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Military On Culture War Front Lines

This e-mail came from a medical officer in the US military. I publish it with his permission:

By no means am I getting rich but I make surprisingly good money, enjoy what I do, and have pretty great job security. In accordance with my personal convictions, I am in a non-combat role — this may sound like splitting hairs since I am still in the military but I sleep at night knowing that my job helps save lives, not take them. My plan has always been to serve my time and then reap the wonderful retirement the military offers. But now, I am not so sure. Culturally, today’s military is nothing like it was a mere 4 years ago and 180 degrees from where it was a decade ago.

Four years ago, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was still official policy. Approximately a week ago, I received a memo outlining a policy and a way ahead for reassignment surgery for transgender troops, something that would have been absurd in 2012. I cannot state this enough: this is how far we have come in 4 years. On top of that, I find it profoundly disturbing that what seems to be psychosis is treated via grotesque mutilation of the human body that, clinically, has shown very few positive psychological results. Military medicine has one of the most robust mental health networks in the entire country. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who have mental health issues from depression and anxiety to PTSD and substance abuse are treated and continually evaluated for their fitness to serve. But, transgender troops have now been given the go ahead (and to be fair, there is a lengthy approval process) to remove or disfigure sexual organs, take hormones, and call it good — all at the expense of the taxpayer. What world are we living in?

Regarding who I am and what I stand for, I don’t even agree with DADT. It’s bad policy and I could give a damn if any of my troops are gay. In fact, in the last year I have had 3 homosexuals serve in my direct command and all 3 are excellent at what they do. All 3 received promotion based in large part upon my evaluation of their performance. The military has always been a meritocracy but that’s changing. You see, I am not worried about some of the fantastic men and women who have served in my command. I am, however, worried about the dirtbag (military-speak for a do-nothing) who doesn’t deserve promotion and who, upon receipt of a poor performance report, accuses me, a trad Christian, of anti-gay bias. That day isn’t here yet but the writing is on the wall. It is coming fast and there is no promise of respite under Hillary Clinton who, let’s just be honest, is likely to win in the biggest landslide in 30 years. We must not forget that she has basically stated that she does not think freedom of religion extends past Sunday and churches who are on the “wrong” side of history, as it were, must change their ways. In other words, in her mind it’s not enough to be kind, considerate, and fair whilst agreeing to disagree.

As an aside (but since I brought up presidential politics), I would also like to note that my anecdotal impression is that Republicans, with their nomination of Trump, have lost the military voter. For the first time in my career, the seeming majority of troops are voting for the Democrat. After Hillary, it seems Gary Johnson draws the most support. I have had several non-religious, non-culturally conservative troops say they have always voted for Republicans because they felt like they were the party that really supported the troops. Unfortunately for the Republicans, I think we can mark 2016 as the year they lost an entire generation of military voters. Granted, we are not the biggest voting bloc but we vote and we overwhelmingly supported the Republicans. Of course, I am not voting for Trump so why should I be surprised?

I am simply hoping to convey the cultural shift experienced across the military within a very short time. I guess I will close by saying this: those who have served for 10 years or longer started their careers as pawns in the Bush administration’s interventionist wars and will likely end their careers as pawns in the Obama and/or Clinton administration’s 41Yq7npz9AL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ [1]culture wars. I will say it again: I truly believe the US military is on the front lines of our country’s culture wars. The worst part is that I don’t think anything can be done right now. In an attempt to bring this full circle, I planned on retiring out of the military but now my family is strongly considering pulling our lifestyle way, way back and living according to BenOp principles. By no means do I wish to sound alarmist but if we wish to pursue a life of peace and piety, BenOp may be the only way forward.

I look forward to the book [2]and, in many ways, I hope we are wrong. But like you, I don’t think that’s the case.

I will keep you and your family in my prayers and I ask you do the same. It’s not easy out there, right now.

In the title of his email, the reader said that the US military is no place for Christian traditionalists. I have a question to you Christian readers who are now on active duty, or are veterans: Would you encourage faithful orthodox Christians to serve in the US military?

Why or why not?

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84 Comments To "Military On Culture War Front Lines"

#1 Comment By JonF On September 2, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

Noah is probably correct that the Iraq War was not popular among the troops, or even the officer class. (And the (mis)use of the National Guard in the Middle East was especially heinous, as Leslie Fain reminds us) There were reports of all this at the time, although they were dismissed as Democratic propaganda and when push came to shove the bulk of our military personnel did still vote for Bush in 2004. However I think Noah may not grasp how much damage Trump did to his reputation by his bashing of Khizr Khan’s family.

Re:There was a time when faithful orthodox Christians were not allowed to serve in the Roman Army.

No. The existence of various “soldier-saints” (Lawrence, Sebastian, Maurice, George, Sergius & Bacchus, etc.) during the era of persecution pre-Constantine– even as legends– points to the reality the the early Church had no issues with military service. It also helped that Rome’s legions were primarily defensive after the 1st century AD: there were some attempts to conquer Mesopotamia, and the push into Dacia, but mostly the legions were engaged in defending the borders.

Re: There was a time when only faithful orthodox Christians could serve in the Roman Army

Well, I would dispute the “faithful” adjective on the second clause. For much of history if one gave the appropriate lip service to orthodoxy even if one had no more religion that a sow in a pigpen that was “fidelity” enough.

