The Common Good
March 2012

From the Archives: March 1973

by Bill Lane | March 2012

Lessons from Vietnam

I have been subject so long to a Christian leadership that has spoken of living by faith, of the cost of discipleship, of how hard it is to follow Christ, of never being ashamed of the gospel, of taking up one’s cross. I have listened to scores of challenging preachers and teachers talk about Christ asking for all of a person’s allegiance.

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Now I understand that all of this talk, which I took so seriously, has amounted to nothing more than a clearing of the throat and a shuffling of papers. The church has spiritualized out of existence the demands that Jesus made so concrete and immediate. When the crisis comes, the real message of the Christian establishment emerges: Do what you have to do to get by. Keep peace with the powers and forces that rule this nation. Don’t get involved. Maintain respectability. Be conformed to this world.

One of the deepest scars from this war for me is this: I will never again be able to bring to the church my child-like trust, my boyish zeal, my naive teachability. I have been stunned into silence and disbelief by the precision with which my Christian brothers and sisters and leaders have affirmed not only the authority of the state to rule (which I also accept), but the unquestionable morality of government policy.

Bill Lane was a contributing editor to The Post American, the precursor to Sojourners, when this article appeared.

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