Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Does God Belong In The Military?

In light of events at Fort Hood, pretty much everybody from President Obama in his remarks about the murders and the role of religion in them, to an earlier posting of mine right here on Windows and Doors, is talking about faith and the armed forces. So I ask, does God have a role in the military? Here’s my response.
Recent events should not alter the military’s policies on faith among the forces. God should be welcomed into the army, whether as Adonai, Lord Jesus, Allah, or any of the other names by which God is known. So should the presence of those who believe that God does not exist. And all should play by the same rules.
First, the individual religious beliefs of service personnel are just that, individual beliefs. Were that not the case, we would probably need to examine Christians and the role of faith among the increasing numbers of them who commit domestic abuse.
Admittedly