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December 5, 2012

This past Veterans Day was especially troubling to those of us who don’t go to church to see and hear the military idolatry that is unfortunately all too prevalent in many churches. The reason this year was so bad is that Veterans Day actually fell on a Sunday. It is bad enough to attend church on the Sunday before Veterans Day (or Independence Day), but it is even worse when a state holiday falls on a Sunday. Thank God Memorial Day is always observed on a Monday.

So, this past Veterans Day was the perfect day for military-loving churches to give their last full measure of devotion, so to speak, when it comes to the military: veterans dressed in their military uniforms, veterans asked to stand while they are applauded, active duty military personnel recognized, the church building and grounds decorated with flags, the pledge to the flag recited, patriotic songs sung, hymns of worship to the state sung, prayers for the troops, thanks to the troops for "keeping us safe" and "defending our freedoms," the songs of the different branches of the military played on the piano before the service or during the offering, a "Support Our Troops" message on the church sign, a video tribute to the military played during the Sunday morning church service, a special message by a military chaplain from the local base, and the glorification of the military in general.

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.

Something is always sacrificed for a reason and a purpose. An accidental death is not a sacrifice. An unnecessary death is not a sacrifice. A death in vain is not a sacrifice. A senseless death is not a sacrifice. A death that is not required is not a sacrifice. The thousands of U.S. soldiers who have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan did not sacrifice themselves for freedom or anything else. Their lives were wasted. They were wasted because their deaths were both pointless and preventable.

Do U.S. soldiers perform any service that is honorable, necessary, and worthy of thanks? Do they defend the United States by securing its borders, guarding its shores, patrolling its coasts, or watching its skies? Fighting foreign wars is not serving. Bombing and destroying Iraq and Afghanistan is not serving. Killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans is not serving. Occupying countries is not serving. Playing golf on a U.S. military golf course while stationed in Japan is not serving. These are just ways of earning a paycheck for being part of the president’s personal attack force.

Of course, the worst thing that Milton did was to say that soldiers imitate Christ. He went on to say this once more in his article: "Christ is the captain of our salvation, and we will serve our nation, our people, in some way, as a pale but earnest imitation of His life and death on Calvary’s cross." U.S. soldiers don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with the Lord Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. Just because Christ died and soldiers die doesn’t mean that the two deaths are somehow related. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. The American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t die for us, unless you mean the U.S. imperial presidency, U.S. hegemony, the U.S. empire, the U.S. military, the U.S. military-industrial complex, U.S. foreign policy, and the U.S. national security state. Do soldiers imitate Christ when they bomb and shoot, when they invade and occupy, when they plunder and pillage, or when they maim and kill?

Rather than Veterans Day being, as Milton concludes, "a holy day when mortal men and women remind us of the service and sacrifice of Jesus Christ," I think it is rather an unholy day when mortal men and women are wrongly exalted over the service and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

December 3, 2012

Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The Revolution that Wasn't, Rethinking the Good War, and The Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. His latest book is The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom. Visit his website.

Copyright © 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

1 year 4 months ago

It's time to show our troops genuine respect and BRING THEM HOME!
Thanks for the post, it is very well stated.

1 year 4 months ago

Great post JSN
All very true.

1 year 4 months ago

Excellent article, as a veteran the worship of the american populace towards service members and veterans is appalling! Esspecially considering how the military is used to foment illegal and illegitimate wars!

1 year 4 months ago

The first thing I noticed is the writer wrote his post in English. Let me state up front, I am an Iraqi Freedom veteran. My father fought in Korea and Vietnam earning both Silver Stars for valor and Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in action. Apparently the author has forgotten September 11, 2001. Over three thousand innocent civilians died. Most were either plane passengers or victims of the crashed planes. This was an attack on American soil similar to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

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1 year 4 months ago

You are completely insane. Did you forget about the oath you swore to? How is anything you said even remotely Constitutional? Sigh...."One of those rough men"? Real soldiers don't talk like that.