Leslie Fain, Thanks for your perspective! However I think you may underestimate the extent to which gay people are accepted these days among younger people in the South. Rod has cited polling statistics in the past concerning the increasing rate of acceptance of SSM even in Louisiana. Those numbers aren’t broken out by age, but I would be surprised in the younger end of the demographic range is not where that increase in support is coming from. Also, as other have reminded us, for lower middle class and working class young men and women the military offers one of the very few paths that leads to college and some sort of semi-secure civilian employment eventually. That remains a powerful attraction.
And along those lines I have to take issue with Michael in Oceana’s quote claiming that the military is some sort of job program for the unemployable: Dmitry Orlov (who is quoted) seems unaware that the military has rather strict standards for admission these days; people with problems that render them unemployable (criminal history; lack of education; drug and booze problems) need not apply.

#2 Comment By Gene Callahan On September 2, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

More TDS: “For the first time in my career, the seeming majority of troops are voting for the Democrat.”

In fact, troops prefer Trump by “huge” margin:

[3]

#3 Comment By Noah172 On September 2, 2016 @ 12:32 pm

panda wrote:

Where they inundated with complaints from useless minority troops when the army ended desegregation?

Had there been a flood of complaints from failing female soldiers about their male superiors?

Playing the race and gender cards happens often enough in the service. It’s not national news, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. “I got a bad performance review, while the whites/men reviewed by the same person didn’t” — common enough. Also, affirmative action is practiced extensively and openly in the services.

#4 Comment By Kirt Higdon On September 2, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

Christians should completely shun US military service. Not only is it an LGBT cesspool but the US military exists now solely for the purpose of imposing the American feminoid porno-culture on the rest of the world. It is 100% aggressive and imperialist, not defensive in the least.

#5 Comment By Anne On September 2, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

I tend to wonder, as others have put it, why all this angst engendered by LGBTs in the military and none at all by the mayhem the US military has wrought from battlefield to cyberspace (see the docudrama “Zero Days” now in theaters re the Stuxnet cyperweapon we unleashed on Iran and, inadvertently, the entire world during the most recent Bush administration). This fear of future “persecution” seems to come down to a fear of being considered a bigot, which is really ironic, considering. I mean, isn’t this oversensitivity to not being respected and accepted what conservative Christians criticize in groups such as Black Lives Matter? American Christians aren’t used to being in this position, obviously. In fact, very few of them are, even now that people considered disgraceful sinners under Christendom have been granted respectability by the culture at large. It’s hard not to see much of this angst as little more than the expectation of payback, which may or may not ever come to pass.

#6 Comment By Noah172 On September 2, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

JonF wrote:

However I think Noah may not grasp how much damage Trump did to his reputation by his bashing of Khizr Khan’s family

And you base this on what? Polls are showing Trump well ahead with active servicemen and veterans (perhaps not as much as past Republicans — I don’t have comparison data in front of me — but still ahead).

But since you are so fond of personal anecdotes over data, I offer you mine:

In my work, I am around active servicemen and veterans almost exclusively. Wide range of political views (including apathy). Haven’t heard anybody mention the Khan matter. Nobody respects Clinton, even those who will end up voting for her. Nobody will defend her on the emails (my work requires security clearance, and my coworkers and I are well aware of what would have become of us for doing what Her Highness did). Those who oppose Trump cite the reasons any civilian would give (policy stances, temperament, background, experience, other controversial statements) but, I repeat, haven’t heard anybody bring up Khan specifically.

In this big country of ours, I am sure you can find someone in or recently in uniform who will cite Khan as the reason for breaking with Trump. You can find other vets saying a lot of things.

Grain of salt my experience if you want, but I bet I have a closer (if still unscientific) feel for sentiment on this election among the military and veteran community than you do.

#7 Comment By Irenist On September 2, 2016 @ 2:07 pm

Rod:
I’ve been too busy to comment on blogs for the last few weeks. I want you to know that you and Baton Rouge have been very much in my prayers, even though I’ve not been commenting.

All:
There are two issues here–the prudential question of service in the U.S. military now, and the theological question of whether soldiering is ever licit. As to the first, other commenters have already mentioned reasons (frequent unjust wars, porn-culture in the barracks, etc.) why service might be judged imprudent now. That’s a personal judgment, and I have little useful to offer.

As to the second, there’s a lot of a-historical Anabaptist wishful thinking floating around this thread, and a lot of denigration of Just War doctrine (and thus of Sacred Tradition) rooted in “me and my Bible” self-directed navel-gazing undertaken without proper (or possibly any) acquaintance with pre-Constantinian history. Here is the reality about whether pre-Constantinian Christians served in the Roman military, taken from an archeological (not theological) blog:

In the 1st century, we have some scraps of evidence of Christians in the Roman military. The gospel of Luke states that some soldiers (possibly from the Roman puppet Herod’s auxiliary forces) asked John the Baptist for religious advice, and he told them “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Matthew mentions that Jesus was visited by a centurion in Capernaum who asked him to heal his sick servant. Later, the book of Acts records that Peter preached at the house of a centurion named Cornelius who was stationed in Caesarea, and the man and his household became some of the first non-Jewish converts to Christianity.

From the conversion of Cornelius at about AD 39 to AD 173, we have absolutely no sources referencing Christian participation in the army. None. It may have happened, it may not have happened. Either way, we know nothing about it, so speculating is futile.

