The Dignity of Men—You or the Other Guy

There exists a general coarsening of our culture, a prevailing vulgarity, a distinct lack of civility.

This is symptomatic of a widespread denigration, a denial of the universal dignity of all men. Degradation eases the burden of my declaration of superiority, gives weight to the rightness of my position, and renders my efforts at subjugation for personal gain more palatable.

God sees things a bit differently.

In the Eyes of God

David reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” that God, “formed my inward parts,” that He, “knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13-14) God knows me, everything about me. He knows my very words before they are on my lips. He knows all of my ways.

He ordained my days before they were written.

I cannot run from God, I cannot hide from Him. Even in the dark, in the depths of my despair, God is with me, guiding me, leading me. (Psalm 139:11-12)

When we consider the value of men, that the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God of the Universe put His very fingerprints upon my soul as He knit me together, we must respond. David responds with joy, with wonder, with amazement.

How unsearchable are the ways of God! (Romans 11:33)

The pages of Scripture affirm my dignity, my worth, my value at the same time that they produce a deep repentance and broken spirit over my sin. As I am the handiwork of God, the corruption wrought by my sin is that much more grievous. The affirmation of our value, our worth, our dignity begs a more pointed question.

Can we acknowledge the same for other men?

What about those you hate?

What about those who hate you?

Women in the Eyes of God

Can we affirm the dignity of women?

The #metoo movement, though born of a righteous cause, has deteriorated into an amorphous jumble of confusing and competing messages as it’s been subsequently hijacked by those with a clear agenda.

And everyone must get on board or risk the ire of public shaming. Thus a Beth Moore rebukes a generation of Baptist men for the specific sins of a handful and the prevailing attitude, prompting an Al Mohler to declare that the judgment of God has come against the Southern Baptist Convention. Intrigued, I consulted a spiritual mentor of mine who informed me of the sexual sin of a few other Baptist leaders.

So let me get this straight…a group of prominent men step out of line sexually and we speak judgement against an entire denomination.

Okay, the necessary caveat. Sexual assault of any kind is horrific and the perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

But it seems a bit like pandering to me.

And it detracts from the much more insidious and systematic denigration of women.

The first step. We (men) convinced women that their worth is in their sexuality, how they look, and what they will do for us. Thus, high school girls are forced to display their worth by giving oral sex in the high school bathroom in the hopes that the boy will continue to talk to them. They must take seductive selfies or dress in an (in)appropriate manner all while risking a social media outing that would shame them for doing the very thing we demand they do to garner our affections.

The second step: We (men) seek sexual fulfillment elsewhere, outside a loving and committed relationship that nourishes the soul of a woman. We forsake them (women) for pornography or drive-by sexual encounters. The culmination of abandonment is men forsaking women entirely and finding gratification in other men.

A third step: We (men) actually render our women obsolete. Was it just me or did the man formerly known as Bruce Jenner receive Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year award. The man Fallon Fox breaks the eye socket of his female MMA opponent. A boy in Connecticut wins the state girls 100m and 200m sprint. Men are just simply better at being girls than girls themselves.

All of these speak to the denigration of women, in exact opposition to Scripture, the call of God.

We ought to vigorously affirm the intrinsic value of women, that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. That God knit them together in their mother’s womb. Their value is completely divorced from what they can do for me.

We ought to daily affirm this for our wives.

We ought to instill this in the hearts of our daughters.

We ought to impress this upon the hearts of our sons.

Men in the Eyes of God

Because I do a lot of business over social media, I see perhaps the worst in men.

How easy is it to degrade a fellow man, to deny his humanity, when you don’t even know him? He is a stranger, just a random and faceless name?

Today, the primary sin men commit against men is to disagree with them.

Todd Friel, host of Wretched TV and Radio, does an interesting spot called Encounter on Campus. In a University ‘free speech zone’, whatever that is, he sets up a microphone and proclaims the Gospel to lost college students. It’s interactive. They have a microphone whereby they engage him and challenge his conclusions.

One of his most consistent endeavors, in interacting with the college students, is to convince them that they both cannot be right. Either he is right and they are wrong or they are right and he is wrong or they are both wrong. It has to be one of these options and that’s okay. They can disagree and yet, don’t have to resort to vitriol or name-calling or hatred.

It’s amazing how difficult this is for the students to accept.

They find in his disagreement a personal affront, which shouldn’t surprise I guess, since the Gospel is truly the most offensive thing that has ever been.

