Learning from Pearl Harbor by the Rev. Kristofer Lindh-Payne

Remembering this day all those who died 75 years ago in the attack on Pearl Harbor, I trust fully that their souls rest in peace and I give thanks for their lives, their service, and their sacrifice.

I am intrigued by what motivates a people to action.

Opposition to America’s involvement in the war was widespread until this tragedy occurred and as the narrative goes the nation rallied under the banner:“Remember Pearl Harbor”. The so called “sleeping giant” that was awakened by this attack, and prompted the United States entry into WWII, had not been previously stirred by the cries of many for assistance including the warning signs of what would become known as the holocaust.

As a follower of Jesus, my feelings about war are complicated even when engaged in as a last resort in the face of a perceived great evil. The call to love not only our neighbor but also our enemy is probably the most difficult task in the spiritual life. It can be really tough to live out this command amidst the complexity of the world we live in.

What I am entirely clear about, however, is the human capacity for sin and our ability to demonize another human being when we feel threatened and afraid. Countless examples abound across history and in our present age. One glaring instance is the internment of Japanese Americans that began two months later as a direct result of the bombing in Pearl Harbor. Today, as hateful rhetoric flies rampantly of Muslim registries and mass deportations, I pray that the “sleeping giant” of our collective conscience awakes again (and soon) before it is too late.

Wake up. Pay attention. It is Advent. If you are a Christian we are supposed to be doing that anyway.

I am not as worried about how history will perceive this tumultuous time in our nation, as I am concerned what my accounting before God will be as a witness and participant during it. As an Episcopalian, I am challenged to pattern my life through the baptismal covenant and to make good on these promises I make:

Did I seek and serve Christ in all persons?

Did I love my neighbor as myself?

Did I respect the dignity of every human being?

Did I strive for justice and peace?

Did I persevere in resisting evil?

The answer will be no, if my life is looked upon honestly and in great detail. My answer may be no, because I fall short, but I still try and with God’s help all things are possible.

What would your answer be?

If it came to a registry, will I self-identify as a Muslim? If mass deportations occur, would we open Epiphany or even the entire diocese as a place of sanctuary?

In this Pearl Harbor Day remembrance, as we face into these ever darkening days in Advent, may we fend off the fears that blind us from seeing God in both our neighbor and our enemy. May we stay rooted in the love of God that connects us all as sisters and brothers. And may we be willing to sacrifice everything in the name of and for the sake of love.



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