In 173, we have a story that would be easy to dismiss were it not documented by five sources. During the Marcomannic Wars, emperor Marcus Aurelius was leading the Legio XII Fulminata (“Thunderstruck”) campaign along the Danube against the Quadi, erstwhile allies of Rome who had switched sides. The Quadi met the legion with a superior force and drove them to an open field away from water sources. It was a hot day, and the Quadi halted their attack to allow heat and thirst to take its toll.

Surrounded, outnumbered, out of water, growing weak from thirst and in desperate straights, what is clear from the sources is that lots of men began to pray. Soon, a thunderstorm materialized. Lightning struck the treeline where some of the Quadi had gathered, scattering many of them. Rain and hail poured from the sky. No battle could be fought in such weather, so the Quadi withdrew, which was fortunate for the Romans as they were so busy gulping down water collected in their helmets and shields that they were hardly in a position to fight.

Christian authors Tertullian and Apollinarius said that the Christians in the legion prayed and credited them with providing rain, adding that Marcus Aurelius thanked his Christian soldiers for their prayers….

Since [Cecil John] Cadoux and [Anabaptist heavy hitter John Howard] Yoder first published their views some decades ago, archaeology has shed new light on Christians in the Roman Army in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries. A number of gravestones have been found that list a soldier’s religion as well as his unit. H. Leclerq recorded 8 pre-Constantian Christian gravestones of soldiers. The earliest is a gravestone of a Christian who served in Legio II Parthia and died in 201. This makes it not only the earliest Christian soldier’s inscription, but one of the oldest known Christian inscriptions period….

The remains of two Christian churches from the early 3rd century have been excavated by archaeologists, and both of them are linked to the Roman army. The oldest was discovered at Megiddo in Israel in the late 1990s. The church was built in a back room inside of a military fortress that served as the headquarters of the Legio II Traiana (“Trajan’s”) and Legio VI Ferrata (“Ironclad”). On the floor there is a mosaic depicting two fish as a symbol of Jesus Christ. Any doubt about the room’s use and the identity of its worshipers is removed by inscriptions written in Greek on the mosaics:

“The God-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial.”

“Gaianus, also called Porphyrius, centurion, our brother, has made the pavement at his own expense as an act of liberality….”

The second church was located inside a house built against the city wall in the fortress city of Dura-Europos, on the west bank of the Euphrates on the Syrian frontier. The church was built around 241. The city also featured a synagogue as well as temples to Mithras and numerous polytheistic deities. Unlike Megiddo, we have no direct evidence that soldiers attended the church save the circumstantial evidence of its location inside a heavily fortified border garrison town that was home to thousands of Roman soldiers….

Most of this archaeological evidence was unknown when Cadoux and Yoder were writing their works. As a result, the most discussed pieces of evidence are not the archaeological finds but the textual evidence from the early church fathers.

An often overlooked individual in this debate is a Christian named Sextus Julius Africanus. Born in Aelia Capitolina (formerly known as Jerusalem), he served as an officer in the Roman army before joining the civil service as a diplomat during the reign of Severus Alexander…. He met and later corresponded with Origen. The topics of his writings reveal him to be a polymath and one of the first Christian intellectuals to branch out of theology and into other fields…. [H]e offered advice on military morale, tactics and technology, including swordsmanship, the proper use of war elephants and a recipe for making burning phosphorus….

Tertullian’s views changed over time. In the first years after his conversion, c. 197, he penned a work titled Apology(sometimes styled “Defense of the Christians”) where he argued that Christians were not dangerous subversives but were in fact loyal citizens of the Roman Empire deserving of official toleration and protection. After all, he said “We are not Indian Brahmins or Gymnosophists, who dwell in woods and exile themselves from ordinary human life.” Christians, he wrote, were normal members of society and valued the Empire because of the peace and security that it provided. Thus they prayed for its safety and continued survival. What did they pray for specifically? “We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish.”

To further his case, Tertullian pointed out that “We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you— cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum—we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods.” Later, he added that “We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you…How it is we seem useless in your ordinary business, living with you and by you as we do, I am not able to understand.” Christians according to Tertullian were normal members of society in everything except their refusal to take part in pagan religious rites. They carried on commerce, farmed, and served in the navy and army (and were therefore found in “fortresses” and “the very camp.”). If they wanted to hurt the Empire they could, but they didn’t want to, because they were just as personally invested in its survival as everyone else.

Later in life, Tertullian’s views changed. By about 206 he had embraced the Montanist [heresy and become a pacifist. Likewise, the heretic Origen also embraced pacifism in his writings.]

Yoder was forced to admit that Christians did serve in the military before Constantine, but tried to justify his position by arguing that this time period was “The epoch of Pax Romana, an age of world peace. There were brushfire skirmishes with barbarians around the edge of the empire, but few Christians lived there. Most of the Mediterranean world had not seen war for centuries.” In this world, “Most Roman soldiers were simply bureaucrats. They carried the mail, administered roads, and enforced laws and the prison system.” Christians who joined the army “probably did it because the work was easy and the rewards generous, without troubling themselves much with moral analysis.”

