Patrick Stone’s essay in Christianity Today is powerful and poignant. In “Where Atrocity Is Normal: Understanding Christian soldiers who have seen the horrors of war,” Stone recounts his own experience in Vietnam and reminds us of the atrocities of war and the impossible moral choices that face Christians who participate in them.
Not only are the war stories tragic, but so also is his description of what his experience has been since coming home from Vietnam:
Following my return from Vietnam I spent most Sunday mornings in a church pew wondering, “What does this have to do with what I saw and did in Vietnam?” . . . Since leaving Vietnam 36 years ago, I have rarely attended a Sunday school or church service where specific questions have been raised, let alone discussed, that addressed the events of my tour.
I’m afraid that Stone’s experience has been shared by many in North America who have found themselves in churches that specialize in “Christianity Lite,” and not the historic, biblical faith.
There are resources within the Christian and biblical tradition that address even the atrocities of war and those who participate in them. Not only are there promises of grace and forgiveness for even the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15), but there are also announcements about a King who is coming to subdue the nations (Rev 19:15) until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Rev 11:15). These are announcements that cause us to look away from the kingdoms of man as the final arbiters of justice and to look to Christ and His coming reign in the New Heavens and New Earth (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1).
I just pray for Patrick Stone (and for all of us) that there might be a revival in our land of this Gospel. This message that we preach is not “pie in the sky” but a Savior Jesus Christ who is with us now by His Spirit, comforting us in the face of anguish and preserving us in the hope that He will one day make all things new. It is this biblical Christianity that offers the only hope to a world in in which “atrocity is normal.”