CCF Episode Seventeen: Memorial Day Special

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On this special Memorial Day episode, Billy and JD sit down to discuss various topics pertaining to Memorial Day and the church.

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I have two uncles and a grandfather who retired from the U.S. Air Force. I myself served for eight years as a medic in the U.S. Army Reserve, deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008. My great grandfather, William Frederick “Bill” Leonhart, was a medic in the U.S. Army and was deployed in service of his country in World War I. Needless to say, Memorial Day holds a special place in my heart.

In this podcast, we seek to answer some of the tough questions facing Christians regarding military service and the church. We by no means cover all the bases. However, we do try to deal with the topics in such a way as to honor both God and our troops. We hope you enjoy this discussion, as we enjoyed having it.

– Billy

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2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called there unto; in the management whereof, as they ought especially to maintain justice and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each kingdom and commonwealth, so for that end they may lawfully now, under the New Testament wage war upon just and necessary occasions.
2 Samuel 23:3; Psalms 82:3, 4; Luke 3:14 )

from The Baptist Confession, Chapter Twenty-Four

Last Goodbye by Tedashii (feat. Benjah)


Armed Forces Medley: 2011 National Memorial Day Concert

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9 thoughts on “CCF Episode Seventeen: Memorial Day Special

  1. I think we must guard against cultural assumptions.

    Being a Canadian sitting through multiple memorial day church services is eye opening!!

    We should avoid the error of pacifism, but on the other hand, we must avoid the assumption that all military service is just or sacrificial.

    The whole language of sacrifice needs further thought and nuance… People do military service for a plethora of reasons, we can’t blindly assume motivations. Assuming every military person is sacrificing for his county is a boot like assuming every gun owner is protecting his family. Obviously we want to the avoid assuming the worst, but we do people a disservice when we ignore the fact that many military men do not serve their country well. We also nee the think through what is being sacrificed FOR. I would purpose, in practice, it is not always the country.

    I’m not saying military men shouldn’t be praised at times, but just we wouldn’t be naive about it or act a if bring in uniform itself justifies or sanctified it.

  2. I appreciate your insights, Mark. I know I served with people that did not always have the most honorable intentions. I myself can count multiple occasions when I did not operate as a soldier with the most honorable intentions. My concern is, if we only honor those who always operate with the utmost honor, we would never honor anyone. Yet, we are called to honor others. That starts of course with God, but then we are called to honor our parents, our leaders in government, etc. I guess I’d prefer not to uproot the chaff until the harvest, so that I am careful at the same time to not uproot some good wheat. In other words, I’m sure there have been some real jerks who have died for our country, and in some wars in which, in retrospect, we’d rather not have been involved. All that said, there is something honorable about well-intentioned young men honorably serving and sacrificing for their country. If not, I would think that John the Baptist would have told them so in Matthew 3. It is this ideal we honor on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

    I hope that wasn’t confusing. Not trying to argue. Again, I appreciate your insights. We do need to guard against seeing acts as honorable that may have been done for very dishonorable reasons.

    • Hi William,

      Good thoughts. I think that, unfortunately, these are issues that get settled, not by measured discussion or contemplation or study, but rather by an effectively “infallible” folk religion pass down from generation to generation. A code of honor which at times effectively becomes a “golden calf” which can’t be touched or addressed. Sadly, it seems that times there is often little ethical guidance or admonition that is giving to those who serve in military capacity, just a pat on the back, “good job boys”, so to speak. And yet, that is so contrary to what our Lord demonstrated in Luke 3… he had some stiff ethical demands of those who would use force.

      I agree wholehearted that when we are called to honor authorities, we are not to wait for perfection before we honor them. On the other hand, we our language in *how* we honor them can betray where our heart is and whether we are bearing a false witness. There are, of course, different degrees of honor we may give and different ways we give that honor. And perhaps that is where many memorial day services go over board. Not in the bare fact that they are giving honor, but rather in the way they do it.

