Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bad Guys

I’m a bad guy.

Telling you more than that would be too much information for you and for those who know my situation best, but if you knew, you would say, “E-e-e-w! How can you call yourself a Christian?” To which I reply that the Bible promises forgiveness for those who ask for it through Christ. My salvation is as only sure as those words. Otherwise, I will be spending eternity in well-earned torment. Or there’s no god and nothing ultimately matters.

I’m presently feeling most acutely my failure as a father. I was shown up yet again by, of all things, a baseball broadcast. A foul ball went straight back into the stands, where it was caught by the father of a girl about four years old. He gave the ball as a prize to his daughter, who promptly turned around and threw it back down onto the field. You could see for an instant that the father felt the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir, but he immediately gave his daughter a big smile and hug. That event has since been replayed as filler more often than any play made on the field all season and is destined to become a cliché for parental forgiveness. (Less known is that the thrown ball wrecked the laptop computer of a fan in the lower deck.)

When my son was that age, I bought a cheapo handheld cassette tape recorder to take to the village to record language data. He made some childish mistake and damaged it—I think it was still usable—soon after we arrived in the village. I can still remember him cowering on my bed while I stood over him and vented my fury. He may eventually have gotten an apology, but I don’t think he ever got a hug.

It is in that light that I share a recent conversation I had with a certain Army captain who has just graduated from a military intelligence school. When I asked him what he had found most interesting, he responded that the most interesting things were things he couldn’t tell me, but he had enjoyed learning how the Army identifies the “bad guys” and gets hold of their plans.

We know what he meant by “bad guys”: Iraqi insurgents. Now, my gratitude for our government is perfunctory at best (until I look around at the alternatives), but I would have a difficult time loving, say, the Chinese if they were to kill my wife or child “liberating” me from it. It is cowardice more than principle that would keep me from joining an insurgency against my purported liberators. So I don’t necessarily consider Iraqi insurgents bad guys.

Then came the real whammy: “What made the whole five months worthwhile was the final exercise, where we pretended we were Germans who had successfully invaded Britain in World War II. Our job was to put down the insurgency.”

Let me back up. There was a Saturday years ago when, instead of spending time making pleasant memories with my children, I joined a bunch of guys for a game of Diplomacy, where you play the role of ambassadors and politicians. After a couple of hours, it seemed obvious to me that the only way to win was to lie to and betray the other players and start wars of conquest. I’m such a pansy I couldn’t take it and had to leave.

So now my tax money pays for the US military to consider those who would defend Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy bad guys? What kind of person would enjoy playing the role of those charged with forcing the Final Solution on Britain? (Hey, it’s just a game, right?) Even if I agree with Pat Buchanan that World War II was unnecessary and that the Allies were every bit as imperialist, though arguably not as murderous, as the Axis powers, I have to wonder. Depraved as I am, I couldn’t hack two hours of doing it in a board game.

I know what kind of person enjoys playing that role: a Christian. Where the atheist Butler Shaffer says that “the state is inherently hostile to and at war with human life in all of its expressions,” the apostle Paul says that politicians, the Ahabs and Neros and Hitlers no less than anyone else, “hold no terror for those who do right…. He is God’s servant to do you good.…The authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”

Today the Brits, tomorrow you and me. Well, me anyway: I’m a bad guy.

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