Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

On Fear and War and Dying with Honor**

Written by: on November 10, 2020

We are a nation built on war. Through war we earned our independence. Through war we maintain power and position around the world. The warrior spirit is woven into the very fibers of our American being. But with war, comes inevitable death.

Historically, psychological principles are utilized to mitigate the fear of death in war. In order to develop courageous soldiers, Socrates encouraged the republic to promote social policies which emphasized valor and sacrifice as the preferred alternatives to defeat and enslavement. Narratives regarding the underworld were transformed from negative and gruesome, to positive and desirable, as evidenced in the censorship of lament from stories, poems, and public mourning of the dead. Plato took the soldiers’ courage narrative to the next level, as he encouraged soldiers to disassociate themselves from family, knowing their death in battle would reward them with the status of immortal hero.[1]

Though the way fear was used to manipulate soldier participation in battle changed after World War I, a soldier’s death still remains of paramount importance. “Unlike normal death, which in a modern secular world has no special meaning, in war, and ‘only in war, the individual can believe that he knows he is dying “for” something.’”[2]

This belief plays out in many ways in our modern culture. When an American soldier dies in battle, they are remembered and honored. When a police officer dies fighting the “war on drugs,” or protecting our borders, they have made the ultimate sacrifice. These two groups are especially placed on a pedestal of honor for their selfless efforts to protect our freedoms. Their lives are deemed of higher value than those individuals not serving in public servant roles.

In contrast, if a person is murdered by the police or dies from COVID, their deaths are dismissed, deemed less meaningful, by large portions of contemporary culture. The reasons behind this are complex and include systemic oppression and politicization of life.  Simply being human is of little importance, unless that humanity is wielded to gain or maintain power and control.

Thus is the nature of war. And when victory seems elusive, attrition warfare kicks in.

“Attrition warfare is the term used to describe the sustained process of wearing down an opponent so as to force their physical collapse through continuous losses in personnel, equipment and supplies or to wear them down to such an extent that their will to fight collapses.”[3]

With increasing prevalence, our elections have become all out wars. Both Biden and Harris noted we are in a “battle for the soul of our nation.”  Millions of dollars are spent in “battleground” states to secure victory. Political ads are used to “attack” opponents, discrediting them as humans. Human lives are leveraged as political capital, health and safety dismissed or bullied into submission. There is no middle ground on the battlefield of politics. Is it any wonder why peace and unity are elusive post-elections?

Our current climate has a sitting President refusing to concede the election victory to his opponent. And while this definitely goes against electoral tradition, should we expect anything different from a person who has fought most nations, expectations, and people groups in action and word throughout his tenure, and is now determined to fight to maintain his position of power? He and his electoral base are armed and ready. Lawyers are working to file lawsuits. Protestors are calling for recounts and no counts and any other counts to prove election fraud. His base’s battle cry continues to resound.

Despite the collective breath taken by half of American and other’s around the world, and a degree of hope that’s emerged with a Biden/Harris victory, our nation remains ripe with fear. We are still at war. As attrition warfare trudges on, the potential for increased death tolls, economic impact, and abuse remains. All of which leads to increased possibility of an unstable outcome and long-term impact on the nation. With attrition warfare tactics, not even the winners win. [4]

As a nation and society, how do we recover from such battles being waged decade upon decade? Is there a way to bring peace and unification to such a broken system? What does the process of healing and unification entail? How can humans bent on war ever achieve such a noble goal? Will the land of the free and the brave ever be truly free for all?

One can always hope.

During such tumultuous days, wielding the weapons of Hope and Love through action is the best we have.

May we battle faithfully and die honorably, not warring as humans do, but rather radically stepping away from war into the Way of Jesus.


**Please note, I am married to a US Army veteran, and have many military vets in my family. I also have dear friends who serve in police departments. This is meant in no way to minimize their work on behalf of others. It is a critique of why such systems are even necessary, how they are co-opted into other areas of society and prioritized above others. This is an imagining of the possibility of living in a different paradigm, one not driven by fear, power, or position.



