“I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.”

Correction: In most cases military recruiters do not receive a commission based on the number of recruits.  

During my four years of high school we were visited by a military recruiter each year.  The military recruiter would set up shop in our cafeteria so that we could speak with him during lunch time if we so desired.

I grew up with a positive view of the military.  In fact, I flirted with the idea of enlisting in either the Navy or the Marines.  When my senior year rolled around I decided to look seriously into this option and had a conversation with the recruiter who was a Marine in the cafeteria in my high school.  I distinctly remember him telling me that him becoming a Marine was the greatest thing he had ever done with his life.  He even brought along Brian who graduated the year before and had gone through boot camp and was now officially one himself.  Brian echoed his sentiments.  It was a life-changing experience for him, too.  Also, they both looked damn good in their uniforms.  With that I gave the recruiter my information as I was on the fence about going to college even though I had been accepted and received a good financial aid package.  What followed after this was nothing short of overbearing.  In the coming months the military recruiter called me regularly and continuously tried to get me to his office.  He was incredibly pushy and aggressive to the point where despite communicating that I was no longer interested he still kept on calling.  I remember getting off of the phone with him and complaining to my father about the pushiness.  It turns out that recruiters have a quota that they must fill which determines where they are stationed next.  Hence, that explained the pushiness.  After that I was completely turned off, this didn’t necessarily match up with the nobility and glory of the military message that I was getting from the said recruiter.  I still got phone calls, though, and I am not even sure when they stopped altogether.

Interestingly enough, here I am 16 years later getting a recruitment video for military chaplaincy.  Yesterday I got an email from the LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces entitled “‘If not us, then who?’ – military chaplains needed”.  It seems that I get such a notification via email or snail mail every few months.  It came with a video too.   Though, since I am now clergy the pay and the work are far higher and different. What’s striking are the images in the video of chaplains extolling the virtues of military chaplaincy while giving their blessing to aircraft that are built to bring all sorts of destruction down on people and places.  It’s a bit eerie to hear their voices of the need for chaplains as a huge tank of sorts rolls by as well as soldiers getting into those very tanks. It’s so strange to hear the talk of the two kingdoms which is derived from the words of an ancient Jew whose scriptures decried the military might of empires like ours today.  It’s also strange because he wrote those words serving amongst a marginalized people who were tempted toward revolutionary revolt against a mighty power with great military resources like ours today.  But I suppose it also reveals that we can convince ourselves of anything so long as we believe we are right or on the side of right.   Heck, we’ve even got theology and theologians to do that.  In my opinion one of the best examples of this inconsistency is St. Martin of Tours.  Martin was a soldier who became a conscientious objector because of the call of Christ.  He is quoted as saying to his superior officer, “But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” Yet, Martin is the patron saint of soldiers.  Moreover, the LCMS has an award named after him that they give to chaplains.

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