I’m not going to attend my church this Sunday because they will be holding a special ceremony to bless a church member who is being deployed to Afghanistan.
If you ask the pastor or the session whether the church should take political stands, they’ll tell you no, the church must stand separate from politics. Praying for the troops and asking for a special blessing on one as he goes—or decrying legalized abortion and gay marriage, for that matter—isn’t political? And if it’s political, shouldn’t the moral aspects at least be discussed and objections entertained? We have had no public discussion of the matter, so the answer must be no.
So I was thinking of going instead to a church that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting two weeks ago, but I rememberd that today they are commissioning a man as an Air Force chaplain. This is a church based on the idea that “only the gospel unites us, and only the gospel should divide.” That sounds great, but where is putting on a uniform called for by the gospel?
I’m reminded of words written during the Vietnam war, lyrics to a song about a military chaplain by a group known for its raunchiness:
He blesses the boys as they stand in line
The smell of gun grease and the bayonets they shine
He’s there to help them all that he can
To make them feel wanted he’s a good holy man
He smiles at the young soldiers
Tells them its all right
He knows of their fear in the forthcoming fight
Soon there’ll be blood and many will die
Mothers and fathers back home they will cry
He mumbles a prayer and it ends with a smile
The order is given
They move down the line
But he’s still behind and he’ll meditate
But it won’t stop the bleeding or ease the hate
As the young men move out into the battle zone
He feels good, with God you’re never alone
He feels tired and he lays on his bed
Hopes the men will find courage in the words that he said
You’re soldiers of God, you must understand
The fate of your country is in your young hands
May God give you strength
Do your job real well
If it all was worth it
Only time it will tell
In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes
The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words
"Thou shalt not kill"
Sky pilot, sky pilot
How high can you fly?
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky.
The “soldiers of God” in Vietnam went there at the command of a government that told them (and us who stayed home) that unless they won that war our freedoms were in danger. Well, they didn’t win that war, and we’ve been losing freedom ever since, but just as Muhammad Ali could rightly say “No North Vietnamese ever called me a nigger,” no North Vietnamese or Viet Cong has taken away our freedoms. No, our freedoms have been taken by the liars, hypocrites, thieves, and murderers who sent those “soldiers of God” to Vietnam.
All sorts of honors are bestowed on those who fought in Vietnam. Why? They lost the war. Or at least they didn’t win it. Yet the world didn’t end. So why did they go? What honor is there in having gone? They obeyed the commands of cowards, liars, hypocrites, thieves, and murderers. If they did so knowingly, what honor do they deserve? If they were fooled like the rest of us, shouldn’t they be at least chagrined? What is there to be proud of?
Why are no honors bestowed on Daniel Ellsburg, the Berrigan brothers, and others who said long before the evacuation of Saigon—and were persecuted for doing so—that the nation was in no danger and that the war was wrong? The raunch peddlers were right then; the respectable, including most US Christians, were wrong.
What judgment, I wonder, awaits the sky pilots of those days?
Is it too much to ask why there has been no national-level repentance on the part of Christians for the needless death of a million Vietnamese who had no intention of harming us? Why is the assumption beyond discussion that Christians should once again obey a government headed by a hypocritical, lying, thieving murderer by joining what amounts to his personal military, and go off to war?
What judgment awaits the sky pilots of these days?
I know few Christians who would disagree with the following from a conservative Christian Web site:
Our problem today is that we don’t even want deliverance. We don’t even know that we need deliverance. We live with a State that is corrupt and wicked to the core, we send our children to be educated in its system, we pay taxes at levels way beyond what Caesar ever demanded and then we blithely say, “render unto Caesar”. This is not what Jesus was advocating.
Am I the only one who notices that we also fly Caesar’s flag in our houses of worship, and we encourage our children to put on his uniform and kill innocents on his behalf?
Let’s ask a few questions about today’s Caesar.
Isn’t someone who would put people in cages for doing what he himself did yet never went to jail for a hypocrite?
Isn’t someone who says things like “The troops will be home by July; you can take it to the bank” and “You will be able to keep your current physician and insurance” and then doesn’t deliver a liar?
Isn’t someone who takes people’s money at gunpoint a thief?
Isn’t someone who kills innocent people a murderer?
If that is the character of the leader elected by a sizable majority of a society, should we not conclude that not only the government he heads but the society that elected it is “corrupt and wicked to the core”? Far from trusting our government when it says our freedoms—which, of course, it is stripping from us by the day—are in danger, shouldn’t we assume that it is lying to us to preserve its hold on power? Far from encouraging our youth to put on its uniform, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to guide them into the service of the true king of the universe?
Or when Peter warns us about those who “despise authority” (2 Pet 2:10) is he saying we should simply go along with those in power no matter what they say or do, some variation of “slaves obey your masters; man’s slave is Christ’s free man”? Does God encourage us to become amoral agents, puppets on the strings of people like the murderous presidents of the last hundred (or two hundred or more) years? Or when he says “if you get a chance to be free, take it” (1 Cor 7:21) does he mean he expects us to think for ourselves as much as we can, informed by Scripture, and to act at all times as moral agents who will give an account of everything we do (Eccl 12:14)?
Or does my thinking such thoughts make me apostate?