Contributor Ben Wideman is campus pastor with 3rd Way Collective in State College, PA.
President Donald Trump won’t get his parade (at least not this year). However, the Fourth of July celebrations in DC this year will have tanks and military vehicles on display.
Admittedly, my first reaction upon hearing this news was some relief because rumblings about a military parade through the Capitol have been present since Trump’s election. But the more I consider this possibility, the more I welcome a military parade.
Here are five reasons why…
- Citizenship – A military parade reminds those of us from a peace tradition to consider our citizenship in a country which prides itself on military might. A parade can encourage us to ask where our loyalties lie and challenge us to consider how we participate or benefit from our warfare driven culture.
- Action – A military parade can call us to action. Many of us who claim to follow the nonviolent way of Jesus live our daily lives in a country that is currently planning a parade showcasing its military might and do little about it. The public spectacle of a military parade can encourage us in turn to make a public declaration of our commitment to active nonviolence and peace. It challenges us as individuals and as congregations to be speaking Christ’s peace into whatever context we find ourselves.
- Priorities – A military parade reminds us of our national priorities and how our government has chosen to spend federal funds. Increased military spending seems to be an annual part of our national budget (regardless of party), and in the past few years have coincided with cutbacks to social services and environmental programs. A parade reminds us of the increasing need to stand up and for the most marginalized in our midst, in a time when our government has chosen to cut back from many programs that help vulnerable people.
- Cost – The USA already significantly outspends the rest of the world on military expenses. A military parade would require significant cost to plan and implement, and the political opposition to the proposed parade are already asking for the sticker price and expressing concern about shifting funding away from combat. Perhaps as peace people we can take some solace in the fact that a military parade would shift resources to an event which would not claim any lives. It also reminds us of the overwhelming price we pay for our military power.
- Fear – The best reason to hold a military parade is to illuminate how much our country depends on fear and insecurity. A parade is a way to show off our nationalism and strength, and to affirm again our American exceptionalism over other nations. It provides the perfect setting for us to engage our neighbors and friends about why Christ’s people are called to reject those things. It serves as a reminder that as people of faith we reject our culture of fear and see all the earth’s citizens as children of the living God.
Peace church people like the Mennonites like to think of ourselves as “People of God’s Peace” (In fact, some of us occasionally sing a hymn with this title and refrain), and perhaps a parade would force us to consider again what it means to live more fully and boldly into that title. Perhaps we can see the pending military parade as an opportunity to once again lift up an alternative way of living against the violent history of this country. May we continue to boldly and prophetically strive to join God’s peaceful Spirit as it moves throughout our world.