This assessment of Roman history is, quite frankly, absolutely preposterous. First, to refute the idea that service in the Roman legions was “easy,” Flavius Vegetius’ account of the training of a Roman legionnaire can be found here. [Link omitted.] It included running, obstacle courses, vaulting over wooden horses in full armor, digging trenches, mock combat twice a day with “wooden swords double the weight of the common ones,” ruck marching with 60-pound packs, and field exercises featuring lengthy marches and maneuvering in formation. Conditions were harsh. Modern analysis of surviving legion rosters and discharge records estimates that only 50-60% of soldiers completed their full term of service. Combat, harsh military discipline, medical discharges, and disease took care of the rest.

What is even more preposterous is [Yoder’s] claim that the 3rd century was “an age of world peace.” Between the reign of Marcus Aurelius and the beginning of Constantine’s establishment as sole emperor in 324, there were no fewer than 21 wars against foreign enemies, three major secession movements, two major civil wars, and thirteen military coups. The period is referred to as the Third Century Crisis, and is generally seen as a time that nearly brought the Roman Empire to its knees. Of course most of these wars were on the borders of the empire. That is also where most of the soldiers were stationed.

Another pacifist, Roland Bainton, has claimed that Christians only served in non-combat positions, specifically in the positions of frumentarius, vigiles, beneficarius and protectores. The problem is, Bainton seems to have not been aware of what these positions actually were. A vigiles was a firefighter and could pass as a non-combat position, but the frumentarii were the emperor’s intelligence agency and secret police. A beneficarius was a supply officer, but it was invariably an intermediate rank that a soldier held before his promotion to centurion. A protectores was an officer in charge of training, but the position did not exist before Constantine’s military reforms so no one would have held it pre-Constantine. Yoder and others have claimed that Christians served only as police to enforce civil order, not as soldiers, but this overlooks the fact that in most of the Empire soldiers were the police.

By [about 285 AD], Christians had filled the ranks of the military to the point that Diocletian had doubts about the loyalty of his troops. Before he could begin a general persecution of Christians in the empire, he first had to purge the military of Christians. Soldiers were forced to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods, if they refused they were to be expelled from service. Some were executed.

Numerous stories of military martyrs date to this time period. Many are unreliable, but many others are written in a style that indicate the accounts were based off of notes taken at an actual trial. The stories of soldiers such as Marinus, Maximilian, Marcellus, Dasius, Julius the Veteran, Tipasius and others are too lengthy to recount here. Their presence, however, reveals some facts about the presence of Christians in the Roman army. The men described were veterans and well-regarded by their fellow soldiers. Some of the men were officers or offered promotion to officer rank. Julius served 27 years, fought in seven campaigns and re-enlisted after his original term of service had expired. In many cases, their commanders were reluctant to act against them due to their exceptional service and offered them bonuses, gave them time to reconsider, or tried to make other accommodations to convince them to make the sacrifice and remain in the service.

What is important to note is that the soldiers’ trouble always came from refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods or wear religiously symbolic clothing. We don’t have a case of a pre-Constantian soldier martyr who was brought to trial for refusal to fight. This indicates their objection was to Roman army religion, not to the concept of war and soldiering itself. Their long terms of service also seem to indicate that their rejection of army religion hadn’t been a problem for their officers until orders came down from above to start making it a problem.

The debate over pacifism in the early church has often overlooked the views of Christians who lived outside of the Roman Empire. While few written sources that address the topic have survived, the actions of the kingdom of Armenia are an interesting case. Towards the end of the Diocletianic persecution Maximin Daia, the emperor of the east, attempted to extend the persecution into the Roman client state of Armenia. Armenia was at the time the world’s only officially Christian nation, and when Maximin’s troops attempted to enforce his decrees there the entire country rose in armed revolt and defeated the Roman forces.

So what are we to make of Origen and Tertullian? The available evidence seems to indicate that at the very least, a large number of Christians disagreed with them. Tertullian’s embrace of the Montanists clearly took him outside the mainstream of contemporary Christian thought of his era. Because of this, the pacifist views which he adopted after joining the sect were likely also outside of the mainstream. Origen is a more interesting case, but even here we can note that he corresponded with other scholars such as Julius Africanus who quite likely disagreed with him.
It is also interesting to note that the two scholars lived in the most peaceful parts of the Roman Empire at that time.One can justifiably wonder if their views on war might have been different had they had lived in Britain, or the Danube frontier, or the border with the Sassanid Empire. As it was, once Constantine came to power and Christianity grew to encompass the majority of the population of the Roman Empire, Christians all of a sudden had to take on the duties of the responsible exercise of power. As a result, Ambrose and Augustine began to develop what became known as Just War theory, which has dominated Christian thought on the matter ever since.
There was no golden age of a pacifist church avoiding the worldly entanglements of politics, only to trade its soul to Constantine for earthly power. Instead, as Peter Leithart observes, “the story of the church and war is ambiguity before Constantine, ambiguity after, and ambiguity right to the present.” The pacifists are reaching back for a mythical past that never existed….

Source: [4]

#8 Comment By Hound of Ulster On September 2, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

@Irenist

Interesting tidbits, to which I will add that the position of soldiers vary wildly in the later Eastern Roman/Byzantine empire, from honored and respected member of society to a hated foreign mercenary. Fragmentary evidence from surviving canon law and chronicles that soldiers returning from campaign would be denied communion until they did acts of penance/fasting and/or gave confession. Even emperors were sometimes refused the sacraments, even if they had been fighting non-Christian enemies, but the evidence is circumstantial. The Eastern churches never developed a theology of crusading/sacred killing of non-Christians the way the Western churches did. The Eastern churches were even on the receiving end of crusader campaigns in the Baltics and Anatolia (Greeks have never gotten over 1204).

