Brief – but jarring.
It was only a few seconds in one of the numerous firefight scenes in Star Wars: Rogue One. A little girl bawling in the middle of a battlefield, weapons firing all around her, then carried off to safety by one of the good guys.
It was jarring because the little girl felt so out of place. In our action movies, we’re not used to seeing children on the battlefields. And yet in those few seconds that little girl exposed one of the great lies of all of our cinematic glorifications of war.
Real wars have children in them.
From our fun sci-fi romps across galaxies to our grittiest, darkest looks at the horrors of historical battlefields, we shrug off the deaths of the bad guys, we mourn the losses of the good guys, we revel and recoil at the intensity of the blood and the limbs and all the other ugliness, but they’re usually adults, who sort of knew what they were getting into, whose sacrifices we can celebrate and honor…
Give us blood. Give us gore. Give us all the realistic R-rated violence we can handle.
Oh, but don’t give us children.
We don’t want to face that much reality. We want our movies to be an escape.
Nevermind the children of Aleppo who couldn’t escape from a reality we don’t even want to contemplate, as we gather for the holidays in the safety of our homes.
We should be thankful for those blessings. But if we only thank God that we have them without thinking about the people who don’t, it feels to me a little like Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14)
Oh, God, I thank you, that I am not like those other folks….
I don’t have all the answers to the great political challenges of our time. But I do know that we won’t find them when we give in to our natural tendencies to fear, to dehumanize, to forget the others, the ones who aren’t like us, the ones we don’t know and can’t see…
and yet: the ones who are created in the image of God just like us, the ones who are loved by Jesus Christ just like us, the ones who will one day gather around the throne from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
I’ve met a few children who were able to escape the real war of Syria. Their father suffered a head injury from the fighting. The UN Refugee Agency recommended their family to the United States, which approved them and connected them to an institute that settled them in an apartment across from our church office.
Some of our church members visited them and got to know them. When they got a house through a Muslim connection, our church members helped them move, and we took up a donation to help them pay their first few bills. How cool is that, for this Muslim family, regardless of whatever impressions they may have had of Americans or Christians not wanting them here, to see the love of Christ demonstrated to them, after all the horrors they’ve experienced, a love that they might never have seen had they not arrived. Some of the family came to church yesterday! I will pray for the Holy Spirit’s continued work in their lives.
If you want to help refugees, there are several things you can do.
If you’re in St. Louis, you can sign up at GoodNeighborSTL.com to connect with a refugee family. It’s a partnership with Oasis International, a great local ministry you can donate to. Relevant recently posted an article with several options, including ways to directly help war victims still in Syria.
No one can worry about all the problems in the world all the time. We all must focus on our callings. But maybe we can at least remember the children on the battlefield. If it means anything to love our neighbors as ourselves, maybe, for at least a brief and jarring moment, we can think about what we would try to do if our own children were suffering so, or what we would want someone to do for us, and maybe some of us can go and do likewise.