Monday, May 02, 2005

War Before Education

I use to hesitate speaking to others about my belief and conviction in Christian pacifism. I didn't want to upset anyone and was worried I might offend someone I love. Over the past year, however, I have gone from closed mouth to someone who can't shut up about the legitimacy of Christian pacifism. This new found boldness came from the realization that the majority of Christians and non-Christians are only taught one side. Whether from the pulpit or in the classroom, all a person hears is the reasons for participating in war. At best they are taught "just war" theory and at worst they are taught "kill or be killed". So if someone is going to continue to give reasons for participation in war, then I am going to be a voice of dissent and challenge their assumptions which in reality have no substance. There are many dimensions that make up my conviction for Christian pacifism. Besides the obvious spiritual dimension in which war conflicts with the commandments of Jesus, there is also an economic dimension which makes war an impractical and insane practice.

In Feburary 2005, the Washington Post analyzed the President's proposed budget for 2006 and their findings were astounding.

Proposed 2006 Department Budgets:

Department of Housing and Urban Development--> 28.5 billion
Department of State--> 38.1 billion
Department of Education--> 56 billion

Department of Defense--> 419.3 billion (78 billion on weapons systems)

Does anyone else see a serious problem?

A good friend of mine told me a good way to see what is important to someone is to see where they spend 1) Their time 2) Their energy 3) Their money

First, Where does the nation spends its time? While the nation spends its time with all kinds of matters, defense is definitely given top priority. Think of all that goes into forming attack plans and bombing strikes and counter offensives. The time that goes into finding the most effective way to defeat the enemy. The odd thing is that for all their time planning it seems that more innocent civilians than combatants are killed in warfare. Imagine what could happen to our education system if we spent just as time thinking of better ways to educate our children. Thinking and developing new and sharper curriculum to enhance the learning process. Thinking of better ways to use the various kinds of media we have in the 21st century. Thinking of better ways to discipline children that would build up and strengthen rather than what tears down and destroys a child. But this kind of thinking isn't even on the radar of the national conscious. We seem more concerned about Al-Qaeda and the war on terror.

Second, Where does the nation spend its energy? According to the Washington Post article, 78 billion of the 419 billion goes to weapon systems alone. 78 billion dollars given over to develop more efficient means to kill people. 78 billion dollars to develop more efficient means to torture people. Many people make an entire career on delveloping new means of technology that serve one end: to destroy other human beings. Imagine if we spent just as much time developing the young minds of today. If we spent as much time giving our children a well rounded education. A education that not only taught the basic math and reading, but allowed our students to express themselves in art and music. Sadly, many art and music programs have become expendable in order to meet the ever growing defense budget.

Third, Where does the nation spend its money? If the numbers were some what close, then there would be little reason for discussion. The department of education was budgeted 56 billion dollars while the department of defense gets 419 billion dollars. As you can see the numbers are not even close. I know 56 billion is nothing to frown at, but how much stronger could education be with just half of the defense budget. NYC public schools has a budget of almost 2 billion and that's just one city, but somehow the department of education is suppose to provide for nation's children with 56 billion dollars. I can't explain the reason for the canyon of difference, but it seems to me that we would rather find news ways to destroy our fellow human being, than teaching him or her to read and write.

I know money is not the cure-all, but it is absolutely a part of the solution. As it stands right now some teachers can earn more picking up trash for the city and could probably get better health insurance. By providing better salaries and better insurance schools could choose from the cream of the crop rather than dragging from the bottom of the barrel. My brother, a social worker, has told me story after story of kids in middle school who can't read and can't do math because they can't read word problems. Vital programs are being cut from our schools while more and more money is going into the bottomless pit called Iraq which is only leading to more insurgent attacks.

So this week ask yourself what is most important. Is it to have a supreme weapons system capable of destroying thousands of people? Or is it to make sure our children are given the best education possible? Our defense should not rely on bullets, bombs, or F-16 Tomcats. Education is our best defense. Only education can defend us against the true enemies who are ignorance, hate and fear. The only way our enemies will succeed is if we continue to put war before education.


Coming Next Week: Shiloh: Year 6!


J-Wild 9:03 PM  

Chris...excellent points. I particurally like how you advocate for an increase in education spending, not just an abolishing of the defense department. You are right that 56 billion isn't just a drop in the bucket. I am sure there isn't any other country that comes close to that figure (although per-capita might be closer). I hope we can start funding education, health care, and other vital services in ways that reflect our vast resources and our will to have a better future.

