the moral equivalent of war

I really like the concept of the "moral equivalent of war." I can appreciate the importance and virtue of discipline, self-sacrifice, endurance in situations of deprivation and suffering. Laying down your life for others. But of course in war lives are not laid down, but lost. Jesus shows what "laying down my life" means, and his life demonstrates the real alternative to a warrior's valor and courage. It is a life of fearlessness (without a weapon in hand). Self-sacrifice for the ultimate good. Endurance in poverty, in homelessness, in persecution, even death--a beautiful, inspiring, holy, victorious endurance. And perfect obedience. To the One who deserves it.

A pretty exciting alternative, if you ask me.

Much better than James' proposed alternative, which is perhaps best described in this passage:

There is nothing to make one indignant in the mere fact that life is hard, that men should toil and suffer pain. The planetary conditions once for all are such, and we can stand it. But that so many men, by mere accidents of birth and opportunity, should have a life of nothing else but toil and pain and hardness and inferiority imposed upon them, should have no vacation, while others natively no more deserving never get any taste of this campaigning life at all—this is capable of arousing indignation in reflective minds. It may end by seeming shameful to all of us that some of us have nothing but campaigning, and others nothing but unmanly ease. If now—and this is my idea—there were, instead of military conscription, a conscription of the whole youthful population to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted against Nature, the injustice would tend to be evened out...

To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clotheswashing, and windowwashing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas. They would have paid their blood-tax, done their own part in the immemorial human warfare against nature; they would tread the earth more proudly, the women would value them more highly, they would be better fathers and teachers of the following generation.

It sounds odd now to hear of "warfare against nature." That's heavily influenced by the writer's culture and that he wrote it around 1900, when the idea of conquering nature seemed praiseworthy and hopeful.

But while we probably wouldn't openly admit to going to war against nature, isn't that still how we see it? Our major efforts are fighting hunger and homelessness and dirt and decay and disease. We praise most highly those who are the hardest workers in this fight and those who make the greatest victories in this battle. Don't we?

Yet those who see their lives as a battle against hunger, homelessness, dirt, decay, disease still seem to me to be laboring under the curse on Adam:
"Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you...

"In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen 3.17-19)
Are we resigned to this? More importantly, is this the life of the kingdom that Jesus demonstrated? Compare the curse to Jesus' words, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you..." (Jn 6.27) A new life. And didn't he live this quite clearly and prove it was true?

I don't see Jesus in a war against nature. He was in a struggle against something in people, not the environment around them. When Jesus sweated, it was not battling God's creation, but struggling against everything in people that kept them apart from God.