November is a conflicted time of year for me. And November 11 – Remembrance Day – sits right there near the middle of the month. It cries out for a response.
Do I wear a red poppy? Or should I wear a white poppy in support of the No More War movement born in the 1920s? Or perhaps I should wear MCC’s “To remember is to work for peace” button.
Should I attend veterans’ memorial services? Or should I participate in a counter-cultural peace expression as some Christians do? I don’t want to dishonour the veterans who say “Lest we forget” and “Never again.” Nor do I, as a Christian believer in non-violent peace building, want to honour war.
The tradition of Remembrance Day has evolved to mean many different things to many different people. That complicates matters. I’m not certain that any symbol I wear can adequately reconcile my conflicted feelings about Nov. 11.
What does seem right to me is to respond to Remembrance Day graciously and without confrontation.
I am reminded of Palmer Becker’s three main points in his booklet What is an Anabaptist Christian: “Jesus is the centre of our faith. Community is the centre of our lives. Reconciliation is the centre of our work.”
Palmer’s third point is particularly relevant to me. I want my response to say that reconciliation is the centre of my work. But I’m not sure that a symbol – any symbol – can adequately convey that message.
But I can imagine what that message might look like. Not just on Remembrance Day, but throughout the whole year.
It should look like respecting and befriending those who chose to sacrifice their lives in war, even though I may disagree with their choice. It should mean supporting veterans in their efforts to seek healing when they return home – even if I disagree with the reasons for their injuries. It should mean we graciously welcome back to our Mennonite faith communities those of our own who have chosen military service – even though we may not believe that military intervention is a faithful solution. These are all responses offered in the spirit of reconciliation.
Discerning how to respond to Remembrance Day is not an easy task. But neither should it be. To question the reason for which good people have sacrificed their health and lives should never be an easy exercise. Only with humility and respect can helpful dialogue occur.
How will you respond to Remembrance Day?