You know what will make this happen. China and India. "Study hard kids, because someone is China is dying for your job!"

Anonymous,  9:11 PM  

I would agree that we misplace our money, but I don't think that money is what will fix our education problem. Unfortunately, you could throw all the money in the world towards teachers and schools and if their parents aren't engaged, committed to their success, and a stable force at home, kids will fail.

This is proven over and over again with magnet schools (see my home state of Missouri). In Kansas City and St. Louis in the late 80's, the state government threw enormous amounts of money towards bussing kids from black areas to white areas AND in developing state of the art magnet schools. What happened? Nothing. That was the problem. After all that money was spent, those school districts showed no marked improvement in scores. Why? The money did not change the neighborhoods and families that those kids were coming from. That is where the church comes in (or should - but we both know it doesn't today).

As for war, I have to say that I dislike it as well. I see no alternative though. To me, it's the bully on the playground analogy. If a kid is beating up on another kid on the playground, do you as a Christian intervene? I think we are called to. We should start by asking the bully to stop. If that doesn't work, we might threaten. If all that doesn't work, force is required. In the case of Iraq, this was what was happening. Are innocent people being killed in Iraq right now? Yes. Were more being killed by Saddam? Yes. At least now, people are free to express their beliefs in that country.

I'm not naive enough to think that this same problem isn't going on other places. THat is a typical argument I hear. "Then why don't we get involved in North Korea, or Iran?", people say. I would argue that we don't have the resources to do that. On top of that, the world hates it when we stand up to the bully, because they think WE are the bully. When they need help though, we are always first on the list to call.

Finally, God uses war for his purposes in the Bible - a whole bunch in the Old Testament. I think that God understands the humans will fight forever, and that some things are worth fighting for. Why else would he have commanded it of his people in the Old Testament?


Chris Ewing 4:58 AM  

Loving the comments.

I would love it when people actually think for themselves and don't accept ideas at face value, but dig beneath the surface.

I would like offer a response:

1)"Parents must be involved in their child's education"...Agreed. No dollar amount can compare to the influence and effect a parent's involvement can have in their child's education. If my parents don't care, why should I? Great point.

2) "Force is sometimes necessary to stop the bully on the playground"... Lovingly Disagree.

We must intervene, but as Christ intervenes. How does Christ intervene? By taking on the suffering for us. The difference with Christ is that he would intervene to protect both the bully and the innocent child.

He would take the blows for the child if necessary and at the same time not inflict blows on the bully to protect him or her. Just as he took the cross for us and did not return the favor.

3)"Since the O.T, is filled with war, then it must be ok now."...Again Lovingly Disagree

We are not disciples of David. We are disciples of Christ. The blood of Christ brings peace and end the war between us and God (Col 1:20). If you love me, obey my commands (Jn 14). Yes, God war as a means in the O.T., but in the N.T. God chooses to use peace. We no longer need to blood of bulls or goats because the blood of Christ is enough.

I don't expect everyone to pacificst, but i do expect Christians to be. I don't expect pagans, atheists or agnostics to understand the love and grace of Christ.

"We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles" 1Co

To world it is foolish to love one so much that you are willing to love those who inflict the suffering.

To the Christian, however, we know that any suffering we take on for because of our faith in Christ will in the end be redeemed.

Again, thanks jason and brent for the comments. it's nice to know at least somebody is reading.

PS- A better question is, can you be a Cardinal fan and a Christian at the same time?

J-Wild 5:57 AM  

Chris good responses. I do think your example of Christ taking on the punishment from the bully is a little too personal and not "global" enough of an analogy for a nation. Look THE primary role of a government is to protect it's people. Protect it from ignorance, themselves, other nations, moral depravity, etc. The way this country does that is by a consensus of laws that spell out acceptable behavior. Other countries do this by the whims and desires of one or a few people in charge.

The State doesn't have the luxury of just sitting back and letting itself be slapped silly. It would go against it's fundamental responsibility. However, individually this isn't the case. That is why the US we have people like Marla Ruzicka". Marla was taking on the role you described Christ would on the playground. The government is very limited (both by will and ability) to take on that role.

Did you see this picture of the soldire comforting the dying child. Isn't it an amazing picture of our own humanity. I am going to blog about this later.

Anyway, looking forward to Shiloh '06 and U2 '05!

J-Wild 6:21 AM  

One more thing....Read Friedman's editorial in the NYT here. This is what will motivate us to get serious about education. By the way do you have his book The World is Flat. I have it, and have only read the first chapter, but WOW it's huge!

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