Yet, this exhibits a widespread hatred for those on ‘the opposite side of the aisle’. My liberal cousin actually hates Republicans. He doesn’t disagree with them. He doesn’t think they are confused or just wrong. He truly hates them. He sees them as wicked and evil and it reflects in how he communicates with them.

My friends on the right are no different. Liberal snowflakes. Libtards. The hatred permeates across party lines, across racial lines, across cultural lines.

Men simply refuse to see their fellow men with the same dignity with which God sees them.

Can I acknowledge that a man I hate is fearfully and wonderfully made, just as I am?

This drives a deeper revelation. Why must I hate?

The Lost in the Eyes of God

I see, in some of my brothers, a general contempt for the lost.

When confronted with unrighteousness, with those who hate God, we respond like David. Slay the wicked God! Don’t I hate those who you also hate. I loathe them. I hate them with complete hatred. (Psalm 139:19-22)

Is this how we ought to respond?

A few reminders are in order.

But by the grace of God, there go I. It is only the grace of God that pulled me from the mire of my sin, that saved me and were it not for the grace of God, I would still be a hater of God, on the other side of David’s aspersion. As we gaze upon the sin of the world, we must never forget that such were some of you. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

These are brothers, some of them. I’ll never hate a man into the Kingdom of God. As I slander, as I condemn, as I return hate with hate, I may actually be afflicting a future brother, one yet reconciled.

My hatred has no kinship with the heart of Christ.

God, in the complexity of his character never rejoices at the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11)

Can we return the hatred of the world with love? They will hate. They hated Christ, so they will hate His disciples. Can we still affirm the dignity of men in the face of such opposition?

Brothers in the Eyes of God

I moderated a debate recently between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Theodore Zachariades concerning the continuation of the charismatic spiritual gifts of tongues, healing, and prophecy.

The debate was cordial, academic, and insightful.

The response of my brothers was not always the same.

Those on one side in particular refused to acknowledge the salvation of those on the other, called them wolves, false teachers, apostate. You name it. The hatred shocked my senses, the sheer lack of civility amongst those who profess to worship the same God over a secondary matter, not even a matter of salvation.

Now, we must stand for truth and we must not compromise, but can we affirm the dignity of those with whom we disagree?

God does.

Men in the Eyes of God

Lest I be mired in self-contempt, it is a valuable exercise to remind myself of how God feels about me. I find my worth in Christ, and who God has made me to be. I have value, intrinsic worth…I matter.

There’s the rub.

Do I matter?

God responds with a resounding, “Yes!”

Can you affirm the same of your fellow man, of all your fellow man?

Here is the heart of Christ. I pray we’d all repent for falling short in this regard.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

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).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

The Evisceration of Casual Christianity

The world is winning its war upon the American church.

What Happened?

American Christendom wanes daily as the church falls from prominence, fading into the landscape of obscurity, receding from relevance.

Very few consider the church a factor in their lives. For most, church is a place to go on occasion, something to do periodically to satiate our innate legalism. We ought to be doing something, so we’ll attend a random church service.

Or, church has become a place to go and feel better about yourself. Church is but one of a vast litany of self-help programs to enable you to rise above your circumstances, to achieve and obtain, or just restore your self-esteem your sense of identity, whatever that means.

And Jesus is a great teacher, gentle and kind, certainly non-threatening. He would never make demands upon anyone as he just loves everybody. We can literally choose our own Jesus this day. I guarantee I can find a church that preaches whatever version of Jesus with which I am most comfortable.

And stemming from this incomplete and varied knowledge of the risen Lord Jesus stems an obvious byproduct—a casual and timid church.

Casual or Reverent

I loathe the modern casual approach to Jesus, to church.

The casual attitude permeates every aspect of church from worship to evangelism to the various ministries of the church. My son just returned from the Southern Baptist MFuge camp and I guarantee there were kids there sporting ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ shirts. Before worship service, the students actually formed a conga line.

“Jesus is my friend,” is a popular refrain.

America is beset by a casual view of Jesus.

Irreverence pervades.

Why wouldn’t we be when we can pick and choose the aspects of Jesus we wish to acknowledge or consider legitimate? As we focus on kind Jesus, on loving Jesus, on friendly Jesus holding a lamb, surrounded by children, with a perpetually gentle smile gracing his countenance, we miss the very thing that would drive our reverence, our awe, our fear!