[1] Frank Furedi. How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. (London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2019) 37-38.

[2] Furedi, quoting Weber, 42.

[3] Nicholas Murry. 2016. “Attrition Warfare.” Encyclopedia 1914-1918- online. January 13. Accessed November 10, 2020. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/attrition_warfare.

[4] Farnum Street. 2017. “Attrition Warfare: When Even Winners Lose.” Farnum Street. August. Accessed November 10, 2020. https://fs.blog/2017/07/attrition-warfare/.

About the Author

Darcy Hansen

12 responses to “On Fear and War and Dying with Honor**”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    I was thinking about a character in the current book series I’ve been reading who was known as one of the most fearsome and terrifying warriors in series’s world. Dalinar Kholin, known as the “Blackthorn,” was feared by everyone and was considered a loose cannon until his brother, the king, was murdered. Although he was feared, he had no “honor” in the way he fought or saw life until after his brother’s death.

    There’s a moment in the first book where Dalinar is in the midst of battle, enraptured by what is called the “Thrill” – think like a berserker bloodlust of sorts. All of a sudden, it leaves him and he’s left aghast at the carnage of war and, going forward, is unable to bring himself to go into battle anymore.

    Following this, he becomes a mentor of sorts to one of the other main characters who feels that war and battle is his only purpose. He feels that he’s been made for it and approaches war with his own skill and sense of honor (something expounded upon in later books). But Dalinar tries to show him that his identity and purpose isn’t tied to his skills in battle and ultimately ends up relieving him of his post in the most recent book.

    War and attrition are written into our narrative; that sense of honor one receives for fighting for a cause they believe in is inherent in many of us. It may not look like physical warfare, but how we conduct ourselves – how we perceive what “honor” and “dignity” actually are – is one of the key themes for how we move forward. Perhaps the antidote Jesus provides to our need for war and violence is humility.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Humility seems like a hard commodity to come by these days, especially on the political battlefield. But I would agree, it is a potent antidote to the need for war.

      It didn’t seem like attrition warfare was always the norm. Strategy and tactics often take precedence, but when those breakdown, it was my understanding that’s when attrition warfare kicks in. It is a long wearing down of an opponent through constant barrage of ammunition. WWI is called The War of Attrition. In the end, no one really wins. The collateral damage is extensive on both sides.

      In regard to our politics, we have to do better by asking different questions and seeking different outcomes. Simply tearing apart the other side for personal gain through fear tactics is unsustainable and catastrophic. In regard to race issues, fresh perspectives are also needed. Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I continue to pray humble, creative, and bold leaders will arise to help dismantle the warring systems we have created. As you mentioned, such a process involves reimagining our individual and collective identity.

  2. Greg Reich says:

    Thought provoking blog. Two thoughts came to my mind. First, I have often been intrigued how the military can take a group of strangers form various back grounds, bring them into boot camp breaking them down and rebuild them to understand respect and honor. By the time they leave boot camp soldiers are comrades for life, they willing willing throw themselves on a grenade for there fellow man. Despite the atrocities of war I can not think of another system that can instill respect and honor to the point of giving up one’s life for a friend. Not even the church has been able to pull this off on a consistent basis.
    Secondly, I realized that as christians much of our life is spent in spiritual battle agains the enemy. Many of Pauls writing inform the believer of the spiritual battle they will face against our flesh, the world and devil. The contrast of military war is we are called to die to self so that we can live. The causality of our warfare is our flesh and the result
    is life and freedom in Christ. I wonder if we spent more time taking car of the spiritual battles we are called to fight within ourselves if the worlds battles would be less necessary?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Self-reflection is key.
      “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matt 7:3
      Still, as much as we profess to be people of the Word, we neglect living out many of the basic Christian principles in our daily lives. Dying to self is way harder than annihilating our political, economic, religious, etc., opponents.

