If you go to church at all you’ve probably heard the prayer requests: “Protect our troops in harm’s way,” “Shield our men and women overseas from the enemy,” “Keep our brave soldiers safe,” “Defend our soldiers as they defend our freedoms.” And even if you don’t attend church, you’ve seen the signs outside of business and on bumper stickers: “God bless our troops.”
But does anyone ever stop and consider whether we should ask God to bless the troops?
The war Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, is a monstrous evil. U.S. troops are not defending our freedoms, protecting America, upholding the Constitution, keeping us safe from terrorists, preserving our way of life, fighting them “over there” so we don’t have to fight them “over here,” or any of the other blather that passes for reality now a days. To those on the receiving end of American bombs, missiles, and bullets in Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Yemen, etc.), U.S. troops are attackers, invaders, trespassers, occupiers, aggressors, and killers. I conclude with Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation that
after 10 years of invasion, occupation, torture, killings, incarcerations, renditions, assassinations, death, destruction, anger, hatred, and the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, it’s time to admit that the military invasion of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, was horribly wrong.
And as much as Americans also don’t want to admit it, because these wars and military operations are unnecessary, immoral, and unjust, U.S. troops have innocent blood on their hands.
Yet, I am sometimes told, even by opponents of current U.S. military actions, that it is the president, the politicians, the ruling class, the neoconservatives, the Joint Chiefs, the military brass, the defense contractors, and/or the Congress that should be blamed for these wars.
My detractors have forgotten one important group: the soldiers that do the actual fighting. They are the ones invading, occupying, torturing, killing, maiming, incarcerating, indefinite detaining, extraordinary renditioning, assassinating, destroying property, stirring up anger and hatred against the United States, and increasing the threat of terrorist retaliation – not the president, not the politicians, not the ruling class, not the neoconservatives, not the Joint Chiefs, not the military brass, not the defense contractors, and not the Congress.
That some joined the military out of a sense of patriotism after 9/11 or that some joined the military because they were deceived by a recruiter or that some joined the military out of ignorance of U.S. foreign policy or that some joined the military because they couldn’t find gainful employment still doesn’t change the fact that it is the soldiers who do the actual fighting.
Yes, they are pawns in the deadly game of U.S. foreign policy, but as free moral agents they are still responsible for their actions.
So, if it is true that current U.S. military actions are morally wrong, then it stands to reason that asking God to bless the troops would not only be an exercise in futility, but downright blasphemous. And if it is true that current U.S. military actions are morally wrong, then it also stands to reason that blessing the troops would be the last thing on God’s mind. I get this idea from reading Proverbs 6:16-19:
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
We have all heard the slogan, “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.” But is there anything the Marines are doing overseas that they or we should be proud of? There are the lies about defending our freedoms by fighting in Afghanistan or being stationed in Japan. There is the innocent blood being shed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are wicked imaginations being devised in retaliation against insurgents who killed occupying U.S. troops. There are feet swift in running to mischief that keep open the network of brothels surrounding U.S. bases overseas. There are false witnesses who kill civilians and retroactively declare them insurgents and a threat. There is discord sown among Americans over the actions of the military.
And it’s not just the Marines. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines – they all take pride in their service just as Americans take pride in them. Americans greet the troops as conquering heroes in airports. They applaud them on airplanes and in sports arenas just for being in the military. They thank them for their service in the Post Office. They recognize them in church on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, or on the Sunday before. And the troops stand up straight and stick their chest out and take it all in.
When was the last time a soldier who “served” in Iraq or Afghanistan came home and acknowledged that what was going over there was nothing short of criminal? Sure, it has happened. And I have had many current and former soldiers write me and say as much. But when was the last time one of the tens of thousands of soldiers who have returned from a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan publicly stated that he was not proud of his “service”?
Perhaps they are too concerned about their career, their rank, their next assignment, or their image? In today’s economy I almost can’t blame members of the military for remaining in, hanging around, lying low, and staying under the radar until retirement. I suspect that many soldiers come home with serious doubts about what they were doing in Iraq or Afghanistan and are even ashamed of what they did, but come home in such horrible shape – mentally, physically, and emotionally – that they just want to forget about it.
But there is a difference between staying under the radar until retirement and just being another government employee like a clerk at the Social Security Administration and going back to Afghanistan and being put in a position where you might shed more innocent blood, devise more wicked imaginations, engage in more mischief, spout more lies, witness more falsely, and sow more discord. Yet, many willingly return.
I have never said to not pray for the troops. But praying for the troops is not the same as asking God to bless the troops.
Pray that the troops don’t shed innocent blood. Pray that the troops don’t commit suicide. Pray for pastors to stop recommending military service to their young people. Pray for Christian families to stop supplying cannon fodder to the military. Pray that the troops come home. Pray that young people find employment instead of join the military. Pray for the end of military recruiters preying on young, impressionable students. Pray for an end to senseless foreign wars. Pray for an end to the U.S. empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe.
Oh, there are many things regarding the troops to pray for, but God blessing the troops should not be one of them.