As I write this, violence (and rhetoric) is quickly escalating between the United States and Iran (and those caught in their midst). My heart is deeply grieved at what this means for the world, our neighbors, and our children. The impact of war is far reaching, and I still hold out hope that a strategy of de-escalation will be employed and effective.
In the meantime, my kids went back to school this morning and tonight we’ll host a prayer vigil in our neighborhood with other people of faith pleading with God to heal our broken world. No doubt, my kids will hear about the escalating violence at school, and they’ll stand with us in prayers for peace this evening.
Which means it’s time we talk with them about war.
Here’s what I’ll tell them…
I’ll tell them that both of my grandfathers fought in a war (WWII) and while we admire their courage, we lament the trauma and the pain they carried with them for the rest of their lives.
I’ll tell them I remember being their age and watching CNN at a friend’s house as the U.S. bombs dropped on Iraq during the Gulf War. We celebrated the destruction of cities and precious human beings as if we were watching an action movie with a bucket of popcorn. We talked about it being “God’s plan” that the U.S. was called to carry out.
I’ll tell them that war is not something to celebrate and that it is very ugly. That God is not guiding our missiles to destroy our “enemies,” but instead is weeping with the children (just like them) who lost mommies and daddies because of our bombs. We don’t cheer on war just because it is on the other side of the world; we cry that it’s a reality in our world and do anything we can to stop it before it starts.
I’ll tell them that a few months after watching these bombs drop on CNN, I’ll never forget waving goodbye to my dad (their grandfather) after he was activated for active duty in that war. Grampy (as they call him) was very courageous, but so was Grammy as she cared for us kids when Grampy was gone with an uncertain future. I’ll tell them I cried all the time missing my dad just like kids are crying right now missing their mommies and daddies who are being sent to the Middle East. We will pray for comfort, peace, and safety for those families.
I’ll tell them that Iranian people aren’t our enemies, and we will never use language that makes them sound any less than people loved by God…just like us. We’ll pray for the comfort, peace, and safety for the kids and families in Iran who are going to bed in fear that they may be hurt by war.
I’ll tell them that just because a few people with a lot of power start wars, it doesn’t make them right. And that it’s usually the people without the power (or money) who end up being hurt. Both in the U.S. and countries like Iran.
I’ll tell them that there are people all over the world who make bad choices (including from our own country) that hurt people, and international conflicts between countries are very complex, and it’s hard to always know exactly what is true and how to make the right decisions. But that no matter how complex things are for countries and governments, we personally don’t get even — we get creative in love.
I’ll tell them that it’s ok to feel scared, but we don’t have to let our fear control us. We live in love and hope that God is restoring ALL THINGS and that we get to be part of making it real in our world. From their school playgrounds to the other side of the world.
I’ll tell them that we follow Jesus, and he chose the path of peace when faced with violence. He didn’t run from conflict…he ran toward it! But instead of using the weapons of war, he used tools to heal. And, for Jesus, it cost him everything. It might cost us something too. Because peacemakers aren’t wimps. They are heroes who can’t hide behind the weapons of war or mean words. They are people like our friends Daoud and Milad and Manar and Alejandra and Yolanda and Chris and Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr., and on and on and on. Jesus even said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
I’ll tell them that they are loved again and again and again. And it is because of that love that our family will also love. No matter what and no matter who, Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies — not to kill them.
I’ll tell them it’s actually all way more complex than this, because we haven’t yet excavated the nuances of theodicy, ontology, just war, and pacifism.
And then I’ll give them a kiss and go get Slurpees.
This article originally appeared on Jon Huckins’ blog.