Chapel, Actually it was an Assembly

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

On Thursday’s I attend chapel. At chapel there is singing, preaching, and good ole tom foolery (Not some much on the last part, I just like saying that).

Today, I listened to a soldier speak at chapel. Now you might be wondering why this is a big deal…refer here
No matter if you agree or disagree, one of the big issues I have here is that it was an assembly, not a chapel. If we are going to have chapel, it needs to be chapel. We have almost had more assemblies during chapel than actual chapel service. What is a chapel service? The usual church like service: music, preaching, and the uniting of believers in worship. More often than not, we are having people come in and not preach, but just talk about something that they are doing or are interested in, not preaching. Maybe I am making something out of nothing, but it can be a big deal when you have to go each week. You start wonder why we have it.

Well, today we had an assembly, not a chapel. The plan for today was to have music up front, then go into a time of prayer and prayer groups. Not a bad chapel service.
Well, at the last minute a soldier and his wife walk in to the service. Out of no where people started clapping. I thought that was strange that people were clapping, but I guess that is not out of the ordinary, go to any airport and follow around a soldier and you will see people saying “thank you” with their hands in applause. After they stopped clapping, we started chapel off with some music. The last song was “The Wonderful Cross.” A song that deals with the death of our savior, the opposite of what the world would say is a “great victory.” I was expecting to enter into a time of prayer, but I was mistaking. Before I could shut my computer down, the soldier had the mic and people were giving him a standing ovation. I started to wonder how he got here today. Thankfully he answered the question for me by telling me that he received a care package and wanted to come and thank us. He told us where he served, and told us about his family. He said this, “While I was in the army, I missed the birth of my 7 month old baby girl, all three of my sons birthdays, but it was worth it because I am here to see the next generation who will rise up and serve our country and protect us.” Wow, I sure would have a hard time missing all my kids birthdays and birth to serve others in Iraq, to each his own.
After about five minutes, he said that was all he had for us and opened up the floor for questions. I could not help but sit there and here people ask him questions about what was war like? How long have you been there? Are you helping other people and not just killing people? Questions along those lines.

Now, as you read this, you still might be wondering what the big deal is here. That I am making a big deal out of nothing and I am just wanting to be rebellious and find problems with anything. Maybe I am, but I could not leave this one alone. This is my thoughts about nothing, take it or leave it.

Here is why it bothered me. When I look at the military, all I can see is the picture of redemptive violence. This is the idea that violence will bring redemption to save others. Now, it is interesting to see that Jesus used an act of violence (death on the cross) to save the world. But, this was an act done to Him, not Him doing the act. “Kill one man, and be considered a murderer, kill thousands, and be considered powerful.” For a long time, America has been the moral police. And the way of enforcing things is power, power to use force. This idea of redemptive violence brings about the acceptance of using violence to bring peace. Just look at the idea of capital punishment. You did evil, and now we do evil to you to repay you for the evil you did to someone else and call it even. This is suppose to bring some sort of peace and closure. To me this is counter to the Bible and to Jesus. Redemptive Grace is preached from the Bible, not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
Now I don’t know this dude that spoke this morning, and I don’t know his heart. But I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry that he has to miss his children, I feel sorry that he has to kill people because he is told he is protecting us. I feel sorry that he is going to have to live with this “sacrifice” of killing others to bring us peace for the rest of his life. This goes back to why I think that we need to separate America and Christianity. To promote the sword over the Bible is wrong. “When you pick up the sword, you put down the cross” -Dr. Gregg Boyd from his book The Myth of a Christian Nation
We had many students line up after chapel to ask him questions about his life, and to ask him about what it was like. Am I saying that we should not support the army? Yes, I am. If we support the army, we are supporting redemptive violence. I have been really struggling through this, and have been going back and forth on whether or not I support soldiers. In good conscience and in light of what the Bible teaches, I cannot support the act of war, and the soldiers that carry this act out.
Today, I felt that we were supporting the act of war by bringing in a soldier to speak to our students during chapel. A time set aside each week for our school to come together and worship our God, our creator, and the one that gives us grace.

I am working through this stuff, and you might think I am out of bounds and crazy here. Maybe I am crazy, but I know one thing, if i am crazy because I reject what America teaches about war and peace, than I am fine being considered crazy. Someone else was also called crazy in the Bible, Jesus (Mark 3). Not calling myself Jesus, just trying to be like Him.

