This is how Joshua Joscelyn describes his visit to a church this morning that had a Memorial Day service. And this is a church where the pastor opposes the Iraq war. Read it on Facebook or below.A peculiar thing happened in many American churches today. I, myself, was in one church where this very thing happened. One might not have expected such a thing to have happened in American churches, especially Baptist churches of the type to which I am accustomed. But it did. And it happened in gross detail and thoroughness, with the full support of the ministerial staff, deacons, ushers, musicians, and most of the members in general, if not all. The funny thing is that, because of the context and the occasion, no one thought twice about it. Perhaps if it were of a different nature, and with a different context, and on a different Sunday, the church would have been irate that such a thing would happen within their hallowed walls. But they weren’t. Because it was Memorial Day. And the thing that happened? Fornication.
That’s right. In thousands of churches today, spiritual fornication took place in rampant fashion, and with the backing of good men and women. It happened with the support and at the direction of good men of God – preachers of holiness, separation, and righteousness. But like their Jewish predecessors of the Old Testament, they substituted a false god for the one, true Jehovah. In the Old Testament, God gives His Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, and the very first commandment of all reads “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). But what did the children of Israel do? Well, some of the time, they worshipped Jehovah. But other times, they worshipped other gods. The prophet Jeremiah decried this worshipping of graven images and fashioned idols when he repeated the Lord’s words to him, “Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up…and there hath played the harlot…And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks” (Jer. 3:6,9). God uses very strong language to speak of Israel’s substituting other things for the worship of Him, likening Israel to a harlot and her actions to whoredom.
He even speaks of the prophets engaging in this practice (Jer. 23:14). In fact, one of the more famous examples of spiritual fornication was led by Aaron, the high priest, when the children of Israel worshipped the golden calf with their song and dance. These unfaithful devotees were no better than the temple prostitutes employed in the pagan rituals of their neighbors. The language of the Bible even indicates that some of Israel’s practices might have also included this literal practice of temple prostitution, as well. And the same parallel could be drawn in modern worship of the Lord Almighty, today. We have our own temple prostitution. It just goes by other names.
In the New Testament, Jesus repeated the commandment to love the Lord supremely to the exclusion of all others. And many Christians who believe they obey this commandment do not even realize the rank hypocrisy they are guilty of when sitting through a typical Memorial Day service. Perhaps this is because the service looks like a regular church service. Perhaps this is because the service sounds like a regular church service. And the fact is, in many ways, it is a regular church service – with one exception: the object of worship. Today, I had the misfortune of sitting through song after song praising the killing forces of the United States government, as if this were on par with worshipping God, the One who gave us life, salvation, and peace. But regardless of who the songs were about – military or no military – they weren’t about God! And I was in church! Worship was taking place, no doubt about it. Hands were raised, iconic memorabilia was displayed in prominent places, heads were occasionally bowed, standing ovations occurred, and who knows what else (I walked out mid-service). But the object of worship was not God – even though the sign out front said “Baptist Church.”
Now, some churches might water this down, and rather than directly worshipping the military or U.S. government, they “thank God for” the military. But the result is the same: the service is focused not on God, but on the object He is being “thanked” for. I’ll admit this latter mode is not as abhorrent to myself as is the former method, but I submit to you that God is still not pleased. He says “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8). God makes it clear that He does not share His glory with anyone. “I will not give my glory to another” (Isa. 48:11). So how dare we, like the pagan, temple prostitutes, and the idolatrous backsliders of Israel, turn God’s church services, in God’s house, into services of praise and glory for the U.S. military?
The objection might be raised that we are merely thanking those who died in defense of our freedom, but that is not what I saw, nor have seen. Graphics of modern tools of empire were flashed on the screens, jets and tanks invading foreign lands in conquest were displayed, and standing ovations were given for troops who invaded unprovoked nations like North Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. But regardless, even if these pawns of empire had really died in our defense, keep the focus where it should be! Soldiers do not give us liberty, security, or peace – God does! And while it is not wrong to thank someone who defends you, it should not be the focus of an entire church service. This is setting up something in the place of God, and God calls it whoredom – prostitution.
Today, good churches who usually worship the one, true God, backslid. They took a vacation from praising Jesus. Instead, they set up a golden calf. “This time,” they said, “we will bow down to the idols fashioned by our very own hands.” And then they turned around, and in God’s house, they spent an hour praising the military and U.S. government – creatures of their own making. In Jeremiah 2:26, God points out the irony of Israel’s idolatry to stones and images they, themselves, created: “Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.” Likewise, God condemns the spiritual fornication of modern American Christians who bow down to the military and government, saying “They fight for our freedoms. They fight there, so we don’t have to fight here. If you’re free, thank a soldier.” How wrong they are. God is my provider – not the U.S government or their goons. And if you or your pastor engages in this spiritual fornication – becoming unfaithful to your first love, God Almighty – you are guilty of so much more than you may realize. Giving God’s glory to the military is a serious whoredom. You are a temple prostitute.