by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
"And so to every sailor, soldier, airman, and marine who is involved in this mission, let me say you're doing God's work."
~ George H. W. Bush, December 1992
"And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces."
~ George W. Bush, June 2005
Even though the war in Iraq is a miserable reality, even though the number of dead American soldiers is approaching the 1,800 mark, even though more prisoner abuse scandals are unfolding, even though the number of insurgents is growing, and even though the war on terrorism is creating more terrorists, still Christians are defending Bush, the war, and the military.
No matter how anti-Christian Bush's actions are, some Christians continue to defend him because he professes to be a Christian. It doesn't matter how often the lies that got us into the war in Iraq are exposed, many Christians still support this war — they are just upset about the manner in which it has been fought. But the worst thing is that no matter what their opinion of Bush (or any president) or his war (or any war), most Christians persist in their holy sacrosanct reverence for the military.
In fact, it appears that support for the military among Christians is actually growing. The troops are now the object of pity. Isn't it terrible that they don't get to see their families for weeks and months on end? Isn't it disgraceful that they lack the armor they need for protection. Isn't it tragic that they might suffer from psychological health issues after they return from Iraq? And, horror of horrors, they are facing injury or death every day as they fight for our freedoms.
Never mind that every soldier in Iraq joined the military voluntarily. Never mind that every member of the Guard and Reserve knew that he might be called to active duty. Never mind that no American soldier has any business in Iraq. Never mind that every soldier who harbors doubts about the wisdom of the U.S. military being in Iraq had a hundred years of American foreign interventions to learn from. Never mind that every soldier who participates in U.S. wars and interventions is ignoring the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Never mind that the military does very little to actually defend the United States.
Just never mind. Support the troops, defend the troops, pray for the troops, write to the troops, send things to the troops, applaud the troops, make apologies for the troops, worship the troops — just never mind where they are, how they were sent there, what they are doing there, and when they are leaving.
Many Christians have practically elevated military "service" to the level of the Christian ministry. Both presidents named George Bush have done so, as the above quotations show. Christian defenders of the military ought to pay more attention to the words of those who have been in the military instead of disqualifying me from criticizing the military because I have never "served."
The following comments about life in the military are from some of my readers. Although the Bible says that "in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Corinthians 13:1), I present here four "witnesses."
My first witness is R. M., an Army veteran from Massachusetts:
I remember my Vietnam "era" service. Pornography (in the PX) and Prostitution (downtown Leesville) were readily available at Fort Polk. Sometimes the drugs were so pervasive in the billets that I thought we might draw anti-aircraft fire, the place got so high. Alcohol abuse? No comment necessary. Kipling said it best: "Men who live in barracks are never plaster saints."
My second witness is J. O., a Marine Corps veteran from Colorado:
I just finished reading "God Bless our Troops?" and I agree 100%. I served from 89—93 USMC infantry along with growing up a military dependent and I know many of those Christians who are just as you described. It boggles my mind to hear their comments regarding the military especially since most admit that they have not served nor been a dependent at any point in their lives. They make the military especially the Marines and Army infantry MOS's specifically out to be, well, almost like King Arthur's Knights in shining armor or something. I am left scratching my head after hearing their descriptions and saying: "But that's not how it is." The unit I was in along with men from other units we mainly went out drinking, looking for sex, and the occasional fight at each liberty call we got. That was just fun for us.
I try to tell these Christians some of my past experiences but they don't want to hear it. I even went so far as to show some uncut raw Reuters footage of Marines in action in Iraq that I found, cussing and all. They either didn't want to see it or were offended by the cussing or something. As they are walking away I say, "Why are you offended? Its just the way they talk is all. Its like that in peacetime as well." On another occasion I'll sit there laughing at one marine's joke on a video (crude and sexual) and the Christians get really offended. Once again I say that's just the sense of humor besides its funny as hell!
I just don't understand Christians like Jerry Falwell for example. I am still left scratching my head because I have never in my life experienced the type of "military" that they describe or envision.
My third witness is L. G., an Army veteran from South Dakota:
I just read your piece from today's Lew Rockwell. Well put. I find it hard to believe that so many nominal ‘Christians' think that the military is some kind of enclave of virtue. I was in the Army for 4 years ('84—'88). Let us forget, for a moment, that the purpose of the military is to kill and destroy property — as if that is not bad enough. How does the military hold up when it comes to instilling what Christians call "values"? Well, I was shocked at the pervasiveness of drunkenness and sexual immorality among my fellow soldiers. A half-hearted review of the divorce and unwed pregnancy statistics of military personnel would give one an outline for a book on military culture. Go to a VA hospital and see which department is the busiest — it will be the alcohol and drug treatment program. Military culture is rotten to the core (despite the clean-shaven, spit-shined façade), and it corrupts those who enter therein.
My fourth witness is T. S., a Navy veteran from Florida:
As a Christian, I made a foolish decision to enlist in the United States Navy. I served from 1990 to 1994. At the age of 18 I entered boot camp. I was placed in a company of 80 men. Never did I meet one professing Christian. It was either mold to the ways of the others or be a cast out. The military has very few standards when it comes to sexual perversion, filthy communication, or alcohol abuse. The military does have some strict standards when it comes to drug abuse, but that did not stop two Marines and I from obtaining a large sum of hashish in Spain. Many other Marines and Sailors purchased drugs that were brought and used upon the ship. Pornography and sexual perversion is out of control within the United States Military. Many a young man was first introduced to pornography within the military. God only knows the number of innocent minds that have been perverted. I can remember walking into a break room full of sailors on my ship and there on the television I saw hard-core pornography. I still suffer from some of the things these eyes saw in the Navy. I also recall the military sponsoring strippers at the club on base.
I also became a drinker of alcohol within the military. It was easy to obtain alcohol on the Little Creek Amphibious Base, either from the club or from beer vending machines. The sale and drinking of alcohol is not discouraged but encouraged by many within the ranks of the United States Military. I can remember coming back from the Persian Gulf in 1991. Our ship had not seen a port of call in months. Our only stop before crossing back over the Atlantic was in Rota, Spain. Now, what do you think was on the mind of every sailor that day? I can tell you for I was there. Every sailor was either drunk, stoned, or seeking sex through one of the numerous prostitutes available at a very cheap price.
My conclusion is this: If Christians desire their son or daughter to live by Christian values, they should not allow them to join the United States Military. Many Christians will not allow their children to attend public schools, but then allow them to join an evil, wicked, and murderous United States Military.
Think, Christian. The presence or absence of the Christian values of these witnesses is irrelevant. This is eyewitness testimony. So aside from all that is wrong with U.S. foreign policy, wars, and interventions, why would a Christian even think of joining the military or reenlisting if he had the misfortune of already being in it?
Because of September 11th? Not even Bush uses that excuse anymore. Because of money for college? "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Because of family tradition? Some families have a tradition of gluttony and drunkenness. Because of the war on terrorism? Our actions are making more terrorists. Because the military is fighting for our freedoms? Our freedoms are fast disappearing. Because you have to go where they are to "win them to Christ"? "It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right" (Bob Jones Sr., Chapel Sayings). Because of foreign tyrants? John Quincy Adams said that America "goes not abroad seeking monsters to destroy." Because the military is defending the country? The military is defending a lot of countries, but certainly not the United States. Because there is no higher calling than military service? Don't be deceived.
What, then, is a Christian, or anyone else for that matter, to do? How about mowing lawns, trimming trees, or making hamburgers? A needy service is performed, it doesn't cost the taxpayers a dime, and no one gets killed. Think, Christian.
June 21, 2005
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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