Blast away

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Andy Unnerstall

    This is an issue I have gone back and forth on for a long time. The question that it always comes down to for me is this: is it always wrong to fight? I realize the murky rationale behind our current war, and others like Korea or Vietnam, can easily be called into question. But what if you are standing up to absolute evil? Was it a sin to fight against Hitler in WWII?

    I do know one thing for certain. If someone was threatening my wife or children or anyone else, really–although maybe to a lesser extent–I would fight to protect them without a second thought. If it were just myself being threatened, I would like to say that I would turn the other cheek, to use an often annoying Christian cliche. I’m not sure my instinct for self-preservation would allow it, but theoretically I am for it.

    All that being said, I think there is a distinction to be made between our personal and collective responsibility as Christians to love unconditionally and a government’s responsibility to protect its people. Where should that line be drawn? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly something to think about, and dialogue that needs to happen more often than in does in our predominantly conservative Christian community.

    • kylereed

      Justin, good to hear from you man. I am glad to hear from you on this subject. And I agree with you, it is impossible to suspend belief to make decisions. No matter what you believe, you have a worldview and that is how you are going to make decisions. Does a fish know that he is wet? Probably not, that is what he knows and is born into. We have a worldview that is shaped by what we are born into, parents, america, belief, friends, etc…this affects the way that we view the world. To suspend this would be impossible. This is who we are. I will go and check out that sermon, thanks for the reference.
      You still in the area?

  • gettherealskinnyoneve

    I hear you, I am from the baptist tradition, do not keep my service from me, we have got to get our praise on!

    Also, I support your critical thinking regarding America and war, but I believe we must always support our troops even if we disagree with the action. They are under command, and may be experiencing feelings just as complicated as your own about the mission, but they still must fulfill, even at what could be the cost of their life, what they have been called upon to do in both conscription and loyalty to their country.

    I wouldn’t apply such a broad stroke in thinking of them in this way. They are not the problem and nor did they start the war.

    I have listened to enough of my own uncles war stories from Vietnam to know, often times many of them are just doing whatever it takes to survive and make it home.

    Keep working out those issues but perhaps consider this as well.

  • kylereed

    I think you bring some good points up here Andy. I think the reason the line is so murky is because it is either all or nothing.
    I do think that it was a sin to fight against Hitler.Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great Christian philosopher, played a huge part in Hitlers assignation. Which later he repented for. Check this link out:
    It was later said in a book by Hitlers secretary that the assignation attempt to blow him up at his desk actually gave Hitler more belief that he was doing the right thing. Hitler went on to say, I was saved by God through this assignation attempt, and now more than ever I feel like God is using me to get rid of the Jews.
    This to me shows how redemptive violence works. Using violence to stop violence does not work. I am right there with you on the issue of protecting my family. That would be the hardest thing in the world have to do, not to protect them. And honestly, I can’t say that I would not use violence to protect them (i am a sinner and distort things). But I think for the sake of murkiness of the line, it needs to be defined and stated. All violence is wrong. Does it meant that Bonhoeffer is going to hell for his actions, I don’t think so. Does it mean that what he did was right, no. There is forgiveness for sin (Thankfully) but it does not make it right to use violence or evil to make something right.
    I do think that there does need to be a distinction that needs to be made between Christianity and the governments responsibility to protect people. That is why I think Christianity should be separated from country.
    The question that needs to be asked, can we suspend judgment to make a decision? No
    What if a Muslim was President (contrary to belief this is not actually a true statement) would we expect him to check his beliefs at the door?
    Yes. So should the same be said for any Christian president? Yes.
    So then why did almost all Christians vote for Bush? Because he was a Christian.
    You are right, we need to discuss this more. Not just on the blog, but in our class rooms and churches and dinner tables.

  • jakehobbs

    i couldn’t agree more.

  • jakehobbs

    wow. i’m in the chs library right now. i planned on studying for my anatomy test next hour, but i saw your post about chapel and decided to read it. then i went back and read all your war and peace posts. good stuff.

    then i decided to take the last 10 minutes to study. i closed the window and looked down at my book. i tried to move the mouse out of my way. it is sitting on a mousepad with army people on it.

    everytime everyone stood up and clapped for that man at chapel, it felt awkward. i did it a little, but just because everyone else was. but i was thinking in my head the whole time… why am i clapping for this?

