Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army
The Army’s in trouble, as is our nation.
As godlessness pervades, it consumes our Armed Forces with catastrophic consequences.
A Surface Morality
I’m not so naïve to think that there was ever a time whereby most soldiers confessed Christianity. Soldiers have always been a rough and rowdy crowd. My first 1SG chewed tobacco, cussed like a sailor, and drank beer every single night. However, he was a great 1SG and I remember him fondly. My first battalion commander was an absolute party animal who had an affinity for the juicy girls in the ‘Ville, yet he was a highly esteemed commander.
The barber shops in Korea used to be called the Steam and Cream for a very specific reason as they offered, overtly, a specific extra service for a small fee. This happened on base! The Officer’s Club at Fort Campbell used to have actual strippers…on base! Rampant drunkenness used to accompany just about every Army social function. Sin was rampant, overt, tolerated and even celebrated.
None of this behavior is tolerated today. The strippers are gone, the clubs shut down, and prostitutes forced underground. Unit functions are now much more likely to include family-friendly events, games and such, rather than alcohol.
Considering the moral rightness of these moves, how do we reconcile this with any claim of increasing godlessness? Would not the fact that overt sin such as this is no longer tolerated drive us toward the opposing conclusion?
Godless Nation, Godless Army
The military traditionally imitates American values, composition, and culture though it maintains a decidedly conservative slant. As society goes, so goes our military.
Spiritually speaking, America is but a shadow of its former self. Though most Americans still claim to be Christians, our behavior betrays us.
America is a post-Christian nation.
A 2014 study yielded un-shocking truths:
– The number of unchurched people in America would constitute the 8th largest country in the world (156 million).
– In the past decade, more Americans have become churchless than the total population of Canada and Australia.
– The majority of the unchurched have attended church previously and could be more accurately labeled as de-churched though the number of actual unchurched people, those who have never attended church, is on the rise.
– The majority of the churchless in America claim Christianity as their faith.
To clarify, church attendance does not make a Christian. Yet, the Bible stipulates church attendance for the believer, fellowship with other believers, and it is a good indicator of spirituality and spiritual growth. The Bible knows nothing of a Christian faith lived in isolation from other believers, from the Church, the body of Christ.
Americans claim, “I’m a Christian, I just don’t attend church,” or “I’m spiritual, I do church on my own.” Jesus would have no idea what they are talking about.
Most of America is de-churched. Maybe they were raised in church or grew up attending church. At some point, they walked away. Growing in number are the true unchurched, those who have never attended. A newer group that stands to shape America further is the second generation unchurched, those raise by unchurched parents or guardians. The number of second-generation unchurched will inevitably outpace the other groups.
Why does it matter? Let’s discuss the common grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The grace of God blesses all men in some fashion. (Matthew 5:45b) The proliferation of the Gospel restrains sin. Wherever Christ is preached, things are just better.
Thus, as the Gospel is suppressed by the de-churching of America, things will progressively trend downward. The restraint on sin will diminish and the wickedness of men will flourish.
The de-churching of America generates another symptom, particularly as second generation unchurched people grow to adulthood. Biblical literacy declines yearly. Previously, though one may not have been of Christ, they spoke the language, having been raised in church. When you spoke of sin and repentance, they knew the language you were speaking.
Today, biblical concepts such as these are not in people’s vocabulary, not a part of the vernacular.
“Sin? What is that?”
“What is repentance? Repent from what?”
“Doesn’t God love me for who I am?”
Sharing the Gospel message has changed. A different paradigm confronts the evangelizing Christian. We must account for the new context, and the younger a person the more likely he or she is illiterate in the basic aspects of Christianity.
And this is our Army. Our Army is a representative organization primarily composed of young 18 to 24-year-old men, the clear majority of whom are at a minimum de-churched, with a growing number being unchurched or even second generation unchurched. This is our Army and the darkness runs deep, just as it does in our nation.
On September 1, 2015, the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, General Mark A. Milley dispatched a message to the Army saying, “We have the most skilled, ethical, and combat hardened Army in our Nation’s history.”
Is this entirely true, I wondered? Is our Army the most ethical in our Nation’s history?
As of the publication of General Milley’s message, I had 19 soldiers in my brigade under investigation for rape or sexual assault: rape of a friend, rape of a child, rape of their own child, even rape of their own special needs child. We were in the process of breaking up a marijuana ring in one battalion. We’d just had our second suicide in a span of a few months. Both soldiers hung themselves with their belts in their barracks room. Just a few months prior to General Milley’s announcement, I had nine domestic violence cases in one month.
Handling these issues consumed us. We formed two separate committees whose sole purpose was to handle the affliction of our soldiers, as we desperately sought to keep them from self-destructing. Soldiers spent so much time at the local mental health facility that the military health care system began cutting them off, something I’d never seen before.
This is the most ethical our Army has ever been? Now, as my scope of purview has increased, perhaps that has colored my conclusions, but I just don’t remember any of this from my younger days.
To deal with this glut of affliction, the Army leans on company commanders and 1SG’s. General Milley’s number one priority was readiness. Could we marshal our forces and deploy them to combat?
Soldier affliction due to the increased godlessness of the force and the corresponding increase in rampantly sinful behavior works directly against this objective. Commanders and 1SG’s find themselves caught in the middle, straddling priorities.
Army Regulation 350-1 defines training requirements. Many are obvious: Army Warrior Training, marksmanship, physical readiness. An army should be doing these things. Others are equally as important, but not as obvious: Anti-terrorism training, Operational Security, Law of War, Personnel Recover, Information Assurance.
Still others exist solely as a secular response to the rampant sin in the force: Alcohol Substance Abuse Prevention, Suicide Prevention, Combating Human Trafficking, Equal Opportunity, Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (SHARP), Resiliency Training (though not stipulated at DA level, resiliency training is a mandatory monthly event).
Consider that we hold classes to teach soldiers not to rape people!
Not only must commanders deal with the sin of the force in handling the immense number of personal issues generated by sinful behavior, they must also train the entire force as a response and in an attempt to prevent this same sinful behavior. Somewhere in there, they must find time to accomplish the mission essential training to prepare the unit for combat.
A 2002 War College study determined that all mandatory training would require 297 training days in a year. Regrettably, each year contains only 256 training days. Due to these factors, combat-focused training often takes a back seat to administration and dealing with soldiers affliction.
Maybe my last commander was correct in ascertaining that United States is set for a fall, capable indeed of losing its next war.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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