Veterans Day is one of those holidays, along with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, when it isn’t safe for non-imperial Christians who think the state should be separated from the church to attend church on the Sunday before one of these holidays. Especially troublesome is when one of these holidays, or Flag Day, actually falls on a Sunday.
In many churches, Sunday services on or before these holidays are unbearable because they feature, or are wholly devoted to, the glorification of the U.S. military. Because the Christian’s golden calf is the military, it is necessary to demilitarize American churches.
Although the extent to which you can demilitarize your church depends on whether you are a pastor or church leader, some other person of influence, or just a typical layman, here are some suggestions.
First, recognize the need to demilitarize your church. Although I assume that most of you reading this article are opposed to the glorification of the military in church (or anywhere else), it is still crucial that you educate yourself as to the problems with the military — its unnecessary size, its bloated budget, its inefficiency, its merchants-of-death contractors, its murderous mercenaries, its weapons of mass destruction, its unconstitutional mission, its inability to protect its own headquarters, its foreign interventions, its foreign occupations, its overseas bases and troop deployments — and just how much the military has pervaded all of society. I recommend, first of all, two chapters in my book Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State: “The Military” and “Christianity and the Military.” All of the essays are available in my article archive on this website. Since the publication the second edition of my book in January of last year, I have written many additional articles on the military and Christianity and the military. Again, see my article archive on this website. Second, see the excellent collection of articles on this website by Tom Engelhardt. Third, read Nick Turse’s The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Henry Holt, 2009). And last, but not least, see the Chalmers Johnson trilogy: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis. You must be ready for opposition, and not just from veterans. Your whole church may in fact be against you.
Second, there are some practices that you need to stop, or try to get others to stop, in order to demilitarize your church. No more turning holidays into military appreciation days. No more special military appreciation days. No more recognizing current members of the military or veterans. No more encouraging current members of the military or veterans to wear their uniforms on the above-mentioned holidays. No more treating military personnel differently from other occupations. No more references to military personnel “serving” in the military. No more unspecific and unspecified prayers for “the troops in harm’s way.” No more military guest speakers. No more justifying service in the military because the Bible mentions soldiers. No more “God Bless Our Troops” or “Pray for Our Troops” or “Thank a Veteran” slogans on church signs, bulletins, and websites. No more equating patriotism with admiration for the military. No more calling soldiers returning from overseas heroes. No more blasphemous nonsense about the troops dying for our freedoms like Christ died for our sins.
Third, there are some things that you can do to immunize your church from something that causes more deaths than swine flu — the U.S. military. Warn young people about the evils of “serving” in the military. And that includes being a chaplain, a medic, or a National Guardsman. I would feel like a failure as a parent, a pastor, or a youth director if one of my “kids” joined today’s military. Here is a letter I wrote to a Christian young man about joining the military. Instruct people about the true nature of the military. In many cases, they are simply just ignorant of the fact that the military is doing everything else but defending the United States, securing U.S. borders, guarding U.S. shores, patrolling U.S. coasts, and enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies. Emphasize the need for missionaries to be sent to the Middle East instead of U.S. troops. If Christians in the United States are so concerned about the threat of Islam, then they should do everything they can to convert Muslims to Christianity instead of wanting American Christian soldiers to kill them heartily in the name of the Lord. Never cease to point out that although God in the Old Testament commanded the nation of Israel to fight against heathen nations, the president of the United States is not God, America is not the nation of Israel, the U.S. military is not the Lord’s army, the Christian’s sword is the word of God, and the only warfare the New Testament encourages the Christian to wage is against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Pay no attention to military advertising slogans like the new one that says the Navy is “A Global Force for Good.”
Now, none of this means that churches should not reach out to those in the military and their families. Nothing I have said precludes a church from having a military ministry. Remember, demilitarizing your church means treating soldiers just like plumbers, barbers, or truckers.
Because of rampant nationalism, imperialism, and red-state fascism, demilitarizing your church won’t be easy. But “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezekiel 2:7), it is a necessary endeavor.