  • brennanloveless

    I know you have been thinking about this a lot lately, but from what i gather it sounds like you get from point A-Z really quickly. by your own definition of “Redemptive Violence” then America/the military really has saved lives. To say, “I am going to take your life because otherwise you’ll probably kill more people,” is actually saving lives, right? Do you think that we have killed more Iraqi’s than Saddam? Secondly, do you really think that we DID NOT try diplomacy first? To me, you are historically putting America up there with the Third Reich of Hitler.
    I don’t think that America has to be the “Moral Police” for the entire world, and i can hands down say that we went over there for oil alone or for peace alone or to MAKE Iraq another democratic society. But are you going to sit back and say, “Hey, there are a lot of people dying in Iraq/Africa/North Korea at the hands of Dictators (those people who have killed thousands to show their power) but I don’t think anybody should take them down because that would ruin the peace and be wrong because it’s ‘redemptive’ violence’.” So, as your logic follows, America is just as bad as a dictator ruthlessly killing thousands (or in some cases, millions).
    I really don’t prescribe to the notion that i have an awesome argument or that you are completely wrong; I just think that if you really hate the government that much (and obviously the military) then you should highly consider moving to a neutral country like Canada or Switzerland.
    There are a lot of decisions that i don’t agree with our government for making, but to say, “you joined the army, you served and probably killed people in Iraq, therefore you make me want to vomit” is pretty hardcore man.
    I can see where it could be annoying in the chapel setting, but those are some pretty hardcore conclusions bro.
    Love ya.

  • Justin Travis

    This is a subject that I have struggled with over the last few years and have yet to reach a concrete conclusion on. John Piper preached an entire sermon on this subject that goes into more detail, it is called Terrorism, Justice and Loving our Enemies. And, no I do not believe a leader should check his beliefs at the door, the two should be inseperable and if not I question his charachter. And if we did vote in a muslim president I believe only those who did not vote for him would expect him to disengage his religion for his term. Anyhow, I have not seen you in a while, nice to see you are trying to reform CHS.

  • kylereed

    Brennan, I am not saying that I hate america and that it makes me want to vomit. Actually I am proud to live in America. It is a great country founded on freedom. What I am standing up against is the idea that violence and war is the answer. I do not put USA on the same level of Hitler and the Third Reich, but I am saying that we have to examine what is going on here and our response to attack and war. I have respect military men and women, but I have a hard time respecting what they are doing. They are like a pawn in the hand of the grandmaster (USA). I sometimes feel like that at church (Whole other issue).
    So, hear me out, I am not saying that “you joined the army, you served and probably killed people in Iraq, therefore you make me want to vomit.” I don’t actually think it is true that because we have taken a dictator out we are saving lives. True, maybe a group of people are not going to be killed because a dictator is taken out. But we will always have dictators and we will have always have violence. It doesn’t make it right to kill someone because it stops others being killed. Two wrongs don’t make it right.
    Maybe we did try diplomacy first, I do know that we gave Saddam the weapons that he used and that we thought he would be a great leader of diplomacy in the 90’s.
    Maybe I did get from A-Z pretty quickly, but I think one of the main reasons is because I have never really heard much about this and once I explored some of these issues it hit me in the face and my views changed completely. My heart has not caught up with my mind yet.

  • Nikomas Perez

    A few questions:

    Under what circumstance should a country develop an army? Should they be trained to fight? or just trained to defend? Or should the country be soldierless?

    If our country should have soldiers for defense purposes only, is it the soldiers who are in error or the policy makers who send them to into combat under the pretense of defense?

    Should biblical principles of personal pacifism be applied on institutional/govermental levels? Should the Church be working to change government policies to reflect Christian values and beliefs?

    If so should it just be non-Christians who run the military? If so, should Christians avoid the chaplaincy programs and other non-combative military personnel positions as well? or Does that still support the over-all mission of the war?

    Should we support Americans who pay taxes that pay for the wars? There would be no “swords” if we didn’t pay for them. After, “all or nothing” right?

    Just a few questions to gray up the issue. :)

    I’m personally mostly anti-war…but when you say that we shouldn’t support the troops I think the issue because a lot more gray, something the Bible is fairly quiet on.

  • kylereed

    Nikomas, great questions. With time will come some response, not answers.

