Tag Archives: veterans

Veterans and the church

Team Hill Airmen carry flag bundles during a flag-placing detail, Utah Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Bluffdale, Utah, Nov. 10, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Team Hill Airmen carry flag bundles during a flag-placing detail, Utah Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Bluffdale, Utah, Nov. 10, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Been watching Christians debate about the practice of honoring veterans. My thoughts have evolved over the years. Here are a few things as I currently see them:


  • I have to start with the fact that I view myself as a citizen of heaven, almost exclusively. I hold U.S. citizenship, would like to add Argentine citizenship to that, and view both of those as a formality. My true citizenship is in heaven.
  • I believe that the church is a new community made up of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. To celebrate any one of those exclusively undermines that fact. (The 80 or so people I worshiped with on Sunday came from the United States, from Japan, from Germany, from Argentina, from Mexico, from Peru, from Ecuador, from South Korea, and possibly other countries. What unites us is our standing within the kingdom of God.)
  • I don’t trust the nations of this world. I see the celebration of country and the military as part of an ongoing recruitment process, not just to participate in the military, but to support the self-interests of the nation in general.
  • I don’t trust politicians. While many speak of the how the military protects freedoms, I think politicians have used the military for many other tasks, including taking away the freedoms of others.
  • I feel that many people in society deserve as much praise as veterans do. Veterans get these honors because it fits national interests, not because they are more deserving than school teachers, doctors, first responders, etc.
  • It is possible to express patriotism without lapsing into idolatry; it’s also common for nationalism to become worship of country. In my mind, it’s better to keep such celebrations separate from Christian worship because of that. Outsiders won’t always recognize the difference between the two.



  • I respect the intentions of those who have chosen to work in the military. Many do so out of a sense of service and sacrifice. They truly want to help others. We should honor that.
  • The church should be supportive of our communities and respectful toward the institutions in those communities.
  • Many veterans need the support of the church as they deal with issues stemming from their military careers. (For example: “In 2014, Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults, while Veterans constituted 8.5% of the US population.” Veteran’s Administration) By showing them that we respect who they are and see value in their service, we open doors to ministering to these hurting people.

I’d prefer that our churches avoid celebrating patriotic days during our worship assemblies. But I’d also like to see us have times to honor service: service by military members and veterans, service by first responders, service by medical workers, service by educators, and other types of service.

Where do you stand on all of this?

A non-militarist Veteran’s Day

As someone with pacifistic beliefs, Veteran’s Day presents a challenge, one that I haven’t always met gracefully. Let me try and offer some thoughts, hoping to hear your thoughts as well:


  • Veterans who have served honorably have earned honor from the rest of us. Some of the best men I know have served as veterans. Even if I have questions about the correctness of what they did, I have no problem honoring the motives behind what they did. And I’m also well aware that it would be foolish for me to judge from another time and place the decisions people have felt forced to make.
  • The honoring of veterans should be done by the country they served, not by the church. Veterans should be honored in church as other servants are, like teachers, first responders, medical workers, sanitation crews, etc. Celebrations beyond that belong in another arena. Let’s not dishonor the Prince of Peace by honoring war on the Lord’s Day.
  • Let’s recognize the aims of a militarized society on days such as this. Patriotic days are used to promote militarism. What’s called the American civic religion is a serious threat to the church; let’s not give it more of a foothold in our midst.
  • I distrust the use of religious language for such days. Let’s be careful with the use of the word sacrifice, for example; it carries a weight that many words do not. Another troublesome trend is the language of dying for another’s freedom; don’t let the world steal the glory from Jesus’ death on the cross. Hallowed ground… sacred… let’s remember the real meaning behind such terms and not use them in common speech.
  • Some veterans are worthy of honor; some are not. Some served honorably; some did not. Every veteran you ask will tell you the same thing. I won’t give a blanket endorsement to any group of human beings, not even church members. Let’s not confuse things by claiming that all who have served are heroes.
  • Let’s honor veterans, without glorifying them nor what they’ve done. Again, I think every veteran would say that he served in the hopes that his grandchildren wouldn’t have to. The church’s role at times like these is to be a voice for peace, not war.

OK, those are some basic thoughts. Probably made people mad on both sides. So be it. Such is my struggle with patriotic holidays. How do you resolve the struggle?

photo by Andrea Church