While I think I understand the impulse that inspires St. Stephen’s to pray for all members in the armed services by name I, personally, am uncomfortable with the practice. This is partly because I wouldn’t want my name, or my child’s or any family member’s announced publicly each and every week for years and years, in any context. I can manage that as another instance of different cultural norms and, consequently, my problem.
However, there is a deeper, more disturbing issue. I don’t know who sets the details of liturgy in the parish, so I’m sending this to you.
Some of those in the U.S. military are occupying sovereign nations, confronting civilians daily with the threat of force of arms, as well as the terror inflicted by drone strikes and acts of [often unsanctioned] nastiness. Yet we don’t pray for the lands occupied, nor do we pray for a speedy and just end to the violence, except in the the most general terms. If we’re going to name names, perhaps we should include those on the receiving end of U.S. military operations: the Iraqi people, the people of Afghanistan, the Yemeni people, the Okinawans, …
When I hear that list of names, I am struck by how long it is for so small a parish. The only prayer I can muster is of repentance for the unwarranted violence Americans have fomented around the world, especially in the last 14 years; a plea that the hearts and souls of all – perpetrators and victims (and spectators) alike – may be healed; and that the sorry specimens running the show may, at long last, get over their hubris and accord others the respect and justice they think they deserve. I hear none of that in the reading of the list.
People of the Way calls the Church to look at the needs of those coming hard on our heels. Perhaps, even though many of us have solid careers behind us, we should be praying for those who serve to improve working conditions in Tennessee, or stop the gutting of public education and other public services. There is a link between poor educational opportunities, poor preparation, a poor job market and increased interest in military service.
I am not against military service. In fact, I believe ALL Americans should be required to contribute a year or two to public service, with the military one option among many. I am, however, against glorifying military service above other callings or jobs. Especially in a sanctuary. Especially in a litany almost as long as the rest of the Prayers of the People.
I saw this collect yesterday and thought it would fit well after that litany of local folks in U.S. military uniforms:
A prayer penned by Dionysius reads,“O God the Father, Origin of Divinity, good beyond all that is good, fair beyond all that is fair, in whom is calmness, peace, concord: Heal the dissensions that divide us from one another, and bring us back into the unity of love that resembles your divine nature.”
What do you think? Should we acknowledge the suffering of our neighbors equally with the service of our members? Should we reflect in our public prayers on what “the unity of love that resembles [God’s] divine nature” might look like?