  • chelsea callahan

    To add to Nikomas question… if it is non-Christians alone who run the military, is it fair for us Christians to reap the benefits of the protection the military at times provides for us?

    I think it is really easy for Christians in America to say they are anti-war, anti-violence, whatever, because we are still reaping the benefits of what people fighting for us offer. At then end of the day, if we had no army, if we sat back as a nation and were passive, if we were subject to danger (having to, as a nation, trust in God for protection) would we still feel the same way? Or do we just claim to be anti-war under the assurance of safety those who are “sinning” for us provide? Because as of right now, whether we agree with war or not, we can rest assured that we have soldiers fighting for us–would we still feel that way if they weren’t there?

    I don’t know. I struggle with this a lot.

  • Tyler

    Ok, i typed out a huge thing here but then deleted b/c I felt it would’ve been too harsh for my good friend. Some topics are better off discussed in person. The general idea of all my words was: you are wrong. :)

    Have a good day buddy!

  • Shane Smith

    As a former student at CHS, I understand your point of view about the schools chapel services. Personally, I don’t agree with the decision to let the solider take time out of chapel to speak. To me it sends the wrong message to the students and the teachers at the school. Chapel should be chapel and that’s it. If there needs to be an assembly, then so be it, but leave the chapel time for chapel. You wouldn’t stop your church service at church to have some solider take time away from God’s set aside time to talk about how he served in Iraq, or how he missed his 7 months old childs birth. Big deal. He signed up for the military, and that’s his job. Extra special recognition is needed in my opinion. There are hundreds and thousands of other people in the military that have gone through the same thing. I don’t believe that that should take presedence over worshiping God. This type of guest speaker should be envited to the veterans day assemble or something similair. I do think that it was a good idea that the school put a care package togethor and send it to him. As a member of the United States Navy I am obviously not biased to the military or the war, but I will say that the “support our troops” moto is very important for the country. Chapel time however is not the time to be waving that flag though.

  • Julie Fakes-Huckaba

    Hey Nikomas,

    In truth, Ibelieve the Bible speaks volumes about war. I challenge you to study this. I believe the Word of God is very precise and and the issue of war is a black and white issue…no gray! Let me know your thoughts.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Julie Fakes-Huckaba

  • kylereed

    Chelsea, great point here. I have thought about that a lot as well. What if I was threatened and did not have protection of the military, what would I do.
    What I have been doing, is working with my “enemies” that I deal with everyday. This is where my “war” takes place. Often times I want to react in an act of revenge or in an act of anger and get back at them, which I do. But, the struggle for me is to resist this.
    I think you are right Chelsea, it is easy for me to say that I am anti-war, anti-violence, etc…because I am not face to face with it. Where it starts to really bother me, is when the church continues to push the idea of war and violence and more importantly reacting in anger and revenge. Though it does not happen on the surface level, them saying it from the stage, they are promoting through other things like books, quotes, things to sign-up for at church, fear that is spread. Unfortunately, war has been the action of protection and that is all we got. I guess we are reaping the benefits of war.

  • kylereed

    Tyler, thanks for being so nice to me. But, you are wrong…sucker.

  • O

    I am with Brennan, Tyler and others on this one man. You’re off base here. (This aside from the comments about your chapel, that probably was the wrong move.) I actually got really pissed off when I first read your post. I have never been very found of our military (I have my own reasons), but some of the stuff you said was pretty offensive even to me. (Not sure if you know yet, but Maricle is in the army now.) I think Nikomas and Chelsea really bring up some good questions.

    I also am a little worried about the effect some of your comments may have on your students. Just be careful, your words carry a lot more weight now.

    After reading through some of your responses I decided I am not even going to chime in with specifics. You jump around too much and don’t seem to take an actual stance on anything. Even your passing assumptions are way too opinionated, “What if a Muslim was President would we expect him to check his beliefs at the door? Yes. So should the same be said for any Christian president? Yes.” @!#!??

    Lastly, it’s ASSASSINATION!!!!

    I got a new driver and putter this week. Let me know when you feel like getting embarassed.

  • kylereed

    Appreciate you stopping by O’malley.
    It is not that I am against the guys in the Military, I am against what it stands for. I am proud to support my friend Maricle, and others that I know (Specifically here, Shane Smith who commented earlier).
    I want to make that clear.
    What i am struggling with is that you guys here stuff that is running through my mind and often times don’t here the full conversation. I struggle with my writing in this way because I often leave out details that are in my head and expect everyone else to know what I am talking about.
    All I was saying about the Muslim in office checking his beliefs at the door was that I wonder if it is possible to check your beliefs at the door? And if we expect him to, then do other people who have different beliefs have to?

