Culture and Christianity X:
Military Service, College, Politics, and Race Relations
Thanks for the great response. Here is ____'s site if you're interested: http://standingthegap.org. He claims that those who are/were in military service are basically murderers, so he would see people like you and me as 'murderers.' He sees anyone who believes in original sin as a heretic and then says that those who believe in heresy will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He's such a negative person and he has spread his poison with a passion. All his pupils I've encountered are negative, critical and condemning, tend to be arrogant, act self-righteous, love to argue over nothing much at all etc. I especially did not get the area where he said that soldiers will be expected to unconditionally follow orders. If a soldier follows unlawful orders from his commanding officer, it is my understanding that the soldier commits a crime if he obeys those unlawful orders and will probably have to go to jail or some other form of punishment. Just thought I'd pass this on to you and have a good evening!
I agree with your homing in on the weak point in the article you link. The whole issue really does boil down to whether or not a person in the military is going to be asked to do something immoral or illegal. While there are pressures in the service – as there are in virtually all areas of human life – the line between unpleasant and immoral, between undesirable and illegal, is actually very clear in my opinion. And my experience in the USMC was that far from being a band of automatons, Marines, even low ranking enlisted Marines, have a good sense of where the line is to be drawn and would not waltz over it just for the sake of following orders – even if they are being screamed at to do something they think is wrong. There are exceptions – as in all things and all areas of life – but that would not be the rule in my experience, and everything I have seen since that time indicates to me that the quality of personnel in the Armed Forces has generally improved in the last half century. When antichrist takes over, things will be different of course. But I have always stressed the differences between the present time and the Tribulation to come. All the more reason for Christians in service and out to make learning the Bible and all the truth it contains their top priority – that is the only way to gauge the differences between periods and the actions that may be appropriate to one but not to the other.
Yours in Jesus Christ in whom we have put our entire hope and trust,
I am not against people serving in the military, but many of my friends tend to see people in the military as 'murderous'. They have told me that I probably can't understand the truth since I actually served in the military and have been 'brainwashed' by them. Even though I think these people lack some maturity in certain areas, they are actually much more mature overall than most people I've met who claim to be Christians.
Here are some example:
"I can remember while in basic training learning how to become a "killing machine" (as the drill sergeants would often call us) that we would sing some of the most bloody cadence and shout the most murderous words. The drill sergeant would yell "What makes the green grass grow!!!" to which we were brainwashed to answer as loud as we could "BLOOD, BLOOD!!! RED, RED BLOOD DRILL SERGEANT!!!". Meanwhile my dog tags dangling from my neck had "Christian" stamped as my religion".
"My conscience didn't feel good about it then and thankfully now I understand the grave error of serving in the military. Christians should not serve in the military. No one should, really, but especially Christians! No one can claim to be a follower of Jesus and at the same time follow orders to kill or even to train to kill or support such. May more soldiers lay down their arms and repent! God bless!"
"Yeah I believe as hearing from those who are presently active in the Military that A LOT of brainwashing goes on. Especially during basic training."
"It is unbelievable! It's not just brainwashing that goes on. There is A LOT of mental abuse and an atmosphere of the strong attacking the weak is promoted. You hear a lot and see a lot more than you bargained for when going through such training. At the end you are quite desensitized."
"There is a claim that going through boot camp or basic training will make men out of boys. Not so! It takes boys and destroys the man God intended each of them to be. Every young man that enters the military has his conscience seared like a pig that gets roasted alive before going to slaughter! From day one they dehumanize you and teach you to dehumanize others. This is no environment for the saint. A true saint would leave seconds after arriving to basic training if they even made it that far! I speak based on my experience serving in the US Army in the infantry division."
"I have seen things and been exposed to things so immoral and wicked it is not even worth mentioning here so as to prevent one's mind from being polluted more by the evils of this world. I wish I could erase it all from my mind. I wish there was a way to forget! I sometimes feel like my mind is forever scarred because of the ugliness I have seen in this world as a result of doing my time in military service. That's why it disturbs me to no end to see and hear "Christians" everywhere support military service and wicked murdering Presidents like Bush (who most evangelicals have been duped into believing is a Christian... Wow! What utter delusion!) and now Obama who continues to send their sons and daughters off to fight! I hate churches that proudly wave the flag of a nation that hates God! I hear so many say that we are a Christian nation. Really? No nation has ever truly been Christian nor will there ever be, but then again most have been fed a bunch of lies in their history books."
