I was at a meeting of various Christians this week and one of the guys made an interesting comment. It turns out, he said, that the main difference between the Vietnam War and the wars that had gone on before it was that American (and presumably Australian) troops were cursed by Buddhist monks when they landed. The effect was, apparently, to cause a much higher than expected incidence of mental illness after the war in our veterans.
Now I really don’t go in for the whole idea of monks actually being able to inflict some sort of spiritual disturbance on our troops by simply praying at them, or whatever their technique was. I’ve been scratching my head about this one for a few days now, wondering what to make of it. The Bible says a bit about curses, but trying to figure out what it means in the 21st Century is something of a puzzle.
I also realise that what soldiers in Vietnam went through (and still go through) isn’t a trivial matter. I think the sort of comment my friend made was intended well, but somehow trivialises what many of my father’s generation have to endure.
It occurred to me today, though, that the Bible has a few very clear things to say about curses. Here’s the clearest:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
(Luke 6:27-28, NRSV)
Here’s another one like it:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
(Romans 12:14 NRSV)
I’m going to guess that the troops being cursed didn’t respond with blessing. Did any of the chaplains pray blessings back at the Buddhist monks? Were the soldiers instructed to lay down their weapons and wish their enemies all the best?
I’d love to hear that I’m wrong about this, but somehow, I don’t think so.