In Theory

Daily Pilot

Memorial Day 2010 will be observed Monday. Americans will be remembering U.S. servicemen and women who have fallen while fighting their nation’s wars. Most of these people died in their 20s and 30s. Some were even as young as 18 or 19.
From a religious and/or spiritual perspective, in your opinion what does dying violently at such a young age do to one’s soul?

As a Marine Corps veteran with a grandson serving in Iraq, I become emotional when I think of those who have made the supreme sacrifice to preserve our freedoms and the freedoms of people in far-off lands. In the last century, only one nation in the world has been willing to lay down hundreds of thousands of lives and take no land in its victory.

We honor those who have served and pray for those now serving.

In a theological sense, our lives on this Earth are but a phase of our existence. Latter-day Saints believe we lived with our Heavenly Father before we came to this Earth, have entered the second phase of our existence through birth, and at death, “graduate” to the eternal realm where we will continue our pattern of growth.

It is a painful experience to have a loved one taken at a young age, regardless of the cause. However, the soul is eternal, so the manner of death or the age at which it occurs is irrelevant. Since the family is eternal, there will be and has been a great reunion at anyone’s passing.

Tom Thorkelson
director of Interfaith Relations, Orange County Council
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The most profound spiritual teaching is that more than we are a body that has a soul, we are a soul that has a body. The soul, not the body, is the essence of who we are and what we may aspire to be.

Though we are physical beings who share much in common with the beasts of the field, man is endowed with that unique dimension of the soul that links him to Heaven. It is through the soul that we know there is a God Who created us in His image, Who endows us with free will, and Who commands us to arise to our highest potential.

Whether one dies violently at a young age or peacefully in the fullness of age, Judaism believes the soul that God breathed into us, that which we truly are, returns home to God’s eternal presence after our brief visit on Earth.

Rabbi Mark S. Miller
Temple Bat Yahm
Newport Beach

As a Vietnam veteran who spent two tours in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 with the 75th Rangers, I understand the great price that young soldiers are sometimes called upon to pay.

We honor their sacrifice and devotion. It is at the price of their blood that America still stands as the world’s last hope for freedom.

The age or manner of a person’s death, however, does not affect one’s soul.

The soul comes from, and returns to God. The only thing that affects the soul is whether or not it has been made alive through the accepting of Jesus Christ as the ultimate and final payment for sin. A soul that has been redeemed through the precious blood of Christ can never be touched by what happens to the body.

Pastor Dwight Tomlinson
Liberty Baptist Church
Newport Beach

God only knows! All my confidence is that when we stand before the throne of grace each of us is going to be very, very surprised.

Premature death is tragic. I suspect the Judge looks with special graciousness and generosity on those affected by tragedy while those of us who send others into harm’s way, while taking our safety and giftedness for granted, are going to have some serious explaining to do.

Students ask me what age we will look in heaven. I think that God will give us choice, since our choices will be the issue at that instant of greatest transition.

Blessedly, judgment of souls comes from the One Who Is Love.

(The Very Rev’d Canon) Peter D. Haynes
Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church
Corona del Mar

We miss them; the ones who died serving our country, especially those who died young. If we cannot ever forget them, surely God will always remember them. And if God remembers them, will not God raise them up to new life?

Soldiers who die young might imperil their souls if their spiritual journey was based on having to accomplish certain goals and tasks in order to be saved. But when does God start loving us? Don’t parents start loving their kids even before their kids understand love?

I believe God loves every person even before they are even aware of God. John Wesley called it prevenient grace. God loves us so much that God helps to discover the way to God. God sends us clues, hints, and maybe road maps. We do not have to convince God to love us or to let us into Heaven. God loves us even before we begin our spiritual journey. Those who die young miss the roads they might have taken, but they are still welcomed home by the One who loved them first and has never ever stopped loving them.

Pastor Mark Wiley
Mesa Verde United Methodist Church
Costa Mesa

This is a question that we should not be asking. But we must. Why do we, over and over again, send our young people into the bloody fields of war? Their elders declare the wars and remain at home as remote observers. President Eisenhower advised us to take note of how many and strong are those who covertly take great profit from militarization and war making.

War is the strategy of those who have learned little from history and lack imagination for the future. War appeals to those who have a bleak view about the essential goodness of humankind. War is the activity of those who say prayers for peace but resist peacemaking. Religious people are called to be beacons of hope who look into the haziness of the road ahead and trust that God will take us in new directions if only we stop resisting.

I do not worry about the souls of those who have died in war. At last they are at peace. My worry is for myself and all of us who send them and do so little to create a new future in which our swords might be turned into plowshares.

Msgr. Wilbur Davis
Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church

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