"I realize I could have died while training in the military or when I went to Kuwait due to any number of reasons. I know it is God's mercy and long suffering patience that I am alive today to share my testimony. By the grace of God I truly understand now what is expected of me as a follower of Christ. Military service is not part of it. In fact, it is absolutely opposed the message of the Gospel."
"Get out while you can soldier if you are reading this! You are not to be a soldier destroying the flesh of men just like you! You are to repent and be a soldier of truth seeking to slay the principalities of darkness and shatter the lies with the TRUTH of Jesus! Our battlefield is not physical! Shed your earthly battle rattle and put on the armor of God! Peace has never been obtained by the sword! HE IS OUR PEACE!"
"Believers DID NOT participate before Constantine..... Since then, WAR has been glorified to the point that it is actually part of most "Believers" mental furniture. Don't believe it? Try moving their "furniture" around...."
"I was very patriotic and pro-American military as a new believer. But the Lord began to show me the value of a human being no matter what country he lives in, and that I am indebted to all men because I know the truth. I would rather die than entangle myself in this bloody world's power struggles now. It is the believer's mission to rescue, not destroy."
"One thing we hear at the abortion clinic sometimes is if we are pro-war, we are hypocrites for claiming to be pro-life. I agree with that charge, and I think professing Christians should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith."
"Most unbelievers know that the average church-goer is pro-war! What a sad testimony!"
"It is so sad, and quite a revelation of just how deceived many are, that so many professing Christians support war and military service. It is hypocritical for sure to supposedly stand for life by standing against abortion yet praising military service. The hands of the church are covered in blood today! How can we ignore all the orphans and widows and destruction in the wake of our wicked wars? There is not a single justifiable war coming from this nation or ANY other! What's worse is this current administration's support of Syrian rebels is resulting in the massacres of our brothers and sisters in Christ over there, including their children! Yet, many churches in a few days will be singing about the red, white and blue and praising our troops and enjoying fireworks displays as they live under the illusion that they are free and that it is because of the troops. We get our freedom from God and no other! How does torture, racism, murder, rape, theft, greed and idolatry fit into the Christian picture? It doesn't! It is anathema to how Christians are to walk. We are to love each other. This includes loving our enemies (fabled or real). Can we love them by destroying their lives? Of course not? So why are so many churches essentially worshipping military service and waving flags in nationalistic idolatry? Because they are deceived, but God is not mocked! They must reexamine their faith OR ELSE!!! I had to reexamine my faith and repent! I had to repent of my blind patriotism and bloodied hands that used to support military service and war. I am a veteran who now understands the grave error of serving the military industrialized complex of death and destruction. I've been to Kuwait and seen the wake of war. It is not worthy to be praised. Our troops should not have ANY of our support. Only our prayers that their blinded eyes may see the truth! Melissa, I like the line where you said "You cannot separate the military from its government. The first exists to be sacrificed, that the second might increase in unholy power." Amen!!! Thanks again for sharing! Please share this sort of insightful thought provoking info anytime. God bless you!"
"How can you love your enemies and drone them, shoot them, tank them and who knows what other killing machine is out there."
"When training for hand to hand combat we were told to yell "KILL, KILL, KILL!!!" as we charged a dummy person and ran or through with a bayonet. Even then these sort of actions troubled me, but such uneasiness was quickly forgotten since what I was doing had the support of my family and friends and local church. I wish someone would have told me otherwise and provoked me to think more about my actions. Instead, I had this idea that those who spoke against war were hippies or tree huggers or socialist liberals. They weren't good conservative Republicans like me. The reality is JESUS is against military service and war. Read Matthew chapter 5 and the message is quite clear for those who have ears to hear. Also, read the story of Peter slicing off Malchus' ear and Jesus saying to "put up thy sword". As saints we are to humbly go to the slaughter as Jesus did, if necessary, before we raise a hand against another. The New Testament clearly demands that we love at peace with ALL. How is this accomplished supporting the killing fields of war? Obviously it is not! ...and by the way, Romans 13 DOES NOT condone modern warfare as we know it nor is such a passage applicable to saints. Although, many a good Baptist will try to argue that it does. Sigh! By the way, though it has cost me to take a REAL position of pro-life (not the hypocritical anti-abortion yet pro-war stance many take) by defending the life of the unborn and the born, I have also been blessed to find myself in the company of true friends. When I say true friends I mean those who truly follow Jesus. A REAL friend of Jesus is a friend of mine. I am not content with the division that has been caused by standing against military service and this wicked government, but I realize it is a reality. I wish that is wasn't so. I miss those who have decided to take my stance as a personal attack or anti-American or even anti-Christ. I've been told some pretty harsh things because I stand with Jesus on this. So be it! His truth is marching on. We are to present it as humbly and loving and peacefully as we can. The resulting division and hate and violence Jesus said would happen. Why? Because ultimately many love their sin and their idolatry more than God! Let us live at peace with one another and withhold our support of bloody wars and greedy governments! God bless!"
