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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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War happy?

Photo illustration by Photodisc / Michael D. Watson“One of my jobs is to keep men from enjoying war and killing too much,” Navy Chaplain John Anderson, Brooklyn Park, Minn., recently told USA Today. Anderson’s view of Christians and war contrasts with the perspective of Gene Edward Veith, a columnist for the Christian journal World (Feb. 26). Veith quoted Martin Luther to defend Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who suggested soldiers should rightly have “a hell of a lot of fun” shooting people.

Veith cited Luther’s guidance that, while soldiers can abuse their license to kill and should avoid fighting in unjust wars, they can proceed “with joy ... in good conscience, [be] confident ... untroubled.” Veith’s use of Luther moved The Lutheran to review attitudes reflected by ELCA chaplains who have written to and for the magazine during the current Iraq war.

The tone of tragic necessity is in their descriptions of soldiers seeking words of assurance and peace amid war and comfort for losses they’ve suffered and seen. U.S. Army Chaplain Lance Kittleson’s assessment is typical: “[In Iraq] faith is no longer an academic exercise. ... No theoretical, ivory tower faith will do. We all want and need a strong connectedness to God, a faith for the brutish and horrible side of our life” ("'Go in peace' during war," June 2003, page 17 in the print edition).


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