#9 Comment By JV On September 2, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

“Would you encourage faithful orthodox Christians to serve in the US military?”

If not, then I guess you’ll count on herd immunity? Again? You’re welcome, I guess.

#10 Comment By Scott Miller On September 2, 2016 @ 4:12 pm

Uh, look at todays IBD/PPP poll.

#11 Comment By Scott Miller On September 2, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

TIPP, whatever

#12 Comment By cecelia On September 2, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

I’d like to just address some things being said here – again – I would not recommend joining our military at this time because our government is engaged in a reckless and destructive foreign policy. IMHO

But the purpose of the military is not war – it is to preserve the peace. Weakness invites and tempts the predator – so strength discourages that sort of predation. Order is not something that occurs naturally – it must be encouraged. If you do not patrol sea routes – you encourage piracy human trafficking etc. It just goes to show how perverse our governments use of the military has become that the first purpose – keeping peace – is forgotten.

Defense of the nation and its people is a second purpose of our military. And so yes people are taught how to kill. But it again shows how much we have perverted things that we think of it only in terms of invasion and killing and not the primary purpose of preventing war and disorder.

The third purpose of our Navy – and note the Navy actually lists it all in this order 1. Keep the peace. 2. defend the nation in time of war and 3. Humanitarian response and rescue.

The majority of my husband’s responsibility during his tenure with the Navy was around 1 and 3 – patrolling trade routes at sea to maintain order and rescue, humanitarian response to disaster. One of the reasons piracy has become an issue again is because so much of the sea routes are no longer patrolled. Intercepting human traffickers and rescuing migrants is also a primary task at sea. And humanitarian aide in time of disaster has increased also. Our Navy is the first responder to large scale natural disaster internationally.

This is part of the terrible problem we have created by allowing our government to be so warlike. The legitimate purposes of the military have been perverted and so we do not even support those legitimate purposes anymore.

There is a noble purpose to the military – but when you pervert the mission of the military – you pervert the entire organization.

#13 Comment By Neal On September 2, 2016 @ 5:56 pm

Decent people have no reason to be in business of killing people regardless of all these other concerns. What the heck?

#14 Comment By Philly guy On September 2, 2016 @ 6:54 pm

Gerritt- thank you for such an enlightening post, sincerely.

#15 Comment By Philly guy On September 2, 2016 @ 7:05 pm

Irenist- commented on Gerritt before your post- thanks, sincerely also.

#16 Comment By Blaine On September 2, 2016 @ 9:32 pm

Absolutely not.

I spend more time in sexual harassment and equal opportunity classes/training than I do in helicopter flying, military skills and current affairs training per year by at least a 2:1 margin (excluding actual flying, I’m talking about classroom type time). The military will pay for people to mutilate themselves and serve openly but nor for keeping people who know how to fix airplanes and the parts and tools they need. I’ve had dozens of friends, after 8-10 years of honorable and respectable service as officers and pilots let go because we are downsizing for the last several years, but we are now opening combat to women and letting in the transgendered. This is absurd.

I’ll be leaving soon, well past half way to a retirement. It’s not worth the strain on a family for this farce.

#17 Comment By WT On September 2, 2016 @ 10:38 pm

I’m just going to jump right in here. Clearly, there is either a dearth of actual Active Duty military readers on this site, or they simply have been unable to stop face-palming long enough during the reading of this article (and its respective comments) to actually reply.

The author freely admits “My plan has always been to serve my time and then reap the wonderful retirement the military offers.” Now that his fundamental contribution to his Country has been blatantly advertised as selfish, we can proceed with checking his observations with the reality on the ground.

I absolutely agree with him on several fronts. Yes, the military is very publicly and obviously utilized to test, tailor, and implement the government’s social policies based on cultural shifts, swings, and perceptions. Frankly, the DoD can’t say “no,” if they want to keep their jobs. If you need any proof, all you need to do is compare the Marine Corps report on females in combat with the subsequent federally subsidized RAND report, and breeze through any number of public comments made concerning the topic by Ash Carter or Ray Maybus. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

DADT was a stupid policy. Agreed. Your sexual preferences don’t affect your occupational performance in the military. They might get you into trouble, but you can still largely do your job.

The author is dead wrong on support for Clinton. The military is overwhelmingly conservative, and by and large supports Trump (as demonstrated in the Military Times article referenced in the comments). Anyone who has spent more than a day in the military knows that the slim minority of left-leaners find their way into what is usually referred to as “Combat Service or Combat Service Support” jobs (IE medical professional) not Combat Arms (Infantry, Armor, Artillery), which generally lean right much more. Don’t get me wrong. Docs are absolutely critical, it just is what it is.

