The military and my family: An appreciation for our veterans

November 11, 2016

In my family, you’re practically born into an appreciation and love for the the military. Both of my grandfathers were Air Force pilots, one of which was a prisoner of war in World War II. “Papa,” as I called him, lost most of his teeth and, we later found out, endured a heart attack while in prison. As a little kid, I thought it was cool that he could remove his teeth every night.

He was taken prisoner after his plane was shot down over Asia. So, from the other side of the world, while my Grandma watched and waited, my Papa was considered missing for six months. Though his life was spared, he watched many of his comrades suffer and die.

“Grandpa,” my dad’s dad, almost lost his life in a operational mission from Georgia to Germany. He was flying his jet off of Greenland and, due to a malfunction, had a slow decompression in the cockpit. This resulted in something called "the bends," or nitrogen bubbles in the blood and brain. As a result, he temporarily lost his vision. Flying! The first resort would have been to bail out, but the water temperature would've killed him within a minute or so.

His wingman, Tom, was in the right place at the right time. He flew beside my Grandpa and talked to him about direction, altitude, airspeed and probably helped keep him calm all the way back to the runway's final approach. From there, the tower control talked him down to a landing. My dad recently found an article about this incident and got to visit Tom! I have the article printed out and framed in one of my bedrooms as a reminder of my family’s history and God’s protection.

My uncle was also an Air Force pilot with intriguing stories of negative g’s, throwing up and passing out. My dad went the route of the Navy. He attended the Naval Academy and became a P-3 pilot—very Top Gun-esque, aviators and all. Both men continued in civil service as civilian defense contractors after retirement from the military.

None of these men are perfect or without flaws, so I don’t have an idealistic vision of our military as a whole or those who serve. The point is, they were willing to lay down their lives for something greater. So, because of their example, I have a hard time seeing an older man in a “vet” hat or hearing Lee Greenwood’s song without tearing up. And who can handle those videos of military members surprising their loved ones?

I’m often moved to tears because I have seen firsthand and have heard stories about the price that’s paid in the service of our country. Whether it’s a man like my Papa, whose physical and mental health took an untold hit while in a wartime prison, or men and women like my dad who spent months away from their families, it’s not without a sacrifice of some sort—and it’s often thankless or met with very public dissent.

We have witnessed a tumultuous political season that might inflame this dissent. It has exposed disappointing and terrible things about our country. Yet, that shouldn’t diminish the appreciation we have for the good—for this American experiment and the men and women who make it their life’s work to defend and maintain the liberties we have. And in our appreciation, let’s serve them in these small ways:

Pray for our veterans. Pray that they would be healthy—spiritually, physically and emotionally. Ask the Lord to heal any familial wounds. Pray for their encouragement, as many of them disagree with things that are happening in the country they love and wonder if their sacrifice meant anything.

Encourage our veterans. When we see one of those “vet” hats, let’s stop and say, “Thank you.” Let’s shake their hands and pay tribute. At a friend’s direction recently, I was able to donate a wreath at Arlington Cemetery and have it laid on my Papa and Grandma’s grave. He doesn’t know it’s there, but the loved ones who visit the graves and walk the aisles of marble see them and know that someone remembers and care.

Pray for our active duty military. Pray that God would protect them and send godly chaplains to share the good news of Jesus—and that he would be their ultimate Commander. Let’s ask that their families would flourish—that no man would put asunder what God has joined together. Let’s pray that they would have a bigger vision for our country that would compel them when they are discouraged by what’s happening politically.

Encourage our active duty military. There are plenty of programs that allow you to write to a military member, send care packages or adopt a member during the holidays. Say, “Thank you,” when you see men and women in uniform. Shake their hands. We’d probably be surprised by how infrequently this happens.

Pray for our government leaders. Pray that they would give our military members something noble worth defending—and, if necessary, worth laying down their lives for. Let’s ask God to give them wisdom and give us better than we deserve. Let’s pray that human dignity, religious liberty, and stability would be the aim of our government.

Ultimately, as Christians, we know and believe that the government of the whole universe is on perfect shoulders. It seems appropriate, especially now, that our calendar celebration of Christmas is right around the corner. The baby laid in a manger is the one we trust, the one we worship, the one we look to and the one we ask for all of these things. Through him, a day is coming when wars and rumors of wars will cease, when militaries around the world are no more, and when true and lasting peace is the lay of the land forevermore.  

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24