1 year 4 months ago

9/11 was an example of "blowback" (look it up)Thank those glorious wars of yours for causing it to happen.

1 year 4 months ago

Thanks for the post ! Isn't this militarism simply a symptom of the bigger problem, whose root cause is Statism ?

1 year 4 months ago

Mr. Hawley,

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1 year 4 months ago

Regarding the "worship" I believe people and society are trying to make up for the Vietnam fiasco, so the pendulum is in full swing the other direction.

Don't blame the soldiers. Blame the government!

1 year 4 months ago

"All that due to America's foreign policy?"
Correct.

1 year 4 months ago

"My father fought in Korea and Vietnam earning both Silver Stars for valor and Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in action"

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1 year 4 months ago (Edited)

During Desert Storm a reporter asked General Schwarzkopf... "How do you deal with an enemy that is willing to die?" The General replied..."That's simple, you accommodate them." Our foreign policy must have made mohamad write about killing infidels (all non-muslims) over 700 years ago. Truly sad.

1 year 4 months ago (Edited)

And the bible called for those of faith to stone adulterers and non-believers to death. What is your point?

1 year 4 months ago

What a load of crap and red herrings.
The first Iraq war was none of our business., The second Iraq war was none of our business. The Afghan occupation is garbage.
The Korean war was wrong as well. I am sorry your family got swindled into fighting wars for our corporate interests and not our national security.

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1 year 4 months ago

And as a follow up... How many consulate attacks where there under Bush? How many people died?
How many American Citizens died in Iraq?
You can not answer those question because your entire wold view is SHIT.

1 year 4 months ago

Point is.. we don't raise our kids with weapons in hand, and then send them out to kill all non-Christians for the promise of Heaven for their killings. They are taught it from birth, inside the home and at their mosques. That was under the law, not grace. Jesus said, "He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

1 year 4 months ago

It is an act of honor and courage to answer the call of your country.
As citizens it is our responsibility to watch the backs of these brave and honorable volunteers.
We are failing them miserably. Our military is being exploited to promote the New World Order...aka...global governance.

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1 year 4 months ago

Kevin, are you saying that our Constitution authorizes us to make certain that all the children of the world are raised as we raise our children?

1 year 4 months ago

Didn't come to argue opinions, just post mine. And to give honor to Mr. Hawley for his service. Like Ramona said, blame the govt., not the soldiers as a whole. Have a good day, and God bless.

1 year 4 months ago

Well, I just don't see the honor in sending our troops anywhere contrary to their oath, but you sure put a real purdy spin on it Kevin.

1 year 4 months ago

Sue, I feel deeply for those kids. I feel so deeply I think it is wrong to send them out there telling them there are going to heroes or they are serving their country when the vast majority of them will not be.
Why set these poor kids up to fail? Have you seen the suicide rates of returning vets?

1 year 4 months ago

"Point is.. we don't raise our kids with weapons in hand, and then send them out to kill ..."

No. We raise our kids, THEN send them out to kill by order of the UN/NATO. We are better how?

On a personal note, my father was a POW and didn't talk about the war at all. Don't we all have a glorious history :/

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1 year 4 months ago

No. We raise our kids, THEN send them out to kill by order of the UN/NATO. We are better how? NO now people raise them to kill just before the fetus see's light! What is the difference between a moral-less people or the Government .

1 year 4 months ago (Edited)

Peter, Thank you for your service and I am truly sorry for the sick attitudes of others in this country!! This truly is the lack of in this country today and it shows!

1 year 4 months ago

Joseph, I find it very offensive that you would assume that my advocacy for our Constitution means that I taught my daughters to be murderers.
If you can't support your opinion with evidence of how you make that connection I have no other recourse than to consider your post as an intent to incite and that is a violation of TOS. I will have to report your post.

1 year 4 months ago
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