In regards to getting pressured to conduct gender reassignment surgeries: are you really surprised that after the government has given you free education, “…surprisingly good money…and pretty good job security” that they expect a return on their investment? Are you surprised as a Christian that you, as an employee for a secular institution might be asked to do something that is, at the least, ethically ambiguous and, at the most, morally incomprehensible to your beliefs? And your response is to “Ben Op” on out of there? Seriously? I am incredulous. The naïveté and cowardice underscoring the author’s entire diatribe is unreal. Luckily, I happen to know many God-fearing, Christ-centered individuals in the military at large, who have been lead and placed by the Spirit in their positions, endured the associated physical, mental, and spiritual hardships required, and still thrive. In fact, not one of them would waiver when their Faith holds them to a higher standard than what is being imposed upon them. Honestly, I hope you do get out of the military. For the sake of all my Brothers and Sisters in Christ who stand like rocks, your example of a retreating Christian should be expunged from the proximity of secular Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

By all means, if Christ leads you elsewhere, vaya con Dios, but how dare you suggest that the “military is no place for Christian traditionalists.” Firstly, quantifying Christians as “traditionalists” is idiotic. You are either a Christian, or you are not. Rod continually references “small o” Christians. That distinguishing characteristic means something only in the broad community of Christians, it means NOTHING in our national culture. The time is coming where Christians in America will no longer be able to balance on that line in the sand; you will either be in or out. It’s that simple. Secondly, if you were called there in the first place, and you “BenOP” away, who will serve as a witness to those with whom you served? Who will show them a Christ-centered stand against anything?

And finally, in regards to the host of respective comments on this article: really, it’s very difficult to wrap my mind around the absolute disconnect in understanding between civilians and service members. While I sincerely appreciated reading the communal dissertation on Christian soldiers in the Roman army, the sharp intellectual insights, moro-ethical discussions, theological references, and ambiguous references to Anabaptists, I just want to make something clear. Not one of the comment authors is active duty. You had “daily dealings” with the military, your heart tells you that “the military is really about keeping the peace, not making war,” “people in the military definitely care about Khan; right?” And that “IMHO you’re a moron and a degenerate if you willingly become a pawn of the government, don’t you know they’re bad, and killing people is horrible!”

…Countless veterans before me have had aneurisms in response to these kinds of comments and assertions, and “knowledge.” I simply cannot do it. Bridging the gap of understanding between service members and civilians is a long, possibly futile exercise. I will be concise: human beings are fallible. Governments are fallible. The military can “keep the peace,” it also has the capability of liberating the oppressed. It can also be misused in any myriad of ways for National self-interest.

Khan is dust in the rearview of the 24-hour news cycle. When bad people in other countries are training on a daily basis to kill you, you care more about your Brothers and Sisters to the left and right of you then you do about some biased, partisan, alleged-news that a self-interested corporation is shoving down your throat every minute.

And for the bleeding hearts: God bless. I, and those like me, will also die in some arid, God-forsaken wasteland away from our friends and family at the hands of people who would give anything to come into your house and cut your head off and indoctrinate your children, just for you. It’s better that I don’t even try to explain to you that there are actually people in the world who want to do you physical bodily harm, and relish the chance. Better that you live in ignorance, of both the wolves and the sheep dogs.

I have a family. I serve. I have seen imperfections in the system, in its people, and in every situation. Such is the world. I am where I am because of grace and grudging obedience. I pray that the BenOp has a chapter on encouragement for every would-be Saint Theodore.

#18 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 3, 2016 @ 1:09 am

“there’s a lot of a-historical Anabaptist wishful thinking floating around this thread, and a lot of denigration of Just War doctrine (and thus of Sacred Tradition) rooted in “me and my Bible” self-directed navel-gazing undertaken without proper (or possibly any) acquaintance with pre-Constantinian history.”

I’m sure we’re all aware that there has never been a time when there aren’t some folks who claim to be Christian, who nevertheless violate Christian conscience and practice.

You can certainly find any number of commenters to justify whichever sin it is they want to practice, whether in the past, or now.

Just War Theory, more than a millenium on, remains a still unproven theory. In fact, we could say it is a dosproben theory: there isn’t a single war that’s been conducted according to its requirements. Nor has it prevented any wars; it’s simply been invoked after the fact as a justification without ever being applied beforehand or serious examination.

Forgive me for denigrating the heretical War Jesus “sacred tradition” of warmaking – but it has zero to do with following the true Christ.

#19 Comment By Neal On September 3, 2016 @ 9:14 am

Nice effort by WT to provide the perspective of person in the military on social issues. As frustrated as they are with the non-military, I am just as frustrated by the assertion that they serve me or even the broad national interest by going to those arid and god forsaken places to fight.

This is an augment about strategy and tactics not one about valor and sacrifice. Too many in the military appear to have this attitude that they’re the only ones entitled to an opinion about the wisdom of their collective actions. I get that they think they know better than me what the dangers are, but there are plenty of people writing on this American Conservative website with a different view. If they wish to consider us all ignorant for having such views, then I will similarly reject the notion that military people are serving anything but their own misguided agenda.

I’m not going to pass on my responsibility as a citizen to argue for my preferred response to this threat just because it might offend the sensibility of some person in the military.

#20 Comment By Irenist On September 3, 2016 @ 10:31 am

@WT:
We civilian commenters seem to have upset you. Sorry about that. Thank you for your service to our country. God bless you.

@Fran Macadam:

I’m sure we’re all aware that there has never been a time when there aren’t some folks who claim to be Christian, who nevertheless violate Christian conscience and practice.

