The fourth and final Christian response is to offer ourselves as peacemakers. Now only God can show us how to do this. It might mean that an army of unarmed prayer warriors invades the conflict area, many of them becoming martyrs. It may be giving to effective relief organizations. It may mean praying and fasting for peace. It may be something quite unimaginable. Saint Francis is said to have visited the Sultan during the time of the Crusades (it reportedly was on his third attempt to get there). Such an ambassador could work wonders. But only God can direct his people wisely and only God knows what type of interventions might bring about peace.
All of these responses parallel the way that Jesus acted. He defeated the powers of evil through his cross, and thus on this day of the celebration of the exaltation of the Holy Cross it is appropriate to think of how the imitation of Christ might lead us to deal with the situations facing the church today in Jesus’ way and in Jesus’ power. But these are not the responses that we are hearing about in the news nor ones that occur to various governments, for they generally do not “get” Jesus.
Those of us who are followers of Jesus, however, should “get” Jesus and should be making the type of response that the early Church made to persecution and that Jesus made to the problem of evil. It is that that I am hoping for and that which I see so little of.
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When will they ever learn?

I remember the folk song, probably from the 60’s, with the refrain, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” That is what I think about when I reflect on the State of Israel’s war with the Palestinians.

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Mid-Summer Update: Living on the Fast Train, Rooted in St. Francis

Peter and Judy Davids

June 21, 2014

Dear family and friends,

It is time that we posted a newsletter on my blog that brought you up to date on where we are at, for that is better than brief notes on Facebook. While the more momentous events are recent, I am going to start with some history, which will be old hat to some of you, but is necessary to review to give the flow of what led up to the events of the past year. Peter and Judy at Reception OLW 140216

Continue reading

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Roots and Fruits

If the roots are bad, so is the fruit, or so the saying goes. I have been thinking about that as I listen to two things: (1) the evangelical infighting going on about homosexual relationships and (2) the Catholic teaching on marriage and its purpose.

As I watch the evangelical world, I think that what we are seeing is a rearguard action. The argument for accepting homosexual relationships is compelling: we shifted on slavery, which the NT accepts, we shifted on women, which the NT does not allow to lead churches, and we shifted on divorce, where Jesus clearly teaches something that we do not practice. So it is time in the name of love to shift our view based on those few obscure verses on homosexuality. The structure for preventing the shift is not existent. The relative independence of the local church has been championed in most evangelical churches for some time. There is also a strong belief in democracy, so if one can shift the people one can shift the local church. There is no central authority that all recognize, and even denominational authorities often cannot intervene in a local church. There will be more blood spilled, more people kicked out of this or that organization, but in the end only a minority will hold that homosexual relations are always sinful. That is what Vineyard is struggling with right now.
Now I think that the “compelling” line of argument is bogus to a degree in that the NT does come to terms with slavery in a world in which they had no say so anyway, but it never approves of it. It is just there, like taxes, and needs to be dealt with. More could be said, but I will just note that Wilberforce and the like came at a time when there was democracy in places like England. 
The women’s issue is also different, for a woman is not a defective person, an abnormality, but a fully functioning half of the human race. What women may or may not do in church will depend on how one defines ministry, and that is another big issue. The Catholic Church, for instance, has many female charismatic leaders, even ones who traveled around preaching. Many of them were later canonized as saints. But it defines the hierarchal ministry differently. Still, it never says that it is sinful for a woman to be a woman and express that within the proper structures of society and the church.
The divorce issue does get more to the point. The evangelical world by and large has given up the ship on the divorce issue. Even a promiscuous pastor can be restored to ministry, let alone a divorced one. Some very strong words of Jesus (and Paul) are rationalized. That is in part because the evangelical world does not get it with regard to sex and marriage. Sex is for procreation. Marriage is a (socially sanctioned sexual) joining of a man and a woman with an openness to having children. The pleasure of sex is secondary – it makes procreation more than a duty, and it helps join the couple so that they are together to raise the children. If what one wants is relationship, then form a different type of community. One can have communities of men and women living together without getting married and without having sex.
This is where Catholic doctrine comes in. They are very clear about the purpose of marriage and that marriage is characterized by unity and indissolubility. Except for the Pauline privilege (1 Cor 7, where an unbeliever departs from a marriage leaving the other person free), no divorce is possible. (And to use the Pauline privilege, one applies to Rome and that takes time.) A marriage can be annulled (which also takes time, but is handled more locally), but that is because there never was a real marriage in the first place: one partner was too young, too related, too coerced, or did not reveal that they were divorced or was not open to having children, etc. This does not have to do with something that happened after a valid marriage, but with something that meant that the marriage was never valid from the start. Divorce for a Catholic is a civil law issue that the Church does not recognize as ending the marriage. In other words, the Church holds to Jesus’ teaching. 
That is where the homosexual issue comes in. While same-sex attraction is just another temptation, the sexual act is “inherently disordered,” for, not only does the Bible forbid it, but it cannot lead to procreation. (Of course sexual relations of any type outside of marriage are sinful in Catholic – and most evangelical – thought). One cannot have a valid marriage between homosexual persons. So the Catholic Church follows the logic of its position on the purpose of sex and on the nature of marriage into rejecting divorce (as Jesus did) and also rejecting the possibility of marriage (in the Catholic sense) of same-sex individuals.
Furthermore, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, so it has the ability to buck the culture and hold its line. There is authority, and while some people are given long leashes, eventually if they go to far they are called on the carpet.
Now I have been very popular and brief in my reflections. I have not done justice to the subtleties of Catholic teaching, nor to a number of other points that I have let drop along the way. But my point is simple. Evangelicals by and large have not had a solid theology of sex and marriage, but have bought into the culture’s concept of marriage being mainly for fulfillment and love. They also lack a theology of the cross, of believers bearing the cross and being conformed to Christ. This bore fruit in their not being able to hold to Jesus’ teaching on divorce. And eventually the crumbling on divorce will lead to crumbling on homosexual marriage as well. Even when they do reject a pastor’s teaching on the topic, they cannot enforce their rejection, for there is a weak authority structure, not enough to hold the group together on such ethical issues. On the other hand, the Catholic Church has a strong teaching on sex and marriage based on both natural theology and Scripture, as well as tradition. It has remained consistent on that teaching for 2000 years. Because of it, the Church has not backed down on the divorce issue (and loses people because of this). Nor will it change on the homosexual issue.
If the theological roots are weak, eventually poor fruit will develop. If they are strong, the fruit will be good.
Time will tell if these observations are in fact borne out, but I am fairly sure that they will be.
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Davids Christmas and New Years Greetings

