Friday, November 11, 2011

Call of Duty?

As I write this the echoes of the Last Post and Reveillé linger in the air.  It is Remembrance Day and my thoughts move from the reverence of so many commemorations I have participated in on this day to a different reality.  We have named wars for a very long time and you probably know many of those names; the Hundred Years War, the War of the Roses, the War of 1812, the Boer War, the War to End All Wars, and so on.  Behind the names of the great wars (I mean in size and not quality) lie events of human tragedy that defy imagination, as do the costs which are beyond all comprehension.
However, even as we know this week as a time to mark solemn commemoration we may have missed another “marking.” 
This week one of the greatest moments in our culture passed and was marked by great numbers of people – but probably not you, or me.  This last week the entertainment world saw the passing of a milestone in sales of one of their products.  Line ups of the estimated 1.5 million people who wanted to buy the product stretched for city blocks in cities like Toronto, Peterborough and Pembroke. 
The product to which I am referring is known by most of the millions of people who bought it as “COD MW3.”  What the acronym stands for is “Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3.”  It is a video game which sells for less than $100.00 in this country and which has a world wide audience. 
 Why talk about a video game on Remembrance Day?
 Because as much as we do our best to commemorate the lives lost in wars in this country and in many others around the world; as much as we tell ourselves, and pray, that war will somehow be defeated so that no young men and women will again have to give up their lives “for the cost of freedom,” we continue to catechize young people, far younger than are permitted to die in wars, in the practice and praise of war.
I have not played this version of COD but I have played other such video games.  I have seen how the most vicious and heinous acts of brutality are celebrated in a game system which glorifies violence with all the immediacy and visceral skill that contemporary digital and high definition games can muster.  It is overwhelming and very impressive. 
It is also at cross purposes to what this day embraces and marks – November 11th, Remembrance Day.  On this day we pray for peace, lament the reality of war, remember those who fought and died in too many wars, and console those who have lost loved ones.  At the same time record sales of a war based violent video game continue today to climb to what industry insiders predict could be as many as one million copies a day this week.
The disconnect between what is happening today in places such as our Deep River Town Hall, and the Cenotaph in Ottawa (and almost all such similar places around our country) and what people who have the day off are also doing in their living rooms and on computer screens around this same country could not be any greater. 
It is that disconnect which I lament today.
On the one hand hundreds of thousands will pause and remember our fallen women and men in past wars; and on the other today’s youth (and many adults) will “enjoy” themselves by playing a game which glorifies the wars we seem to want to eradicate as we remember on this day. 
I believe that we, as Christians, must not be afraid to name such incongruities.  That on a day such as this we should remember that war, as monstrous as we liken it to be, is still celebrated by our culture in ways that at first seem harmless but are, in my opinion, extremely powerful and influential.  We, as Christians, cannot let the disconnection between lamenting the cost and consequences of war on the one hand, and our complicity in war’s propaganda by not naming and criticizing the commercial glorification of war on the other, continue. 
I am not advocating an attack on the freedom people enjoy that allows them to buy such video games. 
What I am advocating is the fact that we, as a Christian community, can raise our voices together and name such incongruities in our culture, and perhaps in our church, and prayerfully end them.  We can indeed build a place where our prayers for peace this week will find their enlivening in recognizing that the love affair that our culture has with violence and war must not go unchallenged.  Perhaps more importantly, our own complicity in silence to what our culture celebrates must not continue.  Our “Call of Duty” as Christians must be to reject such things as acceptable, or merely as “games,” and name them for what they are: the exaltation of a culture of violence and the incipient training of a generation of young people in the values and practices of that same culture.
To do no less is to mark this week of Remembrance with a lack of integrity which dishonors those whom we profess to remember.  Christianity’s “Call of Duty” is to be aware of what surrounds us in our culture and to be willing to name its power over us. At the same time to raise our voice in refusal to accept such things as merely a matter of course or a cause for celebration.
We are in the early stages of the engagement of our plans to make our church accessible.  “Building to Grow the Church” should not just be about bricks and mortar; it must also be about building to grow a church where God’s voice is accessible to all and calls out to a world addicted to violence and war with a different voice.  The voice of a man whom we believe, among other things, lived and died and paid a great sacrifice to end our penchant towards violence as a means to solve our serious problems – be they geo-political conflict, internal national conflicts, or even the apparent triviality of being entertained by graphically interactive violence and death.  We have the gift of building a place where we can learn to catechize each other against all forms of such things and offer that gift to others whom I believe are thirsty for it and in real need of it.
Perhaps building such a place would truly honor those whom we must remember with integrity today; not just once a year on Remembrance Day but with each passing day we live in peace, God’s peace.