By Steve Wallace
It has been long contested whether or not a Christian can participate in carnal warfare in the service of his government. I could no doubt create controversy with some by stating my views on the subject here; however, such is not my purpose in writing. The facts are that many Christians are in the armed forces as well. Some have made it a point to assure themselves of non-combatant positions, while others would be found on the front lines in the event of a war. One can meet all kinds.
Are there other questions confronting a Christian who is either in the military or thinking about a career therein besides the “War Question”? Is the question of carnal warfare the only one to be answered relevant to service in the armed forces? In our discussion of this particular issue I fear that other issues, issues just as important, may have been passed by or overlooked. They are issues which go beyond the “War Question.”
1. Being apart of a New Testament church (Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 12:12-27). While many are fortunate enough to land jobs which seldom cause any disruption in their working and worshiping with a local church, there are perhaps just as many with whom it is quite the opposite. It starts in basic training where the recruit often is not allowed off post for the first few weeks – and there is seldom a church on post.
After basic training a person is sent wherever the military decides and this can often mean duty overseas. While there are liberal churches in many places overseas, the same cannot be said for sound churches. Most of the Christians in the military whom I have met have been assigned to a place where no sound church exists; they simply “attend” with the liberals during their time in that place. While good has occasionally come from a situation like this as a result of the brethren taking a stand for the truth, this usually is not the case. One cannot fulfill the commandment of Hebrews 10:25 by attending or otherwise being a part of a church involved in unscriptural practices.
If one is transferred into an area where there is a sound church or if that person is a real go-getter and gets a church started, this is not the end of the problem we’re discussing! The military often involves its personnel in temporary duties that can send an individual almost anywhere for varying lengths of time. Item: One brother can make it to services only 4 to 6 times a year because his work constantly takes him places where he can’t attend. Item: Another Christian is out up to six months a year for the same reason! More common is a 2 to 4 week exercise during which the Christian’s name is always in the announcements at services as being “in the field” or “TDY” (Temporary Duty).
Thinking about a career in the military? After considering the “War Question,” I hope that you’ll consider Hebrews 10:25 and other verses which relate to a Christian’s responsibility to the local church as well.
2. An Ungodly Atmosphere. I speak now especially in reference to single males about service in the Army (i.e., this particular branch of the military). Having worked in a factory for a number of years, I know that ungodliness is not unique to any one segment of our society. However, having visited Army barracks where the single enlisted men must live, I have to say that it would be hard to imagine a more ungodly atmosphere. From the filthy pictures on the walls to the sponsored drinking parties, the Christian is virtually immersed in ungodliness. I have known only two Christians who have survived living in the Army barracks spiritually. All the rest have fallen away. But don’t just take my word about the filth these brethren are subjected to: read the following article taken from a December 1987 issue of Stars & Stripes, the military’s magazine entitled: “GI Talks About Vulgar Language in the Military.”
I am an American serviceman. I would like to address the civilian reader who is irritated by vulgar language.
Before I joined the military I almost never used vulgar language. When I went to basic training, everybody was called every bad name you could think of.
The people who trained us used vulgar language every time they opened their mouths. Now I speak it all the time.
I have heard nothing but vulgar language since I’ve been in the military. I asked my father about that, “There has been vulgar language ever since I can remember.”
My father has been in the military over 20 years.
All I can say is ignore it. We will always speak vulgar language. The military can do something about it, but will not be able to enforce it.
You can try joining to understand our point of view.
Do you believe that it is your duty to “deny ungodliness and worldly lust” as a soldier in the Lord’s army (Tit. 2:11-12)? It will be a lot easier if you don’t join the U.S. Army!
I cannot close this article without saying something about the many fine brethren I’ve men in our country’s armed forces. There are many brethren whom I have learned to love deeply: brethren who have stood for the truth, who have resisted the ungodliness they have been confronted with, brethren who have established churches when they found none in their area, and brethren who have worked to build up churches. It is the danger that military life poses to the Christian that warrant the warning given herein.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 6, p. 165
March 17, 1988