The U.S. Department of Defense issued a report on the religious affiliation of Active Duty personnel serving in the U.S. armed forces, revealing "[a]bout 7 out of 10 (69.8%) active-duty service members identified as Christian in 2014, according to the Defense Department. They range from 345,888 non-denominational Christians to two members of the European Free Churches
The survey was voluntary, so one can expect the number of religious personnel in any religious demographic to be higher than reported.
Of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ: 10,700 service members.
Of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): 7084 service members.
Of the Church of Christ: 10,776.
That equals 28,550 service member from the Restoration Movement tradition, a reality that grieves my heart deeply.
While a simple survey fails to gauge the spiritual depth and maturity of any Christian, what bothers me is that be the numbers an accurate reflection of Christian commitment among military men or not, the evangelical, Bible-believing churches of America have decided that to serve a worldly government in its army, the pinnacle of national idolatry, being willing to serve and die for one's country, is tolerable if not laudable.
This is a strange and twisted irony for the followers of the Prince of Peace.
In many Christian circles, few things are more sacred than the soldier.
A soldier can get a congregation to its feet quicker than a praise song or a baptism in some places.
I grew up in church hearing things like, "only two people were ever willing to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American soldier."
I stood inside a giant scaffolding flag erected inside of a church building to honor a service which Jesus Christ did away with when he told Peter to put his sword back in its place.
We drape the American flag on the cross of Christ and send our young people off to military with a prayer and our blessing.
We valorize and lionize military service while reading over the Bible's admonishment to live at peace with everyone, to not return violence for violence, and to love one's enemies.
While the willingness of a person to die for a cause may be admirable, the practical working out of that willingness is not necessarily so.
Such is the case with followers of Christ in the military.
Jesus refused to kill or take up arms against his enemies, as did the apostles and other New Testament Christians, the apostolic Fathers, and other early church fathers up until around the fourth century..
They viewed themselves as a separate people with a different calling.
As late as the Council of Nicaea in 325, re-joining the military after conversion could mean 13 years--yes, years--of church discipline (see Canon 12 of the Council of Nicaea).
You can scour the New Testament for every verse that explains how Christians should treat their enemies and you will come up empty for any verse justifying military service and all that entails.
On the contrary, Jesus tells us that his Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), which is under the immediate rulership of Satan (1 John 5:19) through his temporary ownership of all the world's earthly kindgoms (Luke 4:5-7).
We respect earthly government as God's way of preserving order and justice (see Romans 13) but it lies outside of the "perfection of Christ" and is not an option for Christians.
For professing Christians to make up the majority of the U.S. military and for the majority of Christian denominations to tolerate if not approve of military service for Christians is to our deep shame.
Indeed, is is my shame because this sin is my sin.
I sang the patriotic songs.
I stood to my feet in praise of soldiers and soldiering.
I pledged allegiance to the flag.
I believed and spread the lie.
This apostate form of Christianity is as much my problem and fault as anyone else.
I carry that burden.
But it does not have to continue this way.
The Church always has and will always have the ability to return to sound doctrine--up to a point.
It starts with personal repentance followed by congregational accountability and solidarity.
Even while some Christians are feeling more comfortable than ever with the current state of politics, I see a remnant who are saying no to nationalism, militarism, politicism, and seeking to understand what it means to pray "they Kingdom come."
May their tribe increase. Before it is too late.