So anyway, Robert, those are some of the views of some I felt close to before, but now they would say I was a hypocrite for saying I was "pro-life", while I don't take a stand against military service. I personally went into the military because it was basically like a "leap of faith" and I was hoping the Lord would lead me into a way to witness for Him more effectively. I went to a Christian college prior to that in hopes to be a missionary, but I could not agree with some of their teachings (especially their water baptism teachings) so I stopped attending there. Even though I do agree in some respects concerning the facts that the military is filled with excessive immorality/wickedness, and there is mental abuse and brainwashing and so I would probably not recommend for most people to join and especially not females, however I do resent that he seems to imply that it is impossible to be in the military and to be a sincere dedicated Christian at the same time. Do you respond to people such as this and their accusations, or do you think it best to just ignore them?
Thank you for listening and for allowing me to vent a little and I always greatly appreciate all your wise and sound answers!
Your friend in Christ Jesus our Lord,
It's always great to hear from you, my friend, and I am very happy to hear that the previous response was helpful to you. In my own experience, there's nothing like the truth of the Word of God. It puts "eyes" into our head to see clearly where before we were clueless – and that goes for everyone who has ever learned anything about God's truth. We all have to learn the same way, namely, through the power of the Spirit who makes the truth we put ourselves into a position to hear real to us so that we may believe it. When we do, it becomes not just knowledge but what is called in scripture "epignosis". The word is hard to translate; it might be rendered something like "directed knowledge" or "acknowledged knowledge", but what it means is truth which is not only intellectually understood but actually made part of a person's "heart store" of truth through the Spirit and through the act of actually having believed it. No truth is any good to anyone without belief.
As to these posts and your questions, it seems to me that there are two issues here: 1) what is the truth about all these matters?; and 2) what is the best way to communicate them to others? To take the second question first, as I often have occasion to remark, I am not gifted in apologetics. I do think that some Christians are, and I definitely think that there is a time and a place for standing up for the truth (that goes for all Christians); but as to the mechanics of the best way, the best time, and the best methods to employ, that would seem to me to depend upon the circumstances, the media, and personalities involved. Personally, I try to stay away from all arguments and discussions that have veered into anything that might be considered political because politics have a way of taking over the "field of battle" and reducing any Christian concerns that were at the forefront when the discussion began to mere window dressing in a worldly fight. The remarks shared in this email certainly cross that line at various points. I am not saying that it would be wrong to engage on these terms; I am merely saying that 1) such decisions are best made by the person in question, and 2) are best steered by the Spirit in conjunction with the gifts and "full-knowledge" of that person. You are clearly someone with gifts in this area and you also are a Christian with a good level of spiritual maturity and understanding; so I would leave it to you to decide "if and when", merely adding the caveat I always give to do your best as far as you can from your end to keep it spiritual and stay away from politics.
That does lead to the second issue, namely, the substance and "what is the truth?". In my mind there is no question but that military service is an honorable profession, and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a Christian joining the military. Indeed, as with law enforcement, this is a profession of self-sacrifice where considerable risk is taken on for the benefit of others. This is not to say that any military organization is perfect, and certainly not that all the individuals in a military organization are perfect. After all, we live in the world. Short of "going out of the world", we are going to encounter godless unbelievers of many stripes and all manner of questionable behavior in whatever we do to earn our daily bread:
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet [I] certainly [did] not [mean] with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person.
1st Corinthians 5:9-11 NKJV
As these verses make clear, Christians are to be discerning in their "optional" relationships, particularly when it is a case of offensive "brethren"; God knows very well that if we are walking and working in the world, we will bump into all manner of questionable persons and actions. The mark of a Christian is to eschew foul behavior in his/her own actions, and to keep everything with persons who don't on a purely professional basis. This is, in my opinion, easier to do in the military than in some other areas of life, because, generally speaking, military organizations run a "tighter ship" than most civilian organizations/companies/groups do, so that while on both sides there may codes of propriety, one is more likely to find them functioning properly in the military. To be sure there are lapses everywhere, but a mature Christian ought to be able to navigate such roiled waters whether inside or outside of the military.
