Monday, March 26, 2007

War and faith

Seems like a weird combination doesn't it? I'm taking a course called "Religion in America" at Gettysburg Seminary this semester. Today we took a "field trip" ... literally ... out to the Virginia monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield. I must admit, as a Californian the whole Civil War thing seemed really remote to me growing up - just a bunch of names I had to memorize for my American History class in high school so I could pass the test.

But now, here I am, going to seminary in the middle of this Civil War battlefield. Tour buses literally drive right through the campus (which means we have to be on our best behavior when trying to parse Greek verbs when we're sitting outside!).

So our class went out to the Virginia monument on Seminary Ridge today - just south of the campus (that's General Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveler on the top of the monument). The whole of Seminary Ridge is the former Confederate line. Driving down it, you come upon monument after monument to the various Confederate Army units. When you look out over the battlefield facing the direction Gen. Lee is facing, you can see Cemetery Ridge and all of the monuments to the Union Army's units.

Stanley Hauerwas was our guest lecturer this year at the Luther Colloquy. He spoke about war and offered his observations that the Civil War was a theological war insofar as the deaths of so many soldiers were wrapped in sacrificial imagery for a glorious cause. Ever since the Civil War, the U.S. has cast every conflict in the language and imagery of glorious sacrifice. Instead of trusting in the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice, once for all, we repeatedly sacrifice our youth on the altar of war.

It's a strange irony that it was the Confederacy who lined up along Seminary Ridge (they actually took over the seminary and used the cupola on our library as a command center). The losing side of the War and this battle were lined up with a seminary which prepares ministers for Christ's church. The slaughtered alongside the Crucified. Something to ponder going into Holy Week.


Prairie Pastor said...

So you're at LTSG--an interesting place for a seminary. It's my alma mater, and I must confess a bit of jealousy that you were able to be at this year's Luther Colloquy.

One of the things that struck me about G'Burg is that it surely must be a "thin place" (in the Celtic sense of the term)--where so much death and hope intermingled the boundaries between heaven and earth are surely malleable.

One book you might find interesting while you're there is The Hospital on Seminary Ridge. I'm sure copies are available in the library.

Peace and blessings to you--and good luck dodging the tour buses.

"Almost Reverend" Anjel said...

Very cool to find a fellow "G'burger" here in the blogosphere!

I agree - Gettysburg is a "thin place" - at times it's very palpable. My home congregation, St. Mark's Episcopal, sits on the northern part of the Antietam Battlefield area (not part of the park, but there were skirmishes at the church). It's much the same there too - especially at the farm just south of the churchyard where Dr. Maddox treated the wounded from both sides.

Thanks for the recommendation on the book - I'll check it out.