President and Sister Wheelwright, members of the President's Council, members of the Faculty Advisory Committee, faculty, staff, students, and friends, Aloha!
As I began to contemplate the subject for this address-actually suggested by the one who nominated me-I thought of the many paradoxes that we have in the gospel, and in the language we use to talk about the Gospel: that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first in the Kingdom of God; that whosoever shall lose his life for the Savior's sake shall find it; that God sent us here to this earth to suffer pain, temptation, and challenges because He loves us; that He would send 19-year-old boys to preach the Gospel to the world.
We have long been taught that war is an abomination in God's sight. The scriptures are full of condemnation for the shedding of blood, as are the teachings of the modern prophets. We clearly understand that, in the Last Days, after the "mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the tops of the mountains," that the millennium of peace will ensue: the Lord "shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:2-4). Surely, to prepare for the millennium means working for peace.
My colleagues Matt Kester and Chad Ford have both opened the discussion on the topic of peace in devotional addresses last semester, and why a BYU-Hawaii education ought to prepare us to proclaim peace and help establish it, in fulfillment of the divine vision of this university through President David O. McKay, whose name graces this lecture series.
Through Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed what became section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Saints had been enduring persecution, and to head off any feelings the Saints may have had toward revenge, this section urges them to be "waiting patiently on the Lord," and that they should befriend the law of the land; that they "forsake all evil and cleave unto all good..." (D&C 98:2-11).
Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.
For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me.
Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children.... (D&C 98: 14-16)
In this context, however, we see that the Lord is not speaking of mere political and military action, but in the larger context of peace in the human heart and spirit, and whether his people will abide by the covenant, and rely upon Him to fight their battles.
Yet, in our cultural discourse, it is a paradox that we use, LDS military metaphors to describe the progress or work of God's Kingdom, or of individual struggles against the powers of evil. Metaphor is a linguistic phenomenon that we often recognize, but are hard-pressed to define. Basically, it is ascribing one or more qualities of an object to another object.
Metaphors, or tropes, are fundamental to human language. Some rhetorical theory suggests that we have come to a point of understanding that all language is metaphorical in nature, since all words are signs, a combination of an idea and the symbol or signifier for that idea. We speak of learning as a journey, of conversation as something that takes certain paths and directions, of feelings in our hearts, of family connections as roots and branches, and so on. As Ralph Waldo Emerson points out, most abstract ideas are expressed by words that have roots in concrete, tangible images:
Right originally means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eye-brow. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are, in their turn, words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature.... An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock.... A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite.... Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance.... (Nature, 1114-15).
We see that metaphor is not merely the concern of the poet. Brethren, tell your girlfriend that her deep brown eyes are pools of motor oil instead of rich chocolate, and see if that makes a difference. On the assumption that "words matter," I want to explore some new ways of seeing the impact of these metaphors on our discourse as Latter-day Saints. I am not certain that I can bring complete resolution to this paradox, but an examination of it may be fruitful and illuminating.
The scriptures, in many places, use the imagery and language of war. The Apostle Paul speaks of Christ's eventual triumph as when "he hath put all enemies under this feet," and that "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15: 25-26). Christ as a conqueror shows up many times in the scriptures, including the Book of Revelation. But what of the individual disciple's struggle in mortality? Is this not a battle, too? Paul encourages Timothy to "war a good warfare" (1 Tim. 1: 18), and also exhorts him, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3). It appears that Paul favors the discipline and commitment of the warrior, and his fearlessness. Also, to Timothy, he counsels: "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (I Timothy 6:12). Here he not only distinguishes the "good fight" from the other kind-but he also defines what it is: that is, laying hold on eternal life and professing a good profession-to stand for something.
Toward the end of his life, Paul characterizes himself as a warrior who has fulfilled his mission: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). In another epistle, he clarifies other differences between our kind of war and the wars of nations: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)...." (2 Cor. 10:3-4). He further gives us preparation for this battle: he tells us to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might":
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
And above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.... (Eph. 6: 10-17)
Paul appropriates the trappings of war, but redefines them in the context of the gospel: that Faith will help us endure perhaps the "fiery darts" of persecution and doubt; that preparation in the gospel will enable us to move forward in battle; that personal righteousness will protect us against mortal wounds, as will the armor of truth to protect our loins. The sword of the Spirit is the way his word will pierce the hearts of those to whom we profess our faith. In a number of other places, especially in the Doctrine and Covenants, the sword of truth shows up often. The Lord tells us to "give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of bones and marrow." A gruesome image, but a memorable one (D&C 6: 2).