      In regard to what you said about being in wars that one would “rather not have been involved”, Here is an area I think churches can easily err in as well–I think too we can honor military men without neccessarily creating the sort of triumphalistic atmosphere in which it is presumed that God must be “on our side” in all our countries military endeavors. I think that, even when a church does honor its military men, it can do so in a way that doesn’t (a) severely confuse the kingdoms, (b) make those from “every tounge, tribe, and nation” feel like they are out of place, (c) offend those who may disagree with certain military endeavors, especially in a land and age when very few wars are “self defense” so to speak, (d) lead those hearing to believe that the church is culpable for whatever injustices may be occurring.

      I’m sure you will see that I my writing here is partially prompted by your show, but perhaps even more so, prompted by some experiences visiting churches in the USA during memorial day. I think these are pretty important issues to consider and I suppose an “outsider” often tends to see a few things that those in “the fish bowl” don’t. In a sense, I think that happens whenever we cross countries or cultural contexts.

      I’m sure if we probed deeper in these areas, we could find further areas of disagreement, but alas, I think the thing that is really important here in this topic, is not private opinions persay, but how the church conducts itself in this matter. And I think, we would wholeheartedly agree that caution is required in how church frames some of these things, both in what sort of events it schedules (esp. during public worship) and what it says and officially sanctions. God bless you, brother.

      • Another concern I have is that here in North America, it is easily to let our theology of war and military force be driven by a very positive “cosy” relationship. And that can cause us to get lazy about thinking seriously through the ethical implications of war and related matters. I think if one grows up in such an environment, and isn’t really exposed to the other side, so to speak, over the generations, a very distorted theology of war can emerge. One in which “just war theory” is merely a technicality to rubberstamp whatever our country decides to do. And prayers go up, but only for “our boys’, not for peace and not for the enemy. And it can get so distorted that joy begins to form in military power and greatness and bloodshed. Spurgeon himself was very troubled by this trend, when he observed;

        “Alas, the nations of the earth look for joy in military power. By what means can we make a nation of soldiers? The Prussian method is admirable; we must have thousands upon thousands of armed men and big cannon and ironclad vessels to kill and destroy by wholesale. Is it not a nation’s pride to be gigantic in arms? What pride flushes the patriot’s cheek when he remembers that his nation can murder faster than any other people. Ah, foolish generation, ye are groping in the flames of hell to find your heaven, raking amid blood and bones for the foul thing which ye call glory. A nation’s joy can never lie in the misery of others. Killing is not the path to prosperity; huge armaments are a curse to the nation itself as well as to its neighbors. The joy of a nation is a golden sand over which no stream of blood has ever rippled. It is only found in that river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God. The weakness of submissive gentleness is true power. Jesus founds his eternal empire not on force but on love. Here, O ye people, see your hope; the mild pacific prince, whose glory is his self-sacrifice, is our true benefactor.” ”

        Ok. I will stop spamming this comment section now. Thanks for hearing me out 🙂

  3. By the way… the United Sites is “the new guy on the block” in regard to not having a draft. Canada eliminated the draft after WWI 🙂 And, technically, you guys do still have selected service. So someone with enough guts could at least try to institute a draft quite easily. You know us Canadians, always wanting to get a one up on the US of Eh! 🙂

  4. We appreciate your contribution to this dialogue, Mark. What do you think about the one thing we did say was valid in services on Memorial weekend: using the occasion to remember to pray for those orphans and widows left behind by our fallen? Again, we weren’t prescribing an order of worship for churches to follow on Memorial Day weekend. We were simply giving our personal thoughts as citizens of both kingdoms. It was by no means meant to have any sort of ecclesiastical rubber stamp. Neither of us are ordained pastors, so I would argue that nothing we say should be taken as “the” official view of any particular church.

    BTW, if there are any listening to our podcasts that give any ecclesiastical authority to our comments, on anything, stop it! 🙂 We are not pastors. Our goal as laymen is simply to fellowship with one another over these topics and, secondarily, to put out a podcast. So our listeners would be better served to take our comments as comments made around a table on a Tuesday evening, not comments made from the pulpit on Sunday morning.

  5. William, Oh.. Certainly, I think that would be most appropriate… And beyond that it seems appropriate that those that remain alive would be kept safe, brought home safely, that righteousness would prevail in their ranks, that they would have wisdom, etc. I see no objection at all with that. Thanks for conversing. I enjoy your show btw, thanks for the effort in that regard.

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