Chris McDonnell: The Stark Choice Before Us

The stark choice before us

Chris McDonnell March 12th 2022

La Croix International

Tanks in the city streets. Blocks of flats on fire. Wrecked and burnt-out trucks, twisted metal and shattered windows. Small groups of cold and frightened civilians shelter in basements from the insistent barrage. Welcome to the stark face of the mechanics of European war in the late winter of 2022.

In recent days we have seen in News bulletins the sheer horror of modern warfare as a powerful state unleashes its fearful modern weaponry on its neighbor with careless abandonment.

These days of conflict over-lap the beginning of the period of Lent in the Latin church, a time where we rightly reflect on our Christian direction, seeking direction on the path we are currently taking, ever-anxious to draw closer to the Lord our God.

The example of generosity shown by the people of neighboring countries on the Western border of the Ukraine leaves us asking – would we have done the same?

Our Christian faith tells us that we should be generous in sharing what we have with those who are in need. Faced with the reality of over a million refugees – and with that number rising by the hour – others have risen to the challenge with open hands and open homes, welcoming strangers in need into their communities, giving shelter, food and warm clothing to ease their discomfort after a perilous journey.

Our journey through Lent may not be perilous but it ought to be challenging, bringing us face to face with who we are, face to face with the Lord whose name we carry.

This Lent the choice is obvious how to help a nation under ruthless attack by its neighbor, a nuclear super-power. There have been countless arguments and discussions as to what we might do and the risks involved. The use of NATO aircover would involve the high risk of world war, Armageddon would have arrived with the likely final days of life on this planet that is our common home.

How should we react to the choices that face us in ever growing numbers? How do the arguments of those who support peace movements stand up when faced with the evident prospect of a nuclear exchange? Already in the UK there are men, some of them ex-soldiers, preparing to travel to the Ukraine to support the resistance to the Russian invader, reminiscent of the International Brigade and their involvement in the Spanish Civil War in the ‘30s.

I would suggest that compared with the Cuban emergency of October ‘62 that we are in a more dangerous position. Then Jack Kennedy was able to offer Nikita Khrushchev a face-saving way of backing down by removal of NATO missiles from Turkey. A few years ago, I met with a Russian Colonel, who, at that time, was in charge of a nuclear missile launching group. He told me that they were within 2 hours of launching their weapon. But in the end conflict was averted.

This time it is different. There appears to be no acceptable way that we can offer something to save the face of an ex-KGB officer who seeks to re-establish the territory of the Soviet days. When cornered there is no telling how he might react.

So, this Lent we will, in fact, be treading a dangerous path, a Lenten journey that is different. Remember, Jesus met his death at the hands of an army of occupation, albeit delivered in consequence of the decision of the Sanhedrin.

An army that occupies a conquered country is never welcome, always the subject of contempt and sniper attack, missing the home-comfort of their Motherland and family.

That is the tragedy of this present conflict for there appears to be no obvious endgame, just the endless, pitiless stream of refugees seeking solace in a foreign land. Their former homes destroyed, the splendor of their European cities shattered and broken, monuments to the stupidity of conflict.

We can all ask questions as to how this might have been prevented. But that is like a football crowd offering an opinion to the defence when the ball is bulging the back of the net. No, now we must face up to the inherently difficult task of containment and cessation of fighting.

Where does all this put the Christian facing such onslaught? It is easy to hold pacifist opinions from a comfortable armchair, much harder to face up to the reality of the hour when your family life is at risk from bullet or bomb.

Maybe there is a thread here for us to explore on this year’s Lenten journey towards the feast of Passover.

To quote a few words from the poet of the First World War, Wilfred Owen – ”My subject is war and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.” There is pity in the needless loss of life and the grotesque injuries to fellow human beings. There is waste when fine buildings are reduced to piles of rubble with the drift of smoke from burning wood hanging in the air.

Time and again after wars we make pledges not to fight again as described in Ed McCurdy’s song ‘Strangest Dream’:

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They’d never fight again

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed.

Eloquent words, hopeful dreams, yet still people in disagreement suffer the enormity and pain of war.






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  1. Kevin Walters says:

    Chris McDonnell: The Stark Choice Before Us

    From Donum Vitae “God alone is the Master of life from its beginning until its end; no one under any circumstances can claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human life.”

    Abortion is an act of violence upon the innocent, but even today as Christians, do we not still condone violence? As the term ‘Just War’(Theory) continually shatters the reality of this teaching given by the Church.

    The teaching by the church on a Just War is nothing more than a minefield with regards to its application of justified murder. Can there be anything more perverse than giving the Holy Eucharist to opposing Christian soldiers just before going into battle against each other?

    Prior to Luke 22:36, we have Luke 22:35, Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out without purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing, they answered”.

    So, from now on we see the divide between the true believer/follower who trusts in God alone whereas those who rely on possessions need to protect them, as in Luke 22;36 “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one” and since the time of Christ, we see the continual escalation of violence.

    But of course, society at large must be governed by the rule of law and we need a police force to enact it, etc. But the use of Violence-‘an act of physical force that causes or is intended to cause harm’ was condemned by Christ when Peter struck the High Priest’s slave, cutting off his right ear He said, “Put away your sword,” Jesus then told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword”. (Violence)

    Before writing the poem below my initial thought prompting me to write it was, can anyone imagine Jesus Christ carrying a gun, never mind using one, dropping a bomb on civilians/soldiers from an aircraft, or sticking a bayonet into anyone, etc? I think not, as we see His disarming action when we approach Him on The Cross and when/if this disarming action is encountered in a real-life situation, it confronts our own values and for a Christian, it should induce humility.

