Friendly Fire: Bombs from 29,000 feet

July 3, 2008

In one of my favorite lines from a Vietnam era movie, the pilots are sitting around the circle in a bar in the Philippines enjoying some of the local brew. One of them leans back and says “Nothing beats high altitude bombing, does it”. They all laugh and go back to ogling the girls in the bar. Their conversation revolves around their job: To go up above the 20,000 foot level and using precision targeting drop their entire load and head on back to relative safety. Actually, unless they had a plane malfunction, they were safe the entire time. No artillery was going to hit them up there, let alone a non-existent Viet Cong Air Force. They never once saw a single victim of their bombing attacks. They never had to face the damage they were inflicting.

Here is what this looks like in today’s church culture. People are sitting in a Bible study decrying the state of marriages today. The happily married co-leaders of the group tell story after story of wretched people they know who have had broken marriages and ruined lives. Often there are many assumptions made. Like, they didn’t try very hard to stay together. Or, this wouldn’t have happened if they had brought the Lord into their marriage. Or, let’s pity the kids who had to witness all that mess. What Mr. and Mrs. Bomb-dropper have ignored is that it is so easy to form opinions from way up above the problems and quite another to be in the trenches working with marriages in crisis. And the ones who get bombed on the most are those anonymous members of the Bible Study group who have come out of divorce and are trying to make their way back to peace. On their way, they get bombed from 29,000 feet up. And they think they are the only ones feeling the shrapnel.

It can be a thousand things that Christians don’t like about the culture: abortion, gay and lesbian relationships, violence, Margaret Cho. Instead of making a concerted attempt to understand the very complex issues involved with certain practices and trends, we make a distant pronouncement of doom and impending disaster upon those who practice or trend. It might sound like “This is the end of marriage and the family as we know it.” Perhaps it sounds nicer such as “if only they had had a father in the home they wouldn’t be holding up people on the streets.”

I’m not talking about the gang that hangs outside of buildings with a “God hates F@gs” sign. That isn’t high altitude bombing…that is using a rocket-propelled grenade to the face.

I call this “high altitude bombing” because it involves throwing out criticisms and attitudes toward people we can’t even see. All we see are stereotypes of who they are. Consider the gay couple down the block who return from the courthouse after getting their wedding license last week. With all your scorn, do you know their first names? Do you know why they felt marriage was their best option? Are you aware of all the factors that went into their decision and how much they want to handle life in a healthy way?

Or the young girl who used to use abortion as a birth-control method and now really does feel like she has lost the most valuable part of herself. Does she need someone to take a pot-shot at a baby shower about how so many mothers are missing out on this beautiful moment? When we utter these casual comments, do we know who resides directly below the bombs? That is the point.

How do we watch out for this? First, it is necessary to differentiate between Judgement and Discernment. Discernment is an attitude that says we believe in laws, boundaries, right and wrong and holding people accountable for their actions. Judgement says “what you are doing is wrong and I would never do that”. Discernment sees there are individual factors that make each wrong and each societal ill a personal choice. Judgement lumps all those in the same sin categories together and assumes they all have the same motivations, the same path and the same consequences.

The answer is to go into the villages of those you have been bombing. Years ago, God had me write a letter to the Editor of the newspaper apologizing for my attitude toward abortion providers. It is always wrong to hate no matter what the reason. One of the people who contacted me was the only doctor in that town who performed abortions. He wanted to meet me for lunch. With tears in his eyes, he told me that I was the only Christian who had acted like a Christian toward him. We had several lunches like that where we discussed our beliefs and our differences. I actually began to enjoy his presence, as I believe he enjoyed mine. I never did agree with his position on abortion. But whether I had anything to do with it or not, about 3 years later, he got out of the abortion industry. We remained friends for all the years I lived in that town.

Let God show us our own hearts on this matter.



  1. Very interesting! That story of you and the abortion doctor is powerful. I have noticed that the more ostracized I feel when it comes to any issue, the more I cling to and promote that issue, even if deep inside I know I am wrong.

  2. so true. i know i have been guilty of high altitude bomb dropping

  3. Nate: what you have described is known in Psych. circles as defensive posturing. I find that so much of my early preaching and teaching came from a rubric of defensive posturing. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Wow! I love the way you described this. It fits so well with how I felt when I first went into new christian circles after my divorce. I wondered if the people I felt judged by considered that California does not require the consent of both parties when granting a divorce.

  5. Sue, that is a good point. So many times we are made to be villains when in actuality, nothing that we did or could have done would have prevented a divorce. Most people are not aware of the so-called “no-fault divorce” laws in the state. Good comment

  6. “First, it is necessary to differentiate between Judgement and Discernment.”

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