Scripture paints a slightly different vision of Jesus.

According to the Psalmist, God will speak to the nations in his wrath, he will terrify them in his fury saying, “As for me, I have set my King [Jesus] on Zion.” (Psalm 2:5) The Father will declare to the Son that the nations are His heritage, the ends of the earth His possession, and He “shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (v. 9)

The New Testament quotes Psalm 110 more than any other Old Testament verse as God the Father says to Jesus, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” (v.1) Of Jesus, the Psalmist declares that “he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgement among the nations, filling them with corpses.” (v.5-6)

Paul tells us that the name of Jesus has been highly exalted and is the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-10) Every knee, even the knee of those who do not acknowledge Him, will bow at the mention of His name, either in submission or under the rod of His wrath, in judgement.

Does this sound like the Jesus you learned about in Vacation Bible School?

A complete understanding of the person of Christ will drive one thing, reverence.

John, standing before the glorified Christ, fell to his face as if dead. (Revelation 1) We ought to respond similarly. Confronted by the fullness of Christ, his mercy and love coupled with his wrath and justice, we are driven to our knees in awe and fear. 

Jesus demands reverence.

One may not trifle with He to whom everything has already been given.

Bold or Timid

A church worshipping this faux Jesus reeks of timidity.

Concession testifies to this.

The timid church makes concession after concession to the world, often in the form of denying sin, in an attempt to satiate the demands of the world. The desire of the timid church is friendship with that which by definition is antithetical to the Gospel. The world hates Jesus, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most offensive thing that there is. How could the world ever befriend that which speaks death to it?

The options are truth or concession.

This is why we see large groups within the church, even entire denominations, conceding to the world things up to and even including the essentials of the faith, things that if you do not believe them you may not rightfully call yourself a Christian. This is where we get female ‘reverends’ issuing public blessings upon abortion clinics. This is where churches ordain openly homosexual ‘clergy’. This is where we get churches that ‘welcome’ and ‘affirm’ and refuse to preach the Gospel in all of its power and authority, with all of its teeth.

This is where we get the pitiable Jesus, the pleading Jesus.

This generates weak evangelism.

Jesus is a gentlemen, standing at the door to your heart, gently knocking. He’d never force himself on you. You have to open the door and invite him into your heart. He’s just pleading for you, yearning for you.

Excrement.

Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will one day return in power and authority and He will set all things right. Jesus is the owner of all things, not some things, but all things, including my heart.

I am here to testify that I never once sought Jesus. I never once searched for Him. I never once invited Him into my heart. He kicked in the door to my heart with all the fierce authority of the Lord on high and He said, “You are mine!”

“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” the very words of Jesus. (Luke 13:5) Repent, surrender, submit to me, or you will die, I will kill you, ultimately. Again, is this the Jesus you learned about in Sunday school?

Our evangelism ought to sound similar. Repent or perish. Repent and believe. This world is under the judgement of God. There’s not much time! Turn to Jesus in faith, submit, surrender. Jesus is your only hope.

Urging people to invite Jesus into their hearts just isn’t working.

Closing

The world is winning its war against the American church…
…and I’m okay with that.

In a strange way, I welcome it. The decline of American Christendom has only served to reveal that which was hidden beneath our cultural Christianity, the uncomfortable fact that many people in the church were never actually of Christ in the first place.

Now, the façade is over, the pretenses demolished.

With no culturally beneficial reason to claim Christianity, the chaff is blowing itself away revealing a purified church, a church that may be reverent and bold…just as God intended it to be.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

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).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Your Move, NFL Players…Your Move, Christians

The Civil War was about slavery.

The Confederate Flag symbolizes a rebellious entity that went to war on behalf of the right to enslave other men. It ought to be banned.

“Heritage not hate,” is a lie.

Robert E. Lee owned slaves, fought and killed on behalf of this collective right. Why would we memorialize him with a statue or any other means?

Systematic racism is a plague in our nation.

Cops brutalize black people, kill black men.

Black lives matter.

Are you angry yet?

Solidarity

You’ve never heard of Peter Norman.

An Australian Sprinter, Norman won the silver at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and stood on the platform as American Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in silent protest during the National Anthem. In the 1960’s, the Black Panther movement was as popular with white people as #blacklivesmatter is today.

Peter Norman was an afterthought, merely the “white guy”, standing by as Smith and Carlos protested. He was a bystander. What went largely unnoticed was the small lapel pin he wore, “Olympic Project for Human Rights,” an organization started to combat global racial injustice. Norman was more than a bystander.

