Do Soldiers Imitate Christ? by Laurence M. Vance
…..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 year ago.
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.
“Veterans 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, duped, in vain, and for 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:
Each Sunday 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.
Taking these last statements in reverse order –
U.S. troops 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 (here and here) to Army veteran and now president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, Jacob Hornberger, who has been arguing this very point for years……..