 Davids Christmas 2013  2013 Christmas and New Year’s Greetings from Peter and Judy Davids in Stafford, TX.

After spending many Christmases in Canada with our family, we have chosen to stay at home in Texas this year. Christmas 2012 was spent in Calgary, AB with Elaine and her family,
Christmas 2011 was spent in Mission, British Columbia with Ian and his family
and Christmas 2010 was spent in St. Stephen, New Brunswick with Gwen and her
family. 2009 was in St. Stephen as was 2008, but 2008 was different for the
entire family gathered in St. Stephen that year and we were altogether. We’ve tentatively
decided to limit our visits to Canada to summer, and in fact, Judy has spent
about six weeks in Canada during each of the last two summers; as you can see,
our family spans the North American Continent or 3000 miles east to west.

Our big news this year is that we not only await the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus and his
second coming; but we also await the birth of our ninth grandchild to be born
to Ian and Buffi at the end of May, 2014. Judy plans to fly to Mission, BC to
help out, especially by watching Adana Davids, who is now two and excitedly
awaiting the new baby.

Last January through May, Peter and I spent every Thursday at Lanier Theological library writing on our two books. We both finished them as summer began. Peter had to revise his in
the fall and it is now off to the publisher moving towards a 2014 publication
date (A Biblical Theology of James Peter and Jude in the Zondervan BTNT series(. Judy’s book came back with a request to revise it because there were two books hidden inside the manuscript, both of which were deemed publishable. This project has barely been restarted; whereas Peter has begun writing a new book.

Last spring at Houston Baptist University, Peter and I co-taught a course called Spiritual Formation. This fall we co-taught a graduate course called Pastoral Care and Spiritual
Formation. That was fun and a very meaningful experience for both of us.

Peter has continued as a voluntary assistant at our church all year and taught at Houston Baptist
University as a ¾ time visiting Professor; he has also taught one course each
semester as a Visiting Professor at Houston Graduate School of Theology.

On Sunday evenings during much of the year, Judy trained a team of 15 in BridgePoint Bible Church, (her sister’s church) to do pastoral care. Her sister has led the resultant lay
counseling ministry since October and an assistant pastor oversees the support
groups led by the rest of this trained team.

Judy has spoken at three different retreats and has done the training for the new Daughters of the King at All Saints Episcopal Church. She also does spiritual direction for several
leaders in various churchs.

Peter and Judy both have been in good health during this past year for which we are thankful.

When Judy was in New Brunswick with Gwen’s family, we celebrated the 1st birthday of her fourth boy, Ian and Canada Day. Then she went to Calgary and celebrated Elaine’s
birthday and an early birthday for 11-year old Janelle. Finally in Mission, BC,
she visited the zoo, a big lake and a Farmer’s Market BBQ-tasting contest with
Ian and family.

Peter stayed at home to teach summer school, volunteer at our church and write on his book. During this time, the washing machine upstairs broke and the town home was flooded. So Peter had to deal with the drying out and the repair of the damage.