In another passage, the Lord describes the rise of the Church "coming forth out of the wilderness-clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (D&C 5: 14). Another remarkably poetic passage demonstrates the use of martial metaphor in carrying out the Lord's mercies:
Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world,
Those who are unlearned and despised,
To thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit;
And their arm shall be my arm,
And I will be their shield and their buckler;
And I will gird up their loins,
And they shall fight manfully for me;
And their enemies shall be under their feet;
And I will let fall the sword in their behalf,
And by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them.
And the poor and the meek
Shall have the gospel preached unto them,
And they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming,
For it is nigh at hand--
And they shall learn the parable of the fig tree,
For even now already summer is nigh. (D&C 35: 13-16)
Notice that this sort of combat, once again, enjoins the "weak things of the world" (that would be the missionaries, primarily, but also all of us) to rely upon his strength and not their own power to "thrash the nations" with the power of the Gospel message.
In addition, we have many pronouncements by leaders of the Church that use military tropes and imagery to describe the work of the Church in this dispensation. Ezra Taft Benson said, "Enlist in this, the greatest service in the world. Do not evade the responsibility. Do not conscientiously object. We invite you to join the army that is swelling in numbers each day" (Ensign May 1979: 33). Spencer W. Kimball urged the youth to serve, with the urgency of a recruiter: "Is it not time that we sent out a great army, not of uniformed men, but an army of missionaries to preach repentance to a world that is dying?" (TSWK) Elder Bruce R. McConkie declared that we are already at war in this age:
As members of the Church, we are engaged in a mighty conflict. We are at war. We have enlisted in the cause of Christ to fight against Lucifer and all that is lustful and carnal and evil in the world. We have sworn to fight alongside our friends and against our enemies, and we must not be confused in distinguishing friends from foes.... ("Be Valiant in the Fight of Faith," Ensign Nov. 1974: 33).
Our hymns are also full of military metaphors and implied metaphors. The most obvious ones that come to mind say that "We must all press on in the work of the Lord, that when life is o'er we may gain a reward. In the fight for right, let us wield a sword, the mighty sword of truth." The chorus removes any doubt: "Fear not, thought the enemy deride; Courage, for the Lord is on our side. We will heed not what the wicked may say, but the Lord alone we will obey." We hear the call to battle in another hymn: "Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before." Then, reminiscent of Joshua's assault on Jericho, perhaps, or Gideon's army, we are told that "Hells' foundations quiver, at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise." Our voices and courage are the weapons in this fight. The third verse begins, "Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God," a simile to remind us of the figurative nature of this army and this war.
Another well-known hymn refers to the Christian soldiers as the "children of the promised day," the hope of the future: divinely appointed warriors with a royal commission who take up the quest:
Hope of Israel, rise in might
With the sword of truth and right;
Sound the war-cry, "Watch and pray!"
Vanquish every foe today.
But the third verse is the most graphic: the actual acts of combat are used to represent the work of the Kingdom going forward:
Strike for Zion, down with error;
Flash the sword above the foe!
Every stroke disarms a foeman;
Every step we conq'ring go.
By the end of the song, the faithful are promised the "victor's crown."
In many of these jubilant hymns, Christ is cast as the commander, and thus it is His standard that we unfurl. "Behold, A Royal Army!" is another well-known military hymn. This army has "banner, sword and shield," and "Is marching forth to conquer on life's great battlefield. Its ranks are filled with soldiers, united, bold and strong...." Without "life's great battlefield," the metaphor is not very apparent in this hymn: the real subject itself-the work of God-is nearly subsumed by the language and imagery of war: nearly the entire song is in the military paradigm.
Probably the best-known of these hymns reinforces our commitment to the kingdom as we are marching "joyfully," because "we are all enlisted till the conflict is o'er; happy are we! Happy are we!" Paul's conceit on the armor of God is alluded to in this hymn, as in many other hymns: "Haste to the battle, quick to the field; Truth is our helmet, buckler and shield." This hymn, as do many others, enjoins the listener to "come join the ranks." It is a recruitment song: "Who'll volunteer? Rally round the standard of the cross." We are reminded that "we shall win the vict'ry by and by."