“I’ll stand with you,” he told them.

“I expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes, but instead we saw love,” Carlos remembers.

It’s Not Showfriends

It’s a business decision, and that’s okay.

The protests incited the ire of a vast swath of Americana, mainly from the conservative base. And they have exercised their own rights in turning the channel, costing the NFL millions of dollars, though it’s difficult to quantify.

In our public sector, within the bounds of morality and ethics, the dollar rules. Capitalism insists upon it. At the end of the day, the NFL is a business and if they fail to generate revenue, they will not remain in business…and kneeling football players are bad for business.

The NFL finally responded.

“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We want people to stand…and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion.”

So the owners unanimously adopted a new policy requiring players to stand during the anthem. The policy gives them the option to remain in the locker room. Punitively, the policy fines teams if a player does not show the appropriate respect for the anthem. This includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality. The teams have the option to fine players who violate the policy.

The NFL felt like they had to do something, and that’s okay.

No one is being forced to stand against their will. The players are free to seek employment elsewhere, the Canadian Football League or Europe or maybe even in something other than sports.

I saw a post which read, “Forced patriotism is really fascism.”

If it were truly forced, then yes. If the American Gestapo were roaming the streets arresting non-patriotic citizens, then yes. This would constitute fascism.

That’s not happening. You may burn a flag, and I want you to be able to burn the flag. I grieve that you feel led to burn the flag, but I respect your right to freely do so. The last I checked you may sit during the national anthem at any sporting event. You may leave your hat on, refuse to put your hand over your heart, whatever. Now, you are betraying a social norm and for that you may get some pushback, but that is normal too. But you won’t get arrested.

So the ball is firmly back in the players court.

They of course may continue to protest, only now, it just may cost them something.

Time will tell if they truly believe in the righteousness of their cause. The true measure of commitment is the price one is willing to pay.

A View

A way to look at these men, a way that a large swath of America views them, is as spoiled millionaires crying about something that’s not even truly an issue.

You’ve heard the counterpoints.

Black people kill way more black people than any white people do, cops included. If men, black or otherwise, would just follow the law, then they wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Young black men commit an overwhelming majority of violent crime, so why should we be surprised if cops handle certain situations with more force? The destruction of the black family is the real cause of black affliction, not the mythical “man” or any other kind of external opposition.

These points contain some elements of truth, but many cling to these point to delegitimize everything these men stand(kneel) for.

Yet I ask, Is legitimacy the most important thing, perceived or otherwise?

Christ’s View

Jesus, as always, confronts.

A Pharisee approaches Him and asks, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)

Jesus responds with,

          “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” (v. 38) and,

          “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 39)

Jesus tells them to love God and to love their neighbors. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (v. 40) The Law of God can be summarized in these two laws:

          Love God.

          Love your neighbor.

Who then is my neighbor? My family, my friends, my co-workers, my actual neighbors?
What about my fellow citizens?

Another View

There is disenfranchisement.

As a middle-class, middle-aged white dude, I can never truly comprehend what young black men face, whether wealthy football players or average young men on the street. I can never understand exactly how they feel or what they feel. Yet, I can comprehend that they feel, that what they think matters.

Whether I consider their views legitimate or not becomes irrelevant in the light of Christ. They are upset and no matter the legitimacy of their protest, I must love them and my concern is for them. Christ demands it.

The kingdom, of which I am a member, supersedes this worldly kingdom and all its worldly concerns. Christianity renders social justice ancillary to the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18) Yet, what if social justice were a mechanism to that end, the reconciliation of men with God? What if social justice became a means to plead with men, “be reconciled to God”? (v. 20) What if my stand with them might portray my love for them and ultimately, the love of Christ?

Christ demands my consideration.

Christ requires my compassion.

Christ insists upon my love for them.

They have an issue, a problem and though I do not understand it completely, I acknowledge it. Further, I reject condemnation.

If I could speak with them, I’d like to stand with them, even if I don’t entirely agree with them. If only our fellow citizens would feel the same.

Norman’s View

Peter Norman paid a price for his stand.

He was rejected from the 1972 Australian Olympic team though he ran qualifying times for the 200 meters thirteen times and five qualifying times for the 100 meters. His career was effectively over, though he remains one of the fastest Australians of all time. Largely ostracized, he found work difficult to find, his nation squarely against him.

