Yesterday was Memorial Day, a time to remember those brave men who have given their lives in service to their country. As I was reflecting on the day, I was thinking about how far our military has come in the past few decades—which I don’t mean in a good way. First the door was opened to women. Then, more recently, open homosexuals. These factors alone would make me hesitate to advise a Christian young man to volunteer, but they’re by no means the only ones. There’s also the fact that our soldiers do not enjoy the same 1st Amendment rights we ordinary citizens do, like freedom of speech. We can speak our mind about any political issue we like, but they can’t. Men can’t express hesitations about sharing close quarters with women. Conservatives can’t criticize the President. Worst of all, forces have been set into motion that could have a chilling effect on Christians who want to share their faith with fellow service members.
It’s funny. If I had a son, and the only thing I had to worry about was that he could be gravely injured or killed in the line of duty, I would send him into the military with my blessing if that was where his heart lay. The Bible tells us not to fear those who can harm the body only. But the military is being managed by those who can destroy the soul. Even Christian young men who might join with hopes of being salt and light may now have that taken away from them, along with their other rights. And I haven’t even mentioned the foolish policies which are needlessly risking our soldiers’ lives, like forcing them to work with treacherous Muslim “allies” who have repeatedly stabbed our men in the back. On top of all that, I often wonder whether we have any clear plan of action in the places where we currently have a military presence. I firmly support just war. Nobody could ever in a million years accuse me of being a pacifist. Yet it seems that our strategy (especially when it comes to nation-building) often consists of pouring enormous resources into endeavors that aren’t yielding a proportional gain. Republicans and Democrats alike have to some extent suffered from the same illusion borne of wishful thinking. The result is that a lot of our soldiers are frustrated, because they get the sense (justifiably) that the government really doesn’t know what it’s doing with them.
It’s easy to see why a starry-eyed young Christian man might dream of joining the military. He’s seen all the black and white war movies. He’s valiant and chivalrous. He wants to be a hero. Every young man does. But it’s come to a sad point when I feel I would have to tell my son the truth—that he would be dealing with many more dangers and snares than just the snares of the enemy. We aren’t living in the 1940s. We’re living in 2013. A lot has changed in seventy years.
To those readers who have family currently serving in the military, I am grateful for their sacrifice and yours. My prayer is that every last one of them would return home safe and sound in mind, body and spirit. To those readers who do not have family serving but do have sons, what would you tell them if they expressed a desire to join the military today?