So we’re all aware that pre-Constantinian Christians served widely in the Roman military, and Christian non-pacifism wasn’t just some post-Constantinian innovation? Gratified to hear it. Upthread, you wrote:

As per anabaptist theology, and Christianity before post-Constantine empire Christendom, it is wrong for Christians to participate in war

So now, it seems like you’re helpfully backing away from the historically falsified Anabaptist claim that “Christianity before post-Constantine empire Christendom” was pacifist, and retreating to the theological claim that pacifism is mandated by Christ, and Just War Theory is heretical. Fine. We’re not going to convince each other on the interminable theological questions, and I’m glad we’ve reached agreement on the settled historical question. God bless.

#21 Comment By Retired in the Woods On September 3, 2016 @ 10:47 am

I served 27 years, active and reserve, and I was then and am now a practicing Christian. I certainly did not encourage my daughters to serve in the US military: Too much chance of getting caught up in mendacious PC maelstrom that the current military culture has become. Being put at risk, physically and morally, in now-endless war so that some affirmative action female can achieve flag rank is not a good idea for any female, in my opinion. IOW, just avoid being a prop in the never-ending toxic feminist drama now playing in elite circles these days.

Had I sons I’d have had to spend more time thinking on the matter. As many with actual knowledge have commented, barracks/shipboard life has always been a test for anyone’s morals even without the now-added load of substantial female presence, acceptance of casual fornication by either hetero or homosexuals and now active LGBT promotion.

Related: The point of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was the minimization of what used to quaintly be called ‘disorderly conduct’. That is, there is little doubt that there have always been a few homosexuals in the military, but persecuting them or permitting/promoting open (key concept) homosexual conduct are both endless sources of disorder in the closely confined proximity that is the norm in military combat forces. It’s hard enough to function without added unnecessary sexual drama, particularly just to appease the minimal fraction of the population that actually practices these perversions, most of whom hate us anyway.

#22 Comment By JonF On September 3, 2016 @ 11:34 am

Re: The military is overwhelmingly conservative, and by and large supports Trump

Well, the military may be mainly conservative, and much of it may support Trump, but those two positions are in conflict with one another, since describing Trump and his proferred polices as “conservative” is an abuse of language (and I am hardly the first person to make that observation on TAC’s website).

#23 Comment By WT On September 3, 2016 @ 12:55 pm

@ Irenist

Absolutely no need for apologies. My own emotionalism getting too vocal. At the end of the day it is just as much the responsibility of those in the military to build bridges with civilians as it is for civilians to understand the military.

@Neal

“I am just as frustrated by the assertion that they serve me or even the broad national interest by going to those arid and god forsaken places to fight.”

-I, and many more in the military are not under any illusions. We share this frustration. Selfless service is often abused by those that leverage it. It is a dark, gray area where honor and exploitation collide. Some are called to live in this gray.

“This is an augment about strategy and tactics not one about valor and sacrifice. Too many in the military appear to have this attitude that they’re the only ones entitled to an opinion about the wisdom of their collective actions…but there are plenty of people writing on this American Conservative website with a different view.”

-I am incredibly grateful that there are individuals with different views through this medium, otherwise there would be no betterment through discussion. To clarify, the discourse for these comments is actually concerning whether or not Christians should serve in the military; many of these comments are voyaging into other realms of policy and philosophical legitimization. I humbly apologize for any verbiage suggesting that the military is the only entity entitled to opinions about their actions. This is patently untrue. The military is a National tool; citizens hold the most important opinions about these collective actions (obviously this includes those in uniform too).

“If they wish to consider us all ignorant for having such views, then I will similarly reject the notion that military people are serving anything but their own misguided agenda.”

-No ad hominem intended. Ignorance is present on both sides of the civil-military relationship in this country. Undoubtedly. Military people are by and large not “serving their own misguided agenda,” but generally honest, hard-working citizens that somehow uniquely fit into the institution, but have the same hopes, dreams, and problems of everyday people. Obviously there are always exceptions to the rule, often times in positions of power.

“I’m not going to pass on my responsibility as a citizen to argue for my preferred response to this threat just because it might offend the sensibility of some person in the military.”

-I may have missed one of your earlier comments, but what “threat” are you referring to? I appreciate greatly that you take the responsibility of being a citizen seriously, but some elaboration would be helpful. And a final clarification: the military is in no way comparable to a civilian business, or an ivy league school, or a local government. You can not simply “offend the sensibility of some person in the military.” You can piss them off, or get them fired up, but there’s no real “getting butt-hurt” in the military. We are professionals, more than capable of critical thinking (despite the popular notion to the contrary) and productive discussion, debate, and discourse.

#24 Comment By MichaelGC On September 3, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

Retired in the Woods says September 3, 2016 at 10:47 am:

I served 27 years, active and reserve, and I was then and am now a practicing Christian. I certainly did not encourage my daughters to serve in the US military: Too much chance of getting caught up in mendacious PC maelstrom that the current military culture has become. Being put at risk, physically and morally, in now-endless war so that some affirmative action female can achieve flag rank is not a good idea for any female, in my opinion. IOW, just avoid being a prop in the never-ending toxic feminist drama now playing in elite circles these days.

That’s what I wondered ever since I first heard that women were going to be added to combat units, the reason being that topmost ranks only went to officers who had been in the crucible of battle. I thought, “Policy is just one part of it, but what if there are no wars so the women can fight in them and break the Pentagon’s glass ceiling?”