    “Attach bayonets! courage and glory are the cry, do or die
    First over the Parapet
    John leads the Ferocious attack
    While opposing Hans reciprocates the advance to the death dance
    In crater of mud both stood
    Eye met eye one must die
    But who would hold true to the Christian creed they both knew?
    ‘To be’ the sign of the Cross,
    To ‘give’ without counting the cost
    Abandon bayonet, bowed head, bending knee, faith/love the other did see
    Worldly values gone the other in humility now holding the same song/pray.~

    Two quotes from another poster on another site, in italics.

    “But it (Violence)must sometimes be used in self-defence” I am sure that we all would respond and defend a loved one or vulnerable person if they were been attacked and attempt to restrain the attacker within the confines of the law and violence could occur but it would not be premeditated. In English law, if a burglar entered your house and in attempting to restrain him, you killed him, you would not be guilty of murder but if you had kept a machete under the bed to use in the possibility of an attempted break-in and you killed the intruder with it, you would be prosecuted for murder as the occurrence would be premeditated. So yes, our intent is the key.

    “According to you we must let Hitler get away with his plan since we cannot fight back.”

    Jesus tells us that His Kingdom (Values) is not of this world. We are not to be alarmed by wars or rumours of them. And by implication partake in them. Terms such as collateral damage (definition: 1. during a war, the unintentional deaths and injuries of people who are not soldiers) are just a cover to justify the premeditated ‘ever-increasing violence of war’.

    I personally believe that as Christians we cannot fight back with the weapons of the world for to do so is to contribute to the never-ending ‘increasing’ cycles of injustice within war, leading us further into the “Signs of the End of the Age” see Matt 24:1-28 but we can fight back with His teachings on love/truth/justice that are found within the Gospels when we also recognize/embrace the reality of The Cross (The Way the Truth and the Life).

    Quote from another poster on another site “After nearly 2,000 chaotic, planet-destroying years of going our own way (always ‘In His Name’, of course!) isn’t it time, at last, for us to follow Jesus in truth?’

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Kevin Walters says:

    Chris McDonnell: The Stark Choice Before Us

    A comment by X on another site to this statement in my post above

    “Can there be anything more perverse than giving the Holy Eucharist to opposing Christian soldiers just before going into battle against each other?

    X said “Not giving the Holy Eucharist, a Viaticum, to Christian soldiers, would be more perverse”.

    Perverse – definition is – turned away from what is right or good; Corrupt.

    Here are some similar responses to yours X in italics given under another article with my responses which demonstrate Perversion definition – alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended:

    “Is the individual on either side to be denied salvation?

    Salvation comes from serving a lively conscience, reception of the Holy Eucharist should enliven it, as Christians, we serve God first.

    “Only God reads the individual’s hearts. So yes, combatants on either side should be given Communion and the Sacraments”.

    By giving the Holy Eucharist to a combatant on both sides just before going into battle is to deaden that man’s conscience in relation to the teachings of Jesus Christ the King of Peace, Love, and Justice.

    “Soldiers are not always able to discern what it is exactly all about”.

    Knowing and giving the Holy Eucharist by the ordained ministry is to collude with that ignorance by condoning it, in effect, they are propagating the violence of War between Christians. You may not see this as being perverse, I do.

    “There are many complexities to war. So, the individual combatant is not always aware nor capable of discerning what is actually happening.”

    Yes as many complexities (Crimes of violence) are associated with war while combatants and military personal often say, ”We were just following orders”. But our Christian faith demands more of us, as our consciences must serve justice.

    “We are not pacifists as other sects are.”

    The first recorded conscientious objector was Maximilianus, conscripted into the Roman Army in the year 295, but “told the Proconsul in Numidia that because of his religious convictions he could not serve in the military”. He was executed for this and was later canonized as Saint Maximilian.

    We all walk in our fallen nature, nevertheless, I am sure that throughout the ages many Christians have gone into battle on both sides thinking that they are doing God’s will aided and abetted by a worldly hierarchical church.

    So “Can there be anything more perverse corrupting than giving the Holy Eucharist to opposing Christian soldiers ‘just before’ going into battle against each other?”

    I think not, to think otherwise is to hold the teachings of the Crucified Christ in contempt.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  3. Kevin Walters says:

    Chris McDonnell: The Stark Choice Before Us

    To agree with abortion is to carry the guilt of abortion and I am sure that those that do so, will be held accountable before God, may God have mercy on them. To agree with the dropping of the atomic bomb is to carry the guilt of all of the innocents who perished by those who used it and I believe that they also will be held accountable before God, may God have mercy on them. I believe that the atomic bomb is ‘The Abomination of Desolation’. May God have mercy on all of us.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  4. Kevin Walters says:

    Chris McDonnell: The Stark Choice Before Us

    A correction to my post above as given on another Website

    “I correct Kevin on a crucial technical point, not his religious judgment as many may share this misunderstanding.
    An Atomic bomb can be thought of as the match that sets fire to a H bomb, the main charge. Atomic bombs are no longer used by militaries of the superpowers, Russia and the US; A bombs do exist in the inventories of lesser powers. In the hell of nuclear war, H bombs are roders of magnitude more destructive, in many ways.
    I share his judgment on the use of both weapons, they are “The Abomination of Desolation. May God have mercy on all of us.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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