But first, a funny story. Mistakes that local, but non-military, kids make in this Northern Virginia area:
While driving on Route 395 through Arlington, Neighbor Girl looks over and sees a very large building. “Is that that hexagon building?” she asks.
Whatever. I don’t really care if the cover page that nobody really reads has a Bible quote or not.
What gets me going is the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, suggesting that a Bible quote on a Pentagon brief portrays American soldiers as crusaders.
Let me tell you, the military is the one place where we do not want to remove God. The military, like the rest of America, is worldly, secular, and materialistic. There are pockets of religiously-minded people, but they run the gamut of all religions, and include varying degrees of devotion to that religion. And, just like the rest of America, there are many, among those who are “devout,” who “homechurch” or otherwise worship in their own manner, like seeing the beauty of God in a quiet golf course on a Sunday morning.
There is no lock-step, no single-mindedness, no communal belief in a higher calling.
And when you’re talking about “boots on the ground” soldiers, the ones actively engaging the potential enemy, you have a population that is mostly under 25. Like the rest of America, this age group is the least likely to consider themselves devout anything.
As uncomfortable as this concept may be for the average civilian, a soldier’s primary job is to defend and protect, which is a really nice way of saying kill. They are not a police force, designed to capture bad guys and bring them to a court system for justice. Although most (the old and the wise) soldiers hope that by carrying guns and looking tough, the bad guys will decide to pick on easier targets – like Europe – they all know that their job description includes “eliminating” threats.
Do we want a godless Army?
Do we want soldiers who don’t believe that there are any eternal consequences for their behavior on the battlefield or off? What, then, will keep them from crossing the line from killing during a battle to murdering anything that crosses their line of sight? We expect soldiers to make split second decisions – is that a combatant hiding in the closet or a little child? I have a hard time believing that fear of prosecution is a greater motivator to make the right choice than fear of eternal damnation, especially if your fellow soldiers and commanding officer and entire chain of command are equally unconcerned about morality. For at some point, the thought of “getting away with it” will permeate the organization if there aren’t any Jiminy Crickets in the bunch.
Bill’s job is hard and there are many long hours. In many ways it is incompatible with the family-centered lifestyle we desire, and the sacrifices required by the children and I are tremendous. He certainly isn’t in it for the money, and even if he were, the risk – and the fear – of sending a husband and father off to war and getting back a body in a box or a broken and changed man does not at times seem worth it. Dying does not bother my husband nearly as much as the thought of leaving behind a widow and six orphans to cope with the mess their lives suddenly became. And leaving that possibility aside, there are only so many baseball games or ballet recitals that you can miss before you start to doubt that this is the right career path.
But the military needs family men who can see their own child’s eyes reflected in those of a scrawny kid in Kosovo. It needs men who derive comfort from, as well as fear, a just God who reads the hearts of all and knows the truth of what you do. A moral man does not obey an unlawful order. Take God out of the military and you risk creating a power unfettered by conscience.
So, again, whatever. No more Bible quotes on Pentagon briefs. But may the civilians whose sensibilities are so disturbed at the thought of soldiers deriving comfort and direction from the Word of God hold their own behavior and choices to such a supreme standard.