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:

SOME NEGATIVES

  • 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.

 

SOME POSITIVES

  • 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?

2 thoughts on “Veterans and the church

  1. Amanda Carter

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. My husband is a retired Marine, and I am very proud of his service. However, I was always uncomfortable when the church with which I worshipped celebrated military service on every one of the three military holidays and whenever young people enlisted in the service, left for bootcamp, returned from bootcamp, or simply visited while on leave (though I did appreciate the increased need to pray for those young people). I was particulary uncomfortable with the church’s tradition of using the worship service to applaud while the veterans or new recruits stood at attention in their pews. I never could quite put into words the source of my discomfort, though, until I read your article, so thank you.

    I have recently begun worshipping with a new church and was pleased when ”Veterans Day Sunday” passed with no mention of the holiday and without singing “God Bless America.”

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