      The Church has used fear to manipulate behavior similar to that of militaries. If I remember correctly, Furedi outlines in his text how the ability for the Church to continue that practice began to breakdown with the advent of science and such. I suppose in the military, the fear of being killed in war remains, so the ability to manipulate fear by leveraging sacrifice for the “greater good” is still effective. It is sad that the Good News of Jesus doesn’t have the transformational impact that a good old war does.

  3. John McLarty says:

    Your disclaimer summed up much of the problem outlined in your post. In posting, you seemed to anticipate resistance (or at least misunderstanding,) to your premise that our society runs on war, conflict, and division. Even our games reflect this. The solution to today’s “Crytoquote,” (yes, I do the puzzles in the newspaper- I’m an 80-year old man trapped in 40-something body,) George Orwell said, “Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting.” Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers,” but it seems that right now, the only path we know toward peace requires copious amounts of blood. Who will have the courage to be the first one to lay down the sword?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I added the disclaimer for all the reasons you mentioned. I verbally processed this post with my husband before writing. He has a very different perspective than I do, though we both can better see from the other’s perspective now. I think what bothers me most is that humans have taken a natural emotion- fear- and used it to manipulate one another to achieve specific outcomes. I suppose we do this with other emotions, too. But fear seems to be one that is super pervasive and potent.

      I don’t see Jesus modeling such emotional manipulation.

      I don’t know who will be the first to lay down their sword. I hope when they do, though, they will pick up their cross and walk the high road of true self-sacrifice and love for others. Maybe it will be an “army” of cross-bearers who come to the aid of all those who endure the collateral damage done from this political war of attrition?

      • John McLarty says:

        What’s worse is when we justify an action not based on what another did, but what we assume or fear another might do if they had the opportunity. It creates a seemingly endless cycle. Even if one (or a side) had the courage to choose another way, if there isn’t an obvious “win,” it won’t likely be accepted or appreciated as transformative.

  4. Chris Pollock says:

    “Simply being human is of little importance, unless that humanity is wielded to gain or maintain power and control.”

    Your definition of Attrition Warfare reminds me of the relentless rage of an impassioned, insulted narcissist. Energy consumption to the point of absolutely depleting the resource; then, onto the next victim.

    Antipas mentioned Paulo Freire in his time with us this week. Have you had a chance to check in on his work, mostly focused in the 1970s. Helping the volume voice of the voiceless through education and in particular, his coined ‘conscientization’ of the the oppressed could be essential for change to come about eventually. Do you think there could be a polarisation in the education system? How could this be some of the root to the continuation of disharmony within the country?

    It is sad, being beyond the end of the US world and not really knowing; on the other side of the border here in Canada, witnessing how polarised and at war the US is within itself. May there come a time when people will yearn for an unhindered coming together as a result of the pain and dysfunction that ‘apartedness’ has caused. Do you see hope in the days to come?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I’m not able to answer your first questions, as I have not had a chance to investigate Freire. I would not be surprised if polarization in the education contributes to societal polarization. But education often reflects a community, and when segregation happens within communities, then that impacts resources and demographics, which definitely lends itself to particular camps of thought and practice.

      Hope? Jesus is my hope, always. But how His presence plays out in the days to come is to be determined. I keep looking for where good is happening. I have to believe that somehow, that good has to be more appealing than the bad.

  5. Shawn Cramer says:

    I’m most struck by your caveat. It takes courage to reimagine, especially that which is “sacred” to a country. Props to you.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      How do we allow the sacred to die so something new can emerge? Can America even exist without being a war machine? Can we even function without politically, emotionally, racially, and economically destroying one another within our own borders? As much as I’d like to say yes to those questions, the answer is sadly, no to all. The only way for such change to occur would be via catastrophic events, or through the slow, steady roll of justice driven change, which will take generations.

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