I haven’t written with any regularity for almost a year now. The reasons vary but I’d say the biggest obstacle I’m working to overcome so I can begin writing again would be utter despair due to white supremacy, student debt, anxiety about “finding my place” in the world and contemplating the possibility of LeBron James (henceforth lebum james) winning another NBA Championship.
But I want desperately to be a writer and every writer—be it a poet, a journalist, a theologian—says the best way to become a writer is to write. Novel advice I know.
I want to write with more regularity but beyond that I want to write with more honesty. That’s not to say I want all of what I write from now on to be exclusively confrontational. On the contrary, I want my writing to be a mixture of James Cone’s militancy coupled with the balmy quality of John Coltrane’s rendition of “Favorite Things.” What this means is I’m going to have to embrace the imperfect aspects of writing, take myself less seriously and be more willing to shine a light into the cold, dark, frozen abyss and definitely throw pebbles of hope into its gaping mouth (see Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird).
But yesterday was not a day I felt like throwing pebbles of hope. I would’ve rather thrown some boulders of nihilism sprinkled with apocalyptic doom. I’m a pacifist; not by choice of course but by Christological osmosis. Therefore, I have a rather obtuse conviction: people, but Christians especially, shouldn’t hurt or kill other people. This makes for awkward moments when I interact with police officers, service members or am forced to sit through a Marines trailer before seeing Zootopia.
Advertising ruffles my feathers regardless of what is being advertised, but there’s something especially dubious about advertising when it goes against my pacifist inclinations. So yesterday when I first saw an advertisement for the new Call of Duty videogame, Infinite Warfare, I had an outer-body experience where I imagined myself breaking into Infinity Ward’s headquarters not to attack them but to run up and down its corridors telling all who worked there, “killing people is a bad idea and creating a game that infinitely glorifies killing people is an even worse idea!”
Why do I have my undies in a bundle about this?
Generally, it’s because I have a problem with the propaganda the military uses to convince people that war isn’t as awful as people make it sound. Shiny gear with each new rank, exotic places to explore, the ability to “respawn” one’s own life and one’s buddies lives at will, becoming emotionally hardened to taking a life and watching a life be taken—all this is yours for one easy payment of $79.99! This is a Pollyanna view of war if I’ve ever heard one. War leaves you more or less like Bruce Springsteen says it does, “like a dog that’s been beat too much,” so “you spend half your life just to cover it up.”
Specifically, it’s because I am a Christian and I believe words shape reality. So to propagate a game with the name Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is just as damnable as George Bush Jr., declaring “a War on Terror.” Both bespeak an endless reality of carnage and bellicosity that any Christian worth their weight in denarii will reject because our text tells us nations are not meant to make war with one another (Is. 2:4).
Of course Christians in the U.S. would be hard pressed to unanimously agree on much of anything let alone (non)violence and war. The current “presidential candidates” both roll in Christian circles but you can better bet both feel confident in their ability to discern the appropriate time to launch a nuke (the correct time is never). There’s been some failure on the part of the church in America to capture its disciple’s imaginations for the sake of an infinite peace. Why?
Well maybe it can be traced back to American Christianity’s pact with what Kelly Brown Douglas calls the “myth of Anglo-exceptionality” (aka the devil). Maybe it has to do with the church’s timidity in the face of second-amendment culture. It may have something to do with the church getting too cozy with “therapeutic-technological-consumer-militarism” which promotes an endless narrative of death. My bet is that it can be pinned on Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Christian Realism.”
Whatever the case, I think the author of the 120th Psalm knew what I was felling. The candor with which the author writes is an honesty I hope to one day emulate,
Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
but when I speak,
they are for war.