By / Jul 3

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence, 1776

Millions of men and women have fought to gain and preserve the unalienable rights found in our Declaration of Independence. To many, they still embody the spirit and principles upon which our country was founded and for which we should strive.  

As we approach Independence Day 2015, the irony is that millions have and continue to sacrifice these freedoms in service to our nation in order to make sure they are secure. The real price of freedom for men and women in the Armed Services, their families and loved ones is their sacrifice of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which may be for a time or a lifetime. Men and women in uniform have dedicated and risked their lives to serve our country and preserve the freedoms they may never fully enjoy.

The Oaths these soldiers take place them in voluntary submission to the authority of the President of the United States and the officers and non-commissioned officers appointed over them. Their lives are not their own. They have limited their liberty in order to preserve a greater “liberty for all,” which is a picture of what Jesus Christ has done for us in the gospel.

The marriage vows their spouses take bind their lives inexorably to this submission in mind, body, soul and strength. Their lives too, are subject to the will of the nation’s leadership, which affects where they live, how well they live and at what cost.  

Service to one’s country is not without advantages or purpose. Nevertheless, the pursuit of happiness is greatly impacted by orders, separations and injuries—seen and unseen—and even death. Service men and women make these commitments freely, their spouses agree, and their children and families are then impacted with or without their consent.

So, how then can the Church pray for the ones we pause to celebrate and who often forfeit their lives by defending the freedoms we enjoy?

  • Pray for safety and security: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  
  • Pray for the Lord’s hedge of protection around their marriages and families.
  • Pray for wise leadership and honorable decision-making from civilian and military leaders at all levels. Pray they will not waste their most precious resources, our sons and daughters.  
  • Pray for the salvation of those who have yet to know Jesus as Savior and Lord for all eternity.   
  • Pray for Christians to be salt and light in their families, units and the far reaches of the globe where they are often called. Pray their courage will not falter in word or deed when confronted with evil in its many forms.  
  • Pray for healing from the wounds of war. Many are easily visible, especially as you visit a military medical facility, such as the Navy Medical Center, The Center for the Intrepid, and Walter Reed Military Medical Center. Many wounds, such as Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, are not visible but can be just as lethal. Pray for these men and women to be filled with hope, for without hope we all lose the will to live.

In addition praying, how can the Church serve our service members? In order to serve them, we must identify them. Almost every county or parish in the United States and its territories have someone who served in the military. While less than two percent of the population is serving currently, more than 43 million veterans are alive in this country.

Do you know the veterans in your church? In your community? Do you know their needs? Is there a way the church can meet those needs?

I believe there are four things that the church could offer that would be beneficial to service members, veterans and their families.

  1. Acknowledge them. I believe they want and deserve to be respected. We ought to recognize their service and acknowledge their sacrifices and not just on national holidays.  
  2. Use their gifts. Most of these Christians have valuable leadership skills the church needs, whether short term (active duty folks may only be with you briefly) or long term (veterans settled in your church or in your town). These brothers and sisters, who have been tested on the battlefield and in a life of service, have much to offer. Look at them with an eye to the gifts and talents they bring to your church for “such a time as this.” Paul didn’t stay anywhere for more than a few years, yet look at what he accomplished. If the service member, veteran or family member is not ready to lead, then disciple them intentionally. And if they do not yet know Christ, share the gospel and live it out.
  3. Become aware of their needs (all types) and find ways of meeting them. Some possible needs the church could meet would be help acquiring employment, counseling and support (financial, logistical, emotional or spiritual).
  4. Love them. Get to know them, and without judgment, get to know their stories. Be a friend. Open your homes. Love them “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I am not talking about the mushy Hollywood version of love or the self-serving kind either. I mean the kind of love that endures, meets these heroes where they are, and unselfishly gives to meet their needs whatever they may be.  
By / Apr 22

Daniel Patterson: Welcome back to the Questions and Ethics program with Russell Moore. I’m Daniel Patterson, and this week we had a question come in from a listener who asked us, “We had a presidential candidate suggest that Christians shouldn’t join the military until President Obama is out of office. What would you say to that, Dr. Moore?”

Russell Moore: Well, I would not agree with that at all. President Obama is doing many things that I don’t agree with, and President Obama is our commander in chief of our military forces right now, but I’m not sure what the candidate means in terms of the larger context as to why he would suggest that Christians should wait until after President Obama is out of office before joining the military.