You offhandedly give the impression that if war is what’s needed for women to have the opportunity for promotion, then the US will have war. I did hear a woman being interviewed on NPR make the astonishing statement that women had finally won the “Constitutional right to engage in combat.”

So this is what the transition from Republic to Empire is like.

#25 Comment By Neal On September 3, 2016 @ 2:37 pm

@WT The threat I referred to is the threat posed by those religious fanatics half way around the world.

Otherwise, thanks for your reply and clarification. Let’s all find our way to peace together.

#26 Comment By Noah172 On September 3, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

JonF wrote:

Well, the military may be mainly conservative, and much of it may support Trump

So JonF admits that he was wrong to make a sweeping statement about Trump’s alleged loss of military support due to the Khan foofaraw.

describing Trump and his proferred polices as “conservative” is an abuse of language

“Conservative” comes from “conserve”. Trump’s immigration policy, the centerpiece of his platform, aims to conserve the historic racial majority of this country (just as many other countries’ immigration policies aim, and America’s did before 1965), as well as conserve American resources for current citizens’ use, rather than foreigners’. On Muslim immigration in particular, Trump aims to conserve American lives and peace of mind (both threatened by decentralized, ISIS-style terrorism).

His trade policy, priority #2, aims to conserve the country’s manufacturing employment (and thus conserve the economic viability of much of middle America).

This is the most profoundly and genuinely conservative platform any major party nominee has offered in generations.

#27 Comment By PatrickW On September 3, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

I left the Army in 1994, soon after DADT came down. It sounds like the changes since then are even worse than I feared.

I’ve actually thought about what I would tell a young person who asked about joining the military, though it hasn’t happened yet. My answer, even before the latest, was going to be No. I believe war can be just, but nothing the US has done recently or is likely to do will qualify.

If a young person is really eager to serve the nation, I would tell them to join the Coast Guard. At least there they would do mostly honorable, important life-saving work. I don’t know where USCG stands on gender issues. They now belong to Homeland Security, not DoD.

#28 Comment By Angela On September 3, 2016 @ 9:36 pm

The author speaks my mind. My experience with rapid culture shift has been similar in civilian service (Department of Interior). This is heartbreaking for me, as I have enjoyed an otherwise rewarding career that has allowed me to do what what called me to do in caring for His good creation. Thankfully, I am eligible for retirement soon.

#29 Comment By JonF On September 4, 2016 @ 6:59 am

Re: So JonF admits that he was wrong to make a sweeping statement

Huh? The statement came from the person Rod quoted, not me.

#30 Comment By JonF On September 4, 2016 @ 7:02 am

Re: This is the most profoundly and genuinely conservative platform any major party nominee has offered in generations.

And the moon is made out of cheese. To the extent Trump has any sort of coherent policy stance it’s a combination of typical GOP boilerplate (Cut taxes on the wealthy! Repeal the ACA! End the “Death tax!”) and some fetid bones thrown into the racist fever swamps without the usual dog whistles to provide plausible deniability.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 4, 2016 @ 1:40 pm

“I don’t know where USCG stands on gender issues. They now belong to Homeland Security, not DoD.”

There are n the same boat.

#32 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 4, 2016 @ 2:04 pm

” I’m glad we’ve reached agreement on the settled historical question. ”

Thank you for putting words into my mouth.

No.

What’s settled history is rather that warmaking was incompatible with being a Christian. Which of the disciples sought to make war like Barabbas? Famously, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and healed the enemy soldier he had wounded.

The War Jesus was a late Roman empire implementation, but outliers who earlier wanted to serve two masters who may have made a pretense of taking up Jesus’ cross don’t disprove that a bit. You can’t find a sermon in the New Testament on warmaking or urging it, nor do any of the apostles take up arms, unlike, in contrast, Mohammedans from the beginning.

You seem to have a personal beef with anabaptist Christians. I don’t know what purpose the insulting language about us serves; it’s uncharitable even, which tends to undermine your argument that warmongering is a virtue approved by Christian consensus from the beginning.

#33 Comment By Matt D. On September 4, 2016 @ 6:50 pm

@ WT:

Thanks for your post. I’m interested in your take on one thing: don’t you think all these cultural changes will have some consequences for retention and ultimately combat effectiveness, in the long run? I have some very vivid memories of certain people and personalities who were in what might be seen as “refuges of masculinity” in the military… and it seems that if they really do succeed in making the culture of these places kinder and more diversity-celebrating, they would lose most of their appeal for some of the young men who in the past have sought them out.

Also I wonder whether the overall effect of some of the training will change at all if it gets to the point where you can’t tell people to “be the alpha male” or stuff like that anymore.

#34 Comment By Tim On September 4, 2016 @ 11:16 pm

I served in the military but I have made all 4 of my children promise to not serve. I have told them that they may think they are signing up to protect our nation, but in reality they would just be volunteering to be a weapon in the hands of our current crop of political leaders. The agenda of our political leaders of both parties is not to be trusted with your life or health. I hope that Trump is listening to Pat Buchanan on foreign policy and economics, so he is getting my vote, but I don’t trust him with my children’s lives. The social engineering of Obama-Hillary is so repugnant that I have almost totally disconnected from mainstream America. I don’t even watch sports anymore since ESPN and the professional teams became bastions of PC policing. I am raising my family to be strongly Catholic and exceedingly wary of American society. Given a better faith life opportunity I would even be open to moving out of the country for the time being.