Few biblical images are more ingrained into the popular idiom than the “swords for plowshares” motif. The fact that not one but two Biblical prophets used this metaphor ending with that promise of hope, “neither shall they learn war anymore,” (though I prefer the version immortalized in the spiritual, “Ain’t gonna study war no more…”), attests to its historical resonance.
It’s been cited by presidents, activists from all manner of causes and backgrounds, and now this recent article in the New York Times reports a new iteration, one that is strikingly literal.
Archi’s Acres, an organic farm in Valley Center, California, has partnered with a nearby military base to educate active duty and revserve troops in the ways of farming.
As Patricia Leigh Brown of the NYT puts it, this program is one of a number of similar programs springing up around the country that aim to “bring the energy of young soldiers re-entering civilian life to the aging farm population of rural America.” Ensuring the longterm stability of our nation’s food production is practical enough, but it seems more like a positive collateral effect, so to speak. These programs are also being incorporated into plans of care for service members suffering from PTSD and other physical and psychological consequences of military service, which in the long run may be more significant to our nation’s health and well-being.
But to a person of faith, something even bigger seems to be going on here.
More than simply learning a new trade or even healing their minds and bodies, these soldiers are engaging in a new way of being. Perhaps, “the way of life and prosperity,” and not of “death and adversity,” as the lectionary text from Sunday says. Or as one of the Iraq War vets puts it, “One thing I’ve noticed about agriculture is that you become a creator rather than a destroyer.”
I won’t restate the whole article, which is brief and worth reading on its own. But one remark particularly struck me.
Matthew McCrue, an Iraqi War vet turned organic farmer, upon reflecting on the continuum of his service in Iraq and work at the farm, said that in Iraq “You learn how to face death,” but in farming he learned “There is life all around.”
There is life all around. That sounds scriptural to me, and it’s a vision of the world I wonder if we all couldn’t appreciate a bit more. Lord willing, we won’t have to see the other side first.