Australia offered him chances to repent. Publicly condemn Smith and Carlos and he would be embraced. He would receive a pardon for his actions and perhaps even be a part of the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.

Norman refused and continued his stand.

He died from a heart attack in 2006.

Six years later, the Australian Parliament issued an official state apology to Norman recognizing his “extraordinary athletic achievements” and acknowledging his bravery in standing in solidarity with Smith and Carlos. They apologized for failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics and recognized “the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.”

Norman saw two men moved deeply by the wounds of racial injustice. He saw these men as brothers. Peter Norman, a devout Christian, said to them in his stand,

“I’ll stand with you.”

“I love you,” and ultimately,

“Jesus loves you.”

As touching of a gesture as the government apology was, an even more poignant display occurred at his funeral.

Carlos and Smith served as pallbearers.

As Norman stood with them in life, they bore his body to the grave, standing with him in death.

Carlos later spoke of his friend, recognizing his character and strength and most of all, “his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice.” In standing by his fellow men sacrificially, Peter Norman fully embraced them as brothers and displayed the heart of our Lord Jesus.

I can scarcely imagine if our nation were to do the same, embrace our kneeling brothers and resolutely declare with them that, “yes, black lives do matter.”

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

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).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Affliction in a Godless Army: Suicide in the Heavy Rain

Few things consume a unit like a suicide.

My brigade had two in a span of months. One particular weekend, a young soldier full of heartache and alcohol hung himself in his barracks room. He and his girlfriend were having some significant relationship issues. Two months later, another young soldier hung himself with his belt. Hours before his death, he posted a picture on social media of him in his barracks room, alone…with a bottle of liquor.

Shockwaves roiled across the Brigade. Neither young man had previously displayed overt suicidal ideations.

Thankfully, they came from separate battalions, but in the immediate aftermath and for days and weeks following, the units were consumed. The chain-of-command was focused entirely, as it should’ve been, as it had to be, upon the care of the family and the unit. We sent teams to funerals, executed memorial ceremonies, and supported the families in any way we could.

More than that, we tore ourselves apart, seeking answers that never presented themselves. How could we have prevented this?

We were asking the wrong questions.

The Plague

As suicide proliferates the active ranks, it likewise afflicts our nation’s veterans. A popular narrative claims that 22 veterans commit suicide every day which translates to roughly one every 65 minutes. 22 suicides a day—politicians regurgitate it, veterans groups made it a banner, and sympathetic citizens demand answers.

Even one suicide is too many. Yet I wondered, if this is accurate, then this is an astonishing number!

Peeling the onion reveals some problems.

The statistic, 22 a day, is based upon the Veterans Administration 2012 Suicide Data Report which surveyed statistics from 1999 to 2011 across 21 states and then extrapolated for the general population. The researchers themselves cede the lack of veracity of the conclusions. Further, the average age of the victim was 60 years old, effectively undermining the popular narrative concerning the afflicted Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans. A more recent and comprehensive survey yields that roughly one veteran commits suicide each day, still too many but a far cry from 22.

As a young officer, I scarcely recall a suicide, not a single one. What has given rise to this phenomenon among active and veteran ranks? Do the current wars truly afflict our soldiers to the point of desperation whereby they view suicide as their only source of relief? Perhaps. Paradoxically, today most active duty suicide victims have not yet deployed. How do we reconcile this?

Value and Hope

We can trace the origins of suicide to a singular condition, trauma coupled with a distinct spiritual bankruptcy.

Numerous factors contribute—the nature of the trauma, demographics, upbringing, resiliency etc. Yet it is the absence of Christ that underscores it all. The proliferation of the unchurched in the ranks effectively sets the condition for numerous abominable practices, including suicide.

As the Gospel is suppressed, men lose value. Secular, agnostic, or even atheistic thought systems deny the inherent value of men as the Imago Dei. Regressing to evolutionary constructs, men become merely the latest and most adapted of all purposeless creatures. Men possess no intrinsic value. Life has no intrinsic worth other than to satisfy base lusts. Absent that satisfaction, life loses all value.

Only a proper understanding of the Image of God produces in a man’s heart a respect and value for all human life. All men’s lives hold sacred value, including his own and as such, it cannot be taken lightly.

Along with an understanding of the sacred value of life, with the Gospel comes hope. No matter the desperation, the believer lives with a hope not found in himself, rather a hope found in the risen Lord Jesus. I have the hope of things not yet seen, the glory of a future spent in eternity with the Lord our God.