"Who's On the Lord's Side?" is a clear call for loyalty amongst the warriors for the kingdom. Loyalty is also a common theme in hymns directed to the youth of the Church, as in "True to the Faith":
Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
In "Let Us all Press On," the first verse encourages us: "In the fight for right, let us wield a sword, the mighty sword of truth." "The World Has Need of Willing Men" reminds us not to stand "idly looking on, the fight with Sin is real." Even "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet" reminds us that "the wicked who fight against Zion shall surely be smitten at last."
There are many other hymns that are less overtly military, yet still carry the metaphors of war. In "Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today," we are thankful that Jesus "fought the fight, the vict'ry won." In "The Spirit of God," we'll "sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven." In "Praise to the Man," we are reminded that part of the Church's mission is to "wake up the world for the conflict of justice."
There are many other hymns that do not have overt military metaphors in the lyrics, but the music is in the vigorous march style. Most of these are missionary songs, the most memorable being "Called to Serve," where we promise that we will go "Onward, ever onward" for our King, but that is the closest to war imagery it gets.
Perhaps many of us have noticed the seeming disparity between the martial hymns that we sing and the message of the Prince of Peace. In one LDS blog, recently there was a discussion on military-sounding hymns, and one contributor offered this story: "The plethora of martial hymns in our hymnal brings to mind a story I once heard of a pacifist in a BYU ward who would, when his Sunday School class would be singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers' or another fighting song, stand on his chair and swing an imaginary sword in the air. I would love to have seen that in person" ("Martial Hymns," Times and Seasons 11 Nov. 2007).
However, here is our problem: in spite of the war metaphors we use, the prophets of our dispensation have made it clear that war is an abomination in the sight of God, an obscenity and travesty of all that is sacred. Brigham Young made this statement:Of one thing I am sure: God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or of war; they are the results of the acts of the children of men. Confusion and war necessarily come as the results of the foolish acts and policy of men; but they do not come because God desires they should come. (JD 13: 149)
From David O. McKay, we have this:
War is basically selfish. Its roots feed in the soil of envy, hatred, desire for domination. Its fruit, therefore, is always bitter. They who cultivate and propagate it spread death and destruction, and are enemies of the human race. (Pathways to Happiness, 356-370)
He goes on to point out this irony: "War impels you to hate your enemies. The Prince of Peace says, ‘Love our enemies.'" He said, "Thus we see that war is incompatible with Christ's teachings. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of peace. War is its antithesis, and produces hate. It is vain to attempt to reconcile war with true Christianity.
In the face of all this, I shall seem inconsistent when I declare that I uphold our country in the gigantic task it has assumed in the present world conflict, and sustain the Church in its loyal support of the government in its fight against dictatorship." ('On War')
Spencer W. Kimball also condemned war. On one occasion, while visiting New Zealand, he was treated to a performance of the traditional war haka: "They sang and danced and rolled their eyes and stuck out their tongues. And so we applaud them, you know, and think it wonderful to encourage the continuation of that culture. But as it was interpreted to me,... they chant and sing battle hymns." President Kimball then encouraged them to develop songs on the second coming, the Restoration, and "lofty ideals" (Teachings 394).
In May of 1981, the First Presidency issued a statement that surprised many people in and out of the Church. In response to the U.S. military's desire to place the huge and complex MX missile system in western Utah, the Brethren opposed it, offering this observation of the ironies involved in Utahns embracing such a project:
Our fathers came to this western area to establish a base from which to carry the gospel of peace to the peoples of the earth. It is ironic, and a denial of the very essence of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be constructed a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization. (Ensign, June 1981, 76)
This was surprising, since many perceived the Church to be in favor of patriotism and support for a strong military. A few years earlier, President Kimball also made plainer his meaning:
We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel-ships, planes, missiles, fortifications-and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior's teaching: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45.) (Ensign June 1976)
Here is the paradox: that the Church can be in favor of patriotism (that is, love of country) and of honoring the law, and would not condemn the soldier who serves his country-and yet still firmly condemn the horrors and waste of war as having any benefit for God's children. This is baffling to some people. How do we reconcile this ambiguity?
The Book of Mormon may be the best place to start. We have, for instance, the willingness of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies (later, Ammonites) to be slaughtered rather than take up their swords to fight. These were Lamanites who had become converted, experienced a change of heart, and decided that they could fight in war no more lest they sin, they had been steeped in bloodshed for so long.
