Our Unitarian Universalist Association is currently considering whether or not we should take steps to become a denomination thought of as a Peace Church. Other groups, among them the Mennonites and Quakers, have long been thought of as pacifist denominations. Should we join their ranks? It's an important question and not easy to answer. We tend to disapprove of most war, but to proclaim ourselves a pacifist denomination would be a departure from what I think of as our primary mission, that of unity within diversity.
And there are other questions to consider, on this Memorial Day weekend.
It seems to me that whether or not we approve of the war we're in, we have a humanitarian duty to serve our returning veterans with honor and respect----and appropriate medical care. Here on Whidbey Island, the parents of a young man who came back from Afghanistan a couple of years ago with serious PTSD have instigated an effort to serve these young vets with the kind of help that will benefit them most----therapy and medical help, yes, but also companionship and mentoring by older vets who have survived the journey back home and have found a healthier place in the world they found when they came back.
They have created, from scratch basically, a Veterans' Resource Center with counseling, sharing groups, mentoring, and social opportunities---a place to share their journey, their experience, their sorrows and struggles with other men and women who understand where they've been. Whidbey has a Naval Airbase, but it serves only active military, and the VA services are many miles plus a ferry ride away.
My congregation has been supportive of this effort and we have helped to enlist board members for the fledgling effort as well as the involvement of our Social Responsibility Council. We are well aware of the needs of our military families and individuals because of the NAS unit on Whidbey, but it has taken us awhile to learn that our peace and justice efforts are incomplete if we do not serve our vets and military personnel with compassion and appreciation for the work they do in our nation's behalf, even as we suffer the pain of military involvement, both appropriate and inappropriate.
Whether we ever decide to become an official Peace Church or not, we must not neglect the needs of those who serve our country.