Do Soldiers Imitate Christ?
by Laurence M. Vance: The
Most Ridiculous Arguments and Criticisms I Have Ever Received
This past Veterans
Day was especially troubling to those of us who don’t go to church
to see and hear the military idolatry that is unfortunately all
too prevalent in many churches. The reason this year was so bad
is that Veterans Day actually fell on a Sunday. It is bad enough
to attend church on the Sunday before Veterans Day (or Independence
Day), but it is even worse when a state holiday falls on a Sunday.
Thank God Memorial Day is always observed on a Monday.
So, this past
Veterans Day was the perfect day for military-loving churches to
give their last full measure of devotion, so to speak, when it comes
to the military: veterans dressed in their military uniforms, veterans
asked to stand while they are applauded, active duty military personnel
recognized, the church building and grounds decorated with flags,
the pledge to the flag recited, patriotic songs sung, hymns of worship
to the state sung, prayers for the troops, thanks to the troops
for "keeping us safe" and "defending our freedoms,"
the songs of the different branches of the military played on the
piano before the service or during the offering, a "Support
Our Troops" message on the church sign, a video tribute to
the military played during the Sunday morning church service, a
special message by a military chaplain from the local base, and
the glorification of the military in general.
I have observed
on more than one occasion that American Christians don’t seem to
care how many wars their great troops are involved in, how senseless
the wars, or how many lies the wars are based on. They don’t seem
to care how many countries their beloved troops are in, how many
foreign bases they are on, or how many billions the United States
spends to maintain its empire of troops and bases around the globe.
They don’t seem to care how many foreign civilians are killed by
their glorious troops, how many are maimed and injured, or how many
widows and orphans they create. It doesn’t seem to matter what their
great troops do, where their beloved troops do it, and to whom their
glorious troops do it.
This is no
more apparent than in the writings of the theologically schizophrenic
Michael Milton, whom I discovered and wrote about a
Milton is the
Chancellor, CEO, and The James M. Baird Jr. Chair of Pastoral Theology
at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Milton
is also a Navy veteran, an Army Reserve chaplain, an instructor
at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center & School in Fort Jackson, S.C.,
and a member of the American Legion, the Reserve Officers Association,
and the U.S Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Association. And as I
also pointed out last year, he holds to every armchair warrior,
red-state fascist, reich-wing nationalist, imperial Christian fallacy
known to man.
Day is a holy day, at least for me," says Milton in an article
for byFaith, the online magazine of the Presbyterian Church
in America, "And I think that Christ is glorified, at least
in my heart, when I hear the Navy hymn sung by voices that have
been there, in the air, in the land, and on the sea."
In his article
Milton reminiscences about being a young man and seeing a neighbor
named Carl leaving for Vietnam. "I felt proud to see him go.
He had his uniform on, having just returned from boot camp for a
final few days of family time before being flown to Vietnam, and
I was impressed," says Milton, who "loved to see young
men in our country’s uniforms" because it reminded him of his
late father, a naval officer, who died when he was five. Milton
never saw Carl alive again, but he did see the men in uniform emerge
from the "white government car" a month later and tell
Carl’s young wife that he had been killed in Vietnam.
What made my
blood boil was not that Carl died unnecessarily,
a lie, just like the thousands of U.S. soldiers who have done
so in Iraq and Afghanistan, but – as senseless and as tragic as
Carl’s death was – because of what Milton said about soldiers in
recounting his Veterans Day custom:
nearest Veterans Day, I would always take time in the announcements
to read from Romans 13 about "showing honor unto whom honor
was due." I would ask our organist or pianist to play the
service songs of each of the Armed Forces branches and for veterans
to stand as they were played. I would ask them to stand for those
who also served but did not come home. I always reminded them
to play for the Merchant Marines, too. At the conclusion, as all
were standing, I asked that we go to the Lord to pray for these
and give thanks for all who would imitate Christ Jesus and serve
and sacrifice so that we could be free.
last statements in reverse order –
fighting in foreign wars are doing everything but defending our
freedoms. The more they defend our freedoms – by bombing, invading,
and occupying other countries – the more enemies of the United States
they create and the more our real freedoms are taken away in the
name of "fighting terrorism" and "national security."
Since I never "served," don’t take my word for it; listen
to Army veteran and now president of the Future
of Freedom Foundation, Jacob Hornberger, who has been arguing
this very point for years.
always sacrificed for a reason and a purpose. An accidental death
is not a sacrifice. An unnecessary death is not a sacrifice. A death
in vain is not a sacrifice. A senseless death is not a sacrifice.
A death that is not required is not a sacrifice. The thousands of
U.S. soldiers who have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan did
not sacrifice themselves for freedom or anything else. Their lives
were wasted. They were wasted because their deaths were both pointless
Do U.S. soldiers
perform any service that is honorable, necessary, and worthy of
thanks? Do they defend the United States by securing its borders,
guarding its shores, patrolling its coasts, or watching its skies?
Fighting foreign wars is not serving. Bombing and destroying Iraq
and Afghanistan is not serving. Killing hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis and Afghans is not serving. Occupying countries is not serving.
Playing golf on a U.S. military golf course while stationed in Japan
is not serving. These are just ways of earning a paycheck for being
part of the
president’s personal attack force.
the worst thing that Milton did was to say that soldiers imitate
Christ. He went on to say this once more in his article: "Christ
is the captain of our salvation, and we will serve our nation, our
people, in some way, as a pale but earnest imitation of His life
and death on Calvary’s cross." U.S. soldiers don’t deserve
to be mentioned in the same sentence with the Lord Jesus Christ
– the Prince of Peace. Just because Christ died and soldiers die
doesn’t mean that the two deaths are somehow related. Jesus Christ
laid down his life for us. The American soldiers killed in Iraq
and Afghanistan didn’t die for us, unless you mean the U.S. imperial
presidency, U.S. hegemony, the U.S. empire, the U.S. military, the
U.S. military-industrial complex, U.S. foreign policy, and the U.S.
national security state. Do soldiers imitate Christ when they bomb
and shoot, when they invade and occupy, when they plunder and pillage,
or when they maim and kill?
Veterans Day being, as Milton concludes, "a holy day when mortal
men and women remind us of the service and sacrifice of Jesus Christ,"
I think it is rather an unholy day when mortal men and women are
wrongly exalted over the service and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, Rethinking
the Good War, and The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. His latest book
War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom. Visit his
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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