The Cost of War, One Breath at a Time.

This piece was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on December 18, 2006.  It headlined the UPI website’s religion section that day as well.  A slightly shorter version of this commentary will air this holiday season on the Perspectives program on KQED FM, a public radio station in San Francisco.

Toward the end of the first week of Advent, when I should have been writing a sermon on the life and ministry of Saint John the Baptist, I found myself surfing the web to a site that gives a real time, running total of the cost of the ongoing war in Iraq.

The total cost of the war—some 350 billion dollars—is a number so large that it is emotionally meaningless to me, but I spent a good deal of time contemplating the speed at which the war’s tally increased by tens, hundreds, and thousands of dollars—amounts of money to which I can relate.

The counter moved too fast for me to get a good measure of the rate of war spending using the sweep hand on my wristwatch, so I used a more elementary and less scientific method, and here’s what I discovered: the United States’ taxpayers spend twenty thousand dollars on the war every time I take a breath. Continue reading