Cooperation: Re-thinking the art of war

by | May 3, 2020

Humans perfected the art of war until it became possible to annihilate staggering numbers of enemies. And now we spend energy and resources trying to keep these destructive tools out of the hands of people who might be willing to use them indiscriminately. These weapons are designed to destroy and capable of destroying all of humankind.

Warfare divides people into warring factions driven by fear, fueling hatred. We look for the differences that divide us and use them to further fuel our anxiety and disdain. I suspect that without either hate or fear, it may be impossible to take another person’s life. But the human brains are amazingly creative at justifying our self-serving interests.

But there is another threat that doesn’t differentiate between national borders or ancestral background. Over the past several months, one strand of this common enemy, COVID-19, has killed more people than major wars. And the largest toll within the nation with the most powerful military of all. Our missiles are ineffective, along with most weapons utilized to wage war on other humans.

So what is our best offense against this invisible enemy that defies all the rules of traditional warfare? Cooperation. Our health experts are at their best when they cooperate with health experts from around the world. Unfortunately, our political leaders were elected because they claim to be tougher on human enemies. And their credentials offer evidence that they win fights against other humans. But virus-slaying is not listed on the resumes of our leaders. And they are just as vulnerable as the rest of us if the virus finds a home within them.

One of my favorite writers, particularly when it comes to the topics of warfare, the domination of enemies, and other subjects that touch on the machinery of war, is Walter Brueggemann. In a recent appeal from a nonprofit, Brueggemann shared these thoughts about cooperation:

The usual way of being in the world is anxiety, of being pressed and harried and worried, and that in turn leads to a stance of defensiveness and fear and a determination to keep what we have. Anxiety that believes that we best get what we can and keep what we’ve got. Characteristically, Jesus asks a question which doesn’t require an answer because it’s so obvious: which of you, by being anxious, has ever added an inch to your lives? (Matthew 6:33). 1

I suspect that it may be anxiety, and a few other pressures, that motivated a group of people carrying weapons to enter our State Capital building. Their supposed reason was a show of disagreement with policies put in place to save lives. I also support the right for each of us to have a voice, and for us to collectively express our views when we feel that policies are harmful. But the irony can’t be ignored.

I discovered more insights from this man who dedicated his life to faithfully interpreting what scripture has to say to help us the rest of us be faithful. In this transcript, we read about prophets who imagined a new economy, “organized around a love of neighbor and that is committed to the viability of widows, orphans, and immigrants. Widows, orphans, and immigrants are people who in the ancient world did not have advocates who were empowered by the totalism in a patriarchal society. So it becomes a test case for the economy.” 2

Brueggemann calls on the faithful to understand and teach that the church was never intended to be in the charity business. Instead, the church is in the justice business.

In the meanwhile, we realize that there are a lot of people in need. Our inability to cooperate against this invisible enemy is creating demand beyond our ability to respond in the short term. So, as the church, we answer the best we can. But we also look for opportunities to advocate for justice.

If you haven’t completed our survey go to RisenSurvey now and take our survey. This will really help us figure out which topics are important to our participants and who is willing to do and share their research.

For more information this series, Risen, see the article, Coming up in worship.

I invite you to join us this Sunday. We plan to be live via webinar, through Facebook live, or you can call (929) 436-2866 and enter the meeting number — 324 841 204. We go live at 10:30 am. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at

1 Walter Brueggemann. Five Talents’ Response to the Coronavirus. © March 26, 2020. Retrieved from:

2 Walter Brueggemann. “Jesus acted out the alternative to empire.” Sojourners Newsletter. © June 22, 2018. Retrieved from:

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