In September, Judy went with her sister to Nashville, TN for the international conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors: this was a stimulating time for both of us
and we had a lot of good sister time.

In October, Peter and I went to Berryville, Arkansas for the national gathering of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, which is a Franciscan-rooted, Catholic-based, ecumenically open “public community of the faithful” led by John Michael Talbot and really enjoyed the conference.
It was a spiritually refreshing time for both. We are presently postulants in
the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Domestic expression and hope to become novices shortly.

In November, Peter went to the Society of Biblical Literature Conference in Baltimore, MD and read a paper, chaired a section and preached and celebrated on the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis at the meeting of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars. That also marked 50 years of preaching for him. Judy spent the week at Peter’s brother’s home and then the entire Davids clan (except for our children and grandchildren in Canada) gathered for a Thanksgiving and birthday celebrations for John and Peter. This was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

As we approach Christmas 2013, we are so grateful for God’s gift in the package of baby Jesus – what a surprise! God surprises us with His goodness over and over again. How has He
surprised you this year?

Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Peter and Judy Davids

Posted in Personal

Memorial Day – the Mixed Bag

I have mixed thoughts about Memorial Day. First, it is often forgotten that it is about dead soldiers, not living ones. We have Veterans Day for the living ones, and Memorial Day for the ones who died in battle or at least in association with their military service (in many wars more died of disease than died of enemy action). 

Second, while there are many soldiers who enter the military for idealistic reasons, such as protecting their loved ones, in many of the wars I have known more entered because of a legal requirement (i.e. the draft) or because of misplaced idealism (the enemy was not really the threat that the government made it out to be). I have never heard a drill sergeant talk idealistically – you are in the army, you are trained to kill, and you will either do your job or else your sergeant will make you wish you had.
Third, while there are soldiers who die selflessly, usually trying to protect or save comrades in arms, the is not the situation for most soldiers. They went into the military to win a war, they were trained to destroy the enemy, and their goal in battle is to kill the enemy, not sacrifice themselves. They paid “the ultimate price” because the enemy was better or luckier at killing them than they were at killing the enemy (or perhaps because their comrades killed them accidentally, i.e. friendly fire). They are not martyrs, for they died while trying to kill others.
Fourth, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the size of one’s army, the quality of one’s armaments, or even whether or not one has an army at all make no difference. One’s righteousness does, one’s God does, but not one’s army. That theme runs through the Former and Latter Prophets, and it is also found in the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament ends with a battle in which the only one described as armed is the King of Kings and his armament is speech, “the sword of his mouth.” So, the question arises, was the “sacrifice” (one’s death while trying to kill others, many of whom are trying to kill you for the same noble reasons for which you are trying to kill them, or one’s death protecting comrades who are trying to kill others, which can indeed be a sacrifice) really necessary?
Fifth, no war in the modern period and probably most wars in the medieval period fulfills the requirement of being a just war, so even if I believed in the just war criteria as worked out by Augustine, I would have to say that Christians involved in war are involved in an unjust exercise. The last wars that appeared to be just were WWII and possibly the Korean War, but WWII was hardly fought justly, since there were deliberate attempts to bring about mass civilian casualties. 
Sixth, Memorial Day does not memorialize those who died for refusing to fight, such as Mennonites who were killed in the USA (or else chased to Canada). They truly did make a sacrifice for conscience, for they were not trying to kill anyone, far from it. They were trying to serve the Lord Jesus.
Seventh, Memorial Day assumes that liberty (as defined by the USA) and freedom (as defined by the USA) are worth giving one’s life for. Within the context of the New Testament these are just other forms of the slavery in which the human race lives, not better not worse. I would contend that the USA is not founded upon anything like Christian principles, but upon genocide, nor was it founded for liberty in the sense that we use it today  (Plymouth Colony did want religious liberty, but only liberty for one particular religious group, which group was quite ready to kill other groups that encroached on its territory; Jamestown was a commercial venture, not about liberty at all; Georgia was a prison colony – Rhode Island and Maryland did seem to be tolerant). And Paul makes it clear in 1 Cor 7 that liberty is the political sense is something quite indifferent. 
I could go on. Let me sum up: On one hand I do honor those who voluntarily go to war based on their idealism of protecting and caring for others. I suspect that this idealism is misplaced, but it is sincere and at least some of these believe that they are serving God. I want to honor this desire to serve others even at the risk of one’s life. On the other hand, I believe that this picture of military service is idealistic, that it flies in the face of the realities of modern war, that it flies in the face of the reasons for modern war, and that it flies in the face of the fact that often war is fought for other reasons that the stated ones and that it kills far more innocents than “bad guys.” This would make the “sacrifice” a mistake at best.
Furthermore, since I have a freedom from Jesus that no one can take away, etc., the whole war venture is unnecessary, making gratitude difficult.
It is, as the title says, a mixed bag.
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