The impression that some of your correspondents have (or wish to leave) is that the only two possibilities in this regard are rabid, unthinking patriotism and pacifistic, anti-military rejectionism. The sweet-spot is in the middle, however. Personally, I have no problem understanding that my allegiance is to Jesus Christ. While I am very happy to be an American and do my duty as such, I have no illusions about my country's problems and the flaws in our government, society, foreign and domestic policy. Any Christian who cannot distinguish between the loyalty and commitment they owe to Jesus Christ and the loyalty and commitment they owe to their country – and keep these in the proper relationship of Christ first and everything else second – certainly has no business joining the military. The military presents a great number of challenges to faith and practice (as do other experiences, going to college, for example), and as with all difficult endeavors in life, only the spiritually mature are likely to navigate such challenging times in an honorable, Christian way. Joining the military no more constitutes a ratification of bad behavior of some of the individuals therein or the policies of the government than does, say, joining a law firm where many of those working there may be immoral and where some of the tactics employed may occasionally be questionable and sometimes result in miscarriages of justice. One could make this comparison about almost any profession.
The Bible never condemns being in the military; quite to the contrary, those in the military come in for commendation for their actions on numerous occasions (the appeal to the beatitudes is a mere canard inasmuch as there are plenty of things in that perfect code of conduct that could be used to rebuke the behavior of any human being alive). For the details on this, please see the links:
Christian Love: The Golden Rule, Christian Military Service and Self-Defense
Qualms about military service
What does the Bible say about War, History, and Politics?
The Bible on war
Preemption and self-defense
As I say at certain points in these links, overall political circumstances do matter. If I were drafted into the US Navy during WWII, any objection of conscious to serving would be difficult to sustain, in my opinion. However, if, during the same conflict, I live in Germany and had been drafted into the Waffen SS so as to round up and execute Jews in the Ukraine, who would doubt but that a Christian should renege (regardless of consequences)? So as we draw nearer to the end times, the issue of "whom are you serving" is becoming more and more of a valid one. At present, we live in republic which is not in principle entirely anti-God in its constitution or overall practices; as long as that is the case, obeying its laws and serving its agencies, including the military, is not, in my view, sinful. And as I say, given the risks taken on behalf of the rest of us by men and women in uniform, military service is in my view sacrificial and honorable. The day may come when things change so much that it will no longer be advisable for Christians to serve. That day came in Weimar Germany when the armed forces were told to swear an oath not to the country but to Adolph Hitler personally. In my view, that was the breaking point. We are not there yet in this country. But it is not amiss to consider the dangers of fatal compromise stemming from the future possibility of Christian military service under antichrist during the Tribulation (that would go for being in law enforcement at that future time as well).
The military is tough in many ways. It is not for sissies, physical or spiritual. For believers who have gained a sufficient level of maturity, it can be a wonderful, toughening experience; for those who are not ready for it, however, it can be very damaging.
Finally, abortion is a terrible thing (and unquestionably a sin). Technically speaking, however, it is not murder (at least in God's eyes; see the link). That is because human life only begins at birth when the Lord places the human spirit into the just-born infant (coinciding with the first independent breath). The expression of this truth often enrages anti-abortionists. But why should it? If that is what the Bible teaches (and it is), then that is what the Bible teaches. The fact of people getting upset about the truth on this point has more to do with the fact that they are disturbed at the possibility of losing a strong emotional and political point: if an act is murder, it ought to be against the law; if an act is murder, it may dissuade people from engaging in it more than if it were "merely" a horrible sin (which abortion most certainly is). But that is no justification for trampling the truth underfoot for the sake of a "higher cause" – there is no higher cause than God's truth. The ends never justify the means, especially if those ends entail distorting God's truth. Why not call abortion treason, or the unpardonable sin? I know enough about rhetoric and the Bible to be able to make a plausible (false) argument for either one. In my experience, every scrap of truth in scripture is important, every principle is key – for those trying to grow up spiritually, walk ever closer to the Lord, and help others do the same. Some truths we eagerly embrace; some are harder for us to accept; but they are all there for a reason. If we do seek out and set ourselves to believing the truth regardless of our personal feelings, we will grow and, in the end, all of our doubts and reticence will dissolve. If, however, we set ourselves and our emotional predispositions up as umpires as to what may or may not be true, it will only retard our growth and, in extreme cases, may make us vulnerable to capture by those using these chinks in our armor to bend us to their evil devices. But for those who willfully manipulate the truth in order to achieve personal and political ends, well, I would like to say that there is a special corner of hell reserved; however, all hell will be "hell". God wants all to be saved; I have a hard time believing that any who would distort His Word for ulterior ends are.
Your friend in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the dear Lord and Savior who died that we might live.