Then we have Captain Moroni. Given command of the Nephite armies at age 25, he made the opposite choice in regard to that same war. He raised the Title of Liberty and preached that it was a sin for the Nephites not to take up arms to defend themselves. And didn't he come marching back to Zarahemla to compel draft-dodgers who did not want to defend their country? Was Moroni incorrect in doing this? Was not Moroni the man who the scriptures said "was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed"? Was this the man of whom it was said that "if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever"? That he did glory "not in the shedding of blood, but in doing good, in preserving his people...?" And wasn't he the commander who conducted reconnaissance by prophecy? Did he sin in accepting command of the armies and by going to war? The Ammonite sons did not make such a covenant as their parents did, and asked Helaman to lead them into battle. Were the sons of Helaman, his 2,000 warriors, committing sin in going to war when their parents did not?
But this does demonstrate an interesting complexity-and perplexity-in the teachings about war in the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Mormon, it is difficult to separate the military from the prophetic function. Nephi the son of Lehi, Omni, Alma the Younger, Helaman, and other prophets or high priests were also soldiers. Mosiah, Benjamin, Moroni, Gidgiddoni, Mormon, and his son Moroni were all kings or soldiers who were also prophets.
Can it be possible to be a man of war and yet be righteous and pure? The Book of Mormon clearly indicates so. Can one be a man of war and yet be consumed by it, delighting in bloodshed and destruction, having lost one's conversation with the Light of Christ? It is such a fear that motivated the Ammonites to bury their weapons of war. Were they justified in doing so? Of course. Were their sons justified in going into battle? Of course. Sometimes we are justified in avoiding war, and sometimes justified in fighting-even required, on rare occasions, as the story of Moroni shows. War, I am convinced, is a time when we listen to the directions of the prophet. There are no good wars, there are no glorious wars, there are no holy wars; but there may be necessary wars, unavoidable wars.
So why use it as a metaphor for the gospel? Well, we may say: it's only a metaphor.
Does the vehicle-a metaphor-impact the meaning of the tenor, or the idea? It cannot be avoided, since metaphorical language is clothed in images, and imagery is most powerful in affecting the senses and meanings of things. So what impact do our war metaphors have on our understanding of how the gospel works? Scholar and critic Paul Ricoeur suggests that when one thing becomes metaphor for another thing, the first thing changes in a way: there accrues a "new semantic congruence or pertinence from the ruins of the literal sense...." (431). When you use a red, red rose as a figure for your love, a tension is created between the meaning of the rose as rose, and its new assignment as an image that somehow defines your love. In the latter case, meaning is altered or augmented.
Understanding the metaphor both as literally defined, and in its new and metaphorically defined sense, is a kind of "ability to entertain two different points of view at the same time" (431). We comprehend the rose as rose at the same time we accept it in reference to something else: the fresh beauty of your love. (Unless, of course, you thought of the thorns as describing her.) And she certainly reminds you of the rose, since that allegorical image for her had already come to your mind. I will take this a step further, and suggest that if the tenor-the first thing, the object of the metaphor-is transformed or at least put into a new context of meaning by the vehicle or metaphor, then the metaphor itself is likewise transformed by the new relationship with the object. Now, a rose is nevermore simply a rose.
I am suggesting only a partial solution to the problem of using and understanding war as a metaphor for gospel purposes. We, as a Church, have partly inherited this tradition from previous Christian contexts, it is true. The Puritan writers and thinkers of early English-speaking America brought with them to the New World the paradigms of the English Civil War and the Puritan view of the progress of the Kingdom of God as a war against the powers of evil. But the Latter-day Saints have appropriated much of this language and put it in a new context. I offer the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as a case in point.
The song began as a war poem of the Civil War and freeing the slaves. Indeed, the song's entire meaning since that has been transformed in its most popular modern-day arrangement, mostly by changing one word. In our hymnbooks, some verses from the original are left out. We sing verses 1, 4, and 5. Notice that verse three, with the "burnished rows of steel"-a literal reference to weapons-and the violence of crushing Satan's rebellion, is left out. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir does it a little differently, singing verses 1, 2, and 5, but also leaving out the overt militarism of verse 3. And their best-selling arrangement (for which recording they won a Grammy back in the 1960s, I believe) also changes "let us die to make men free" to "let us live to make men free." Combined with the slowed tempo and hushed dynamics of that verse in their version, we are reminded not of a march and drums on the battlefield in this last verse, but of a prayer and personal covenant-making with God. In effect, the hymn now is more of a missionary anthem rather than a battle hymn, the war a spiritual one rather than the literal Civil War, and God's army goes forth to do battle with a less tangible but more dreadful evil in the hearts of men.