A Tough Word

It is a hard thing to say and to those who have been affected by suicide, I apologize profusely for the following statement, but I feel it must be said.

Suicide is an intensely selfish act.

The victim becomes absorbed by the affliction of their existence, completely hopeless and ill-equipped to deal with the trauma, whatever it may be. The Christian life calls the believer to the opposite, to be consumed first by God and then with the life and welfare of others. It is hard to imagine a believer focusing on himself enough to commit suicide.

But it happens. I knew a chaplain once, a man of God, a man who loved the Lord and his family. He took his own life. He had been caught up in sin and the devil talked him into it. He left behind a beautiful family. The tragedy of suicide emanates from its irreversibility.

What do I know?

During a time of heavy rain, the darkest in my own life, I no longer desired to live. I truly desired that the Lord call me home and end the misery and pain of my present condition. Bleakness and despair ruled and I tried to flirt with it, briefly…very briefly. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t even entertain the notion.

Thoughts of my God and my family immediately flooded my mind and my heart.

I serve a God who heals, a God who reconciles, a God who renews and revives and restores. It’s what He does. Knowing this, how could I not rest in His grace, His mercy, and His sovereignty? Further, how could I put those I love through such an ordeal?

To the Christian, certain thoughts become foreign, anathema to the regenerate mind. Taking one’s own life ought to bristle the believer’s conscience.

I acknowledge the generality of these themes, the moral and spiritual bankruptcy apart from Christ that generate the conditions whereby soldiers consider suicide as a reasonable course of action. I acknowledge the vast and infinite mitigating circumstances.

Yet, a direct correlation exists between the proliferation of the unchurched with the ensuing darkness and the increase in suicide and suicidal ideations both in our nation and the nation’s Army.

Frustration

I sat and listened in increasing frustration, scarcely able to contain my anger. My soul broiled in a near rage.

I seethed.

It was the quarterly Community Health Promotion Council or CHPC (pronounced Chipik for the layman). Here we sat and listened to all of the functional area reps speak to their programs and how we are “getting after” the various afflictions of soldiers, from obesity to misconduct and everything in between.

The suicide prevention team lead informed us of the existence of the imminence of the Suicide Prevention Walk. Here we would walk to bring awareness to suicide. There would be booths with handouts and reps to discuss suicide. We would A.C.E….Ask, Care, and Escort our buddy if we thought he had an issue that needed to be addressed.

“We’re really gettin’ after it, Sir,” the rep confirmed.

“That was it!” I thought sarcastically to myself. If only SPC XXX, who walked out of my headquarters, direct to his vehicle, drove to a parking lot and shot himself in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle, killing himself…if only he had participated in the Suicide Awareness walk!

My anger stems from the obvious treatment of symptoms. Intrinsically, nothing wrong with a Suicide Awareness walk until it’s treated as an actual solution. My frustration stems from the moral cowardice of a willfully blinded Army, unwilling to understand the issue and seek real solutions. Our secular overlords forbid it.

And so we are left to treat symptoms as men die by the dozens. Tragic.

And pragmatically, the Army still calls upon commanders to account for and deal with this plague at the expense of preparations for war.

I had another soldier, on the brink of being separated from the Army, who informed us that he fully intended to kill himself the first chance he got. Nothing personal, nothing against us. He just did not want to live any longer and no amount of counseling could convince him otherwise. We put him on a cot at the CQ desk for nearly a week until we get him enrolled in the Warrior Transition Unit. His company commander slept on a cot right next to him, refusing to leave his side.

This is what a commander ought to do but how could he train his unit for warfare with such an obligation? Were this an isolated situation, it’d be no factor but across the Army, commanders and 1SG’s are overwhelmed dealing with administration and the sins of soldiers leaving scant time to actually prepare for battle.

I long for the soldiers of this great nation to know Christ, to know the hope found in Him, that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This hope is unshakeable, immoveable, unchanging, and never fading.

I pray that the Spirit would move within these darkened ranks and call these men out of the darkness and into His marvelous light…what a blessed hope that would be.

The Brave Rifles Series 

Brave Rifles: The Problem of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: Sex in a Godless Army (part 1)

Sex in a Godless Army (part 2): The Illusion of Gender Equality

Sex in a Godless Army (part 3): Do We Really Want Equality?

Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

Affliction in a Godless Army: An Army of Junkies

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

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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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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