Tuesday, August 19, 2008

U. S. Army...A Service Oriented Church?

My recent conversation with my dear brother Tyler about the role of government, political aspects of faith, etc has lead me to a thought...or at least something that seems ironic.

Tyler made the statement Saturday that any country that spends more for the military than on people is doomed for failure. In fairness, that is actually a quote from MKL Jr. (my thoughts on him may come a bit later...maybe). Now I love stats and of course, having served in the U.S. Army for 6 years, I happen to know those particular stats and I, being the jerk I am, asked Tyler which country, other than China, Iran and Russia did something so stupid. Tyler, with the best of intentions, said that the good old USA is guilty of such stupid budgetary squandering. I sent Tyler the stats concerning the U.S. Budget and Military spending comes in 3rd...behind Health and Humans Services and Social Security Administration. In fact, if you add up the entitlement programs and various other Departments that serve our people and the people abroad, the budget for The Dept. of Defense is right at 30% of the others. I then began to think deeper about the Defense budget and what all that might include...

In thinking back on my time in the Army I quickly recall that many times the purpose of a particular training exercise or actual deployment was for humanitarian purposes. The military is very good at killing people and destroying things...but we are also very good at repairing, rebuilding and replenishing. Japan, Germany, Iraq...take you pick. They have all been destroyed by us...and arguably the people in charge of them prior to the US invasion or attacks...and we have done some really cool work in the areas of constructing roads, schools, hospitals, etc. We have also given millions around the world clean drinking water, decent sewage treatment facilities and more reliable electricity. Especially in Iraq, the people didn't have near what they have now with Saddam in power...they did have government sanctioned rapes but I don't think that is a good thing.

I say all of that because as harsh as people can be on war, the US military and our recent tactics in "The War on Terror", I would say that in speaking of the atrocities...and yes, those too exist, we must remember the positives as well. People ask us to do the same thing with church, no? I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "Well, yes...it sucks and it isn't perfect and so many things aren't as they should be. People get hurt, faith gets damaged but we help a lot of people and we bring some people to know God." And I am not knocking some of that...to some degree. Let's just extend the same courtesy and grace to others...

In the same way, I would argue that the U.S. Military in general has helped more people than the American churches, especially if we are just counting service projects and what many would refer to as "missions". The military sends physicians around the world to treat people and even sends free medicine...just like some medical mission people. I would also argue that the number of people killed by our military is lower than the number of people killed over time by "christians" and "in the name of God". The Crusades, the Inquisitions...all took tons of lives. Even spiritually, I would argue that the U.S. military has killed far fewer people than the American churches have wounded spiritually.

So before we become self-righteous and more liberal in our views toward the Military...who is serving more people and harming fewer people? Even if it is a toss up the case must be made that an institution of God shouldn't even be close to one of man. But it is, no? When Jesus decides who gets to be a sheep and a goat...how many soldiers will have been "guilty" of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and setting the captive free? How many christians will be? Trying to answer that question is kind of scary to me.


thepriesthood said...

What I think you are helping me to see is the complexity of statistics and the complexity of how our federal budget is spent.

To put our national defense budget in perspective, "it would take the combined budgets of the next 15 countries to equal that of the US (Russia is the next biggest spender at around 70 bil, China at 50 bil, and the entire "Axis of Evil" is less than 10 bil (truemajority.com)"
--Jesus For President, p 178.

Yes, I do believe that our military is at times commanded to rebuild physical structures after destroying them, give a shot in the arm to economies they have torn apart, etc. But are they as altruistic as you make them out to be? They can rebuild roads they've destroyed, but what about human lives that have been taken? Yes, I believe they can give more hopeful futures to the people (whose land has oil or other vested interests), but can they bring (innocent) people from the dead?

You note that "the U.S. Military in general has helped more people than the American churches" but so often, I cannot distinguish between the two so neatly.

Am I becoming "self righteous and more liberal?" I don't want to come off that way, although I'm never certain what liberal means. For me, liberal is having 500 Minuteman III bombs, the smallest of which is equivalent to 170 Oklahoma City bombings, or 10 times the Hiroshima bomb. That's liberal. I am for being conservative when it comes to human life. But thanks for bringing self-righteousness to my attention.

Blake said...

HUGE MISTAKE!!! The self-righteous and liberal part of the post was in no way aimed at you. I should have made that more clear in the blog. If anything, you are one of the more humble followers I know...no self-righteousness in you. The liberal part...well, um... :)

As far as "liberal" goes...obviously that label is relative. I think in many ways I am liberal, in so far as that is described by "floating the mainstream. In other ways I probably fall right in line with the more conservative bunch. Either way, even as I identify with certain groups I recognize that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

By the way, as I read Claiborne's latest book...that you quote, I recognized that he only presented the "reported" budgetary numbers of the U.S and other countries. I think the stat is misleading. First, as already pointed out, the U.S. budget for the Dept of Defense includes many humanitarian aid allowances. Second, I am not naive enough to think that governments known for their secrecy and deception like China, Iran, N. Korea and Russia have accurately reported their defense budget to anyone. Not to mention...are we really to think that the world's largest military in the world's most populated country, that requires military service of each citizen is only spending such a small amount each year? That doesn't make sense to me.

Another thought...have you considered comparing the amounts each coutry spends in humanitarian aid? For example, last year the U.S. alone provided 22% of the money to the UN for H.A. The next largest contributor? Glad you asked...that was U.K. which came in at 6.13%. I wonder why Claiborne has yet to mention that in his books? I also wonder why Claiborne went to Iraq to be a human shield prior to the bombing but he failed to go to be a human shield to the mass murder committed, genocide and other atrocities committed by the previous regime in Iraq? It just seems a little jaded and inconsistent to me...maybe I am wrong about that but I still wonder why.