  • Nikomas Perez

    response to Julie,

    I believe you’re referring to my statement “…but when you say that we shouldn’t support the troops I think the issue because a lot more gray, something the Bible is fairly quiet on.”

    Which is concerning individual soldiers…not militaries.

    I think the Bible talks a lot about war, but I don’t think the Bible ever talks about whether or not individuals should join governmental armies or not. It never says joining an army is wrong. It never says joining an army is right. It’s a matter of conviction.

    That makes it gray. Its a matter of conviction/opinion rather than mandate. I may be wrong, but I’d have to see some verse before I admit it :)

  • Brad Nichols

    Even simple words on a “thoughts about nothing” blog can have a dire effect on the young impressionable minds reading this. When we make definitive statements on historically and morally pivotal topics like murder, millitary, and violence, “thoughts about nothing” are no longer “about nothing”. They are about something, and some very important thing. We are socially and morally responsible for the things we say, and we’ll be held accountable. Blogs and blog commentaries don’t excuse us.

    This discussion has torn the Church in a variety of directions throughout the centuries. Out faith is founded upon an unanswerable paradox: the paradoxical death of Jesus Christ as a simultaneous NO to death and YES to life, both within a single instant. Life and death are interconnected at the very heart of Christian reality. We will never fully understand what this means for us, because Christ’s crucifixion was a dialectic of both death and life. Nevertheless, we are part of a human history, a human narrative, and a narrative where we, as co-authors, do not fully understand the most suitable ways to correct ourselves and promote a community of Life.
    Not only so, but we are part of a Church that Christ himself gave us (coming from the word “ecclesia” which actually means “assembly”). The function of the Church is to call the entire world to life, love, justice, and peace alike, because Christ’s call is not a singular one. It is a creational one, and humans are to act as creatures in their aspiration to form and reform culture through a very complicated and flawed dialectic.
    The context of war demands a different type of justification that is demanded in diplomatic affairs. Unfortunately, humans often have two conflicting forms of communicating: one which is articulate (language and dialogue) and one which is inarticulate (a physical gesture which often withdraws from dialogue). Sometimes we use that inarticulate gesture to promote peace by the sword, and, at that point, it is the duty of the entire universal community to judge whether or not that gesture DOES promote peace. Hitler’s inarticulate gesture was to ultimately protect life not spread death. But we also judged him to be wrong. Sometimes another body of people (like the Nazis or the Taliban) is judged to infringe upon the helpless through murder, and it is at this point when we must judge whether or not this is a conclusive no to Life. The language game in war is often a utilitarian one, and it withdraws itself from a diplomatic discussion to enforce what it understands to ultimately be “Life” (believe it or not, fundamentalist Muslims believe in “Life”, “the Good”, “Peace”, and “God”). At that point, the only way we know how to say “yes” to life is to kill, because killing is the only way to bring life within this non-dialogical context. Our moral obligation when engaged in this context is not just ourselves but all of human life. When the enemy makes himself an enemy to life by withdrawing from discussion and resorting to murder to promote “peace”, it is sometimes our duty to kill that human person to restore life. It is the only way we know how in an uncivil dialectic like war. Sometimes the best choice (calling for an immediate response) is the only way we have to aim at the perfect choice. But action should be taken with extreme hesitance.
    As a Catholic, I do not believe in capital punishment for the sole reason that dialogue and restoration to life is possible through civil discipline. I also do not believe we should have gone into Iraq, as our representative Pastor (Pope Benedict) advised against it as an immoral and unnecessary decision (there were more diplomatic avenues available). Nevertheless, uncivility can not always be brought to the demands of civility, and there are times when death is the only option to bring life. There are no definitive answers to these questions and dilemmas within Christianity and our world, because our understanding of ourselves is sought through the non-categorical death-and-life of our Holy Crucifixion. The Crucifixion begs the untimely difficult question “What IS death?” and “What IS life?” . It is a reminder of our post-fall frailty and our needed dependence on Scriptural, historical, creaturely, and cultural wisdom. Sometimes the best choices are not always the obvious ones.