But we, as Latter-day Saints, have put this metaphor into new contexts that have modified its ever-shifting meaning. Take, for example, the Utah War. It is somewhat indicative of the paradox of war in LDS teaching and culture, but a true one nonetheless, that the Utah War had no casualties other than U.S. Army beef cattle, government property, and the pride of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander of the Federal force sent to invade Utah and subdue the rebellious Mormons. I recall a friend saying, in response to a discussion of this conflict, "Now, that's my kind of war!" Really, it was a non-war, or anti-war, or whatever you want to call it. Even calling it a war deconstructs the meaning of "war" itself; it is a kind of a little joke. We find the same thing with Zion's Camp, intended to be a military unit, and with the Mormon Battalion.
In reference to President Kimball's remark about ,the haka: I beg the family's pardon for using this story, but I recall the funeral of my good friend Royal Nikora. As we gathered at the cemetery for the graveside service, I watched his oldest son, Marcus, begin, and then every male Kiwi there, join into the haka. I still found myself wondering about doing a war dance at an LDS funeral, as they chanted "kamate, kamate" and "Ka ora, ka ora." When I understood the story of the lyrics, however, I reflected that this haka was not in bold defiance of a mortal enemy, but in bold defiance of the power of death, and I thought of Paul's words, as he exults in the promise of the resurrection: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Here, another war text had been deconstructed, or reconstructed, by the use of the metaphor and its context. I think even President Kimball would have agreed that it had become a haka for the right sort of victory and peace. The trope of war had been troped itself into a metaphor for the spiritual war.
If we are engaged in war with the powers of darkness, then perhaps we will develop the characteristics of a people at war, like the ancient Nephites: love and concern for each others' welfare, strengthening each other, self-sacrifice, the unity of a Zion people united in heart and mind, moral fortitude, and the strength to go on in the midst of extreme adversity. Perhaps the dire circumstances of this dispensation, and the "compression of events" lead us to reach for the extremes of war to properly express our experience.
On several occasions, President Hinckley has echoed a thought that has been used many times in discourses from the Brethren: that the War in Heaven was the first war, and all others are continuations of that same struggle:
But there is another war that has gone on since before the world was created and which is likely to continue for a long time yet to come. John the Revelator speaks of that struggle:
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
"And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:7-9).
That war, so bitter, so intense, has gone on, and it has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him.
President Hinckley goes on to point out the opposition that Satan has projected throughout history:
The war goes on. It is as it was in the beginning.... The victims who fall are as precious as those who have fallen in the past. It is an ongoing battle. The men of the priesthood, with the daughters of God who are our companions and allies, are all part of the army of the Lord. We must be united. An army that is disorganized will not be victorious. It is imperative that we close ranks, that we march together as one. We cannot have division among us and expect victory. ("An Unending Conflict: A Victory Assured," Ensign June 2007: 4-9)
The war in heaven is thus characterized as the true war, and every mortal conflict after that is a merely phenomenal manifestation of it: perhaps a cheap counterfeit of that struggle, which goes on today, as Satan and his hosts carry on guerilla warfare here on this earth. In that sense, perhaps we could say that the LDS use of war as a metaphor refers to that true war, the only struggle worth fighting, and that in our appropriation of the imagery and the language of earthly wars, we have transformed the metaphor likewise, from an instrument of destruction and oppression into one of peace and liberation.
I find there is great strength in the encouragement of our hymns, the scriptures, and the counsel of our prophets, as we battle the despair, the agonies and pains of mortal life-and we can endure them, with hope and joy and confidence in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. I believe that they can help us remember to encourage each other as comrades, to care for one another, to bear one another's burdens as we fight the good fight.
One of my favorite hymns has been a source of great morale to me. It expresses what I feel the real war is: that in the moment of greatest despair, we remember who our Captain is, and in whom we have hope, and take heart that He will lead us to final and eternal victory over the forces of the Adversary, whose threat is very real. The triumphant message of this hymn, "For All the Saints," best expresses, for me, the meaning and context of using war metaphors in gospel discourse. Please contemplate the lyrics as my friends from the Concert Choir, with Professor Michael Belnap, have consented to assist me by singing it now.
That we may all have our ear tuned to the distant triumph song, that all our hearts may be brave in the face of ultimate trial, that we may all love one another as comrades, and that we may all look forward to the day of triumph in this war as we fight the good fight, is my prayer in the name of our Lord and Captain, Jesus Christ, amen.