Here’s the issue: We have some pressing religious liberty questions in the United States Military right now—questions that are pressing upon chaplains and others in terms of free exercise of religion. But those questions predated President Obama and will postdate President Obama in terms of how we are going to fight for religious liberty there. So, I don’t think that waiting or holding out until the end of President Obama’s term is going to make those religious liberty questions take care of themselves. We’ve got to advocate and to work and to set precedents there.

And then in terms of saying well, I can’t with a clear conscience serve under President Obama, I find that to not be an appropriate Christian perspective because you have military people in the New Testament—centurions and others—who are in the Roman military who are coming to Jesus, coming to John the Baptist—in the case of John the Baptist, they are explicitly asking what they ought to do in order to repent, and John does not tell them to leave the military service. Jesus has no problem calling people to repentance continuously, and yet when it comes to centurions and other military people that we see in the encounters with Jesus he never says that repentance means leaving the military. Now this is a military that was headed by someone who was completely hostile not only to the things of God but completely hostile to the very existence of the people of God as a free people—someone who is standing in the way of the covenant promises of God, and a system that Jesus says was entirely opposed to the way of the kingdom so that when Jesus talked about what the kingdom looked like in terms of leadership, he says it’s not like the way of the gentiles where authority is lorded over them. But nonetheless people of God were able to both follow Christ and be in the military.

I think if we ever were to get into a situation where military service were itself putting Christians into a place where they had to choose between the Lordship of Christ and military service—so you think of conscientious objection to the sort of—if we had a military that was routinely carrying out war crimes or pressing consciences to do that, or a military that said to people that they could not practice their faith or to confess Jesus as Lord, then of course Christians would not be able to serve in the military. But we are not at that point. Instead, what we need are godly Christian people in the military who are living out lives of integrity and who are also working to correct those religious liberty violations and pressures that are coming upon chaplains and others in the military. I think that’s a better way to handle it than some sort of boycott of the military.

Patterson: Thanks for joining the Questions and Ethics program. If you have a question you would like Dr. Moore to answer, email it to [email protected]. Join us next time when we’ll be back to help you apply the gospel to the pressing issues of the day.

By / Oct 23

Suicide has become the leading cause of death in the U.S. military—exceeding accidents, car crashes, and even combat. Historically, the suicide rate in the military has been below the civilian rate. But since the early 2000s, the rate of suicides has been steadily increasing and the problem, as Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno says, is “going to go on for many years.”

Here are five facts you should know about military and veteran suicides:

1. In 2012, the number of military suicides exceeded the total of those killed in combat. According to the Pentagon, suicides of active-duty troops surged to a record 349, almost one per day. The Army, by far the largest of the military services, had the highest number of suicides at 182. The Navy had 60, the Air Force 59, and the Marine Corps had 48.

2. Data released by the Pentagon for 2008-2011 shows that 52 percent of military suicides were by those who did not deploy to a combat zone; 34 percent deployed but in a non-combat role; only 14 percent were combat veterans.

3. A study conducted by the Army found that being deployed increased suicide risk for women more than it did for men, though suicide risk still remained lower for deployed women than for deployed men. Additionally, the study identified a correlation between demotion and suicide risk: soldiers who had been demoted in the past two years experienced increased suicide risk, compared to those without such demotions. There was also increased risk in soldiers without at least a high school diploma or a GED certificate, compared to soldiers with similar or higher degrees. The data suggest that being male, white, or a junior enlisted rank put individuals at the highest risk of suicide.

4. Analysis of military suicides in 2011 found that service members who were divorced had a 55 percent higher rate of suicide than those who were married. That study also found that most service members who attempted suicide (about 65 percent) had a known history of behavior problems, while a smaller percentage (45 percent) who killed themselves had such a history.

5. Although veterans make up only 10 percent of the population, they account for nearly one in five of all suicides in America. The suicide rate for veterans is nearly double that of the civilian population, and every day, 22 veterans take their own lives—about one suicide every 65 minutes. More than 69 percent of all veteran suicides were among those 50 and older. Mental-health professionals say they are likely to be Vietnam veterans who give up on life after their children are out of the house or a longtime marriage falls apart.

If you know someone who is considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room. Remove any access they may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications. Call 911 or the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Other Articles in the 5 Facts Series:

Gambling in America •  Truett Cathy • Hunger in America • Suicide in America • Christian Persecution •  Civil Rights Act of 1964 • Supreme Court’s contraceptive mandate decision • Fathers and Fathers Day • Euthanasia in Europe • Marriage in America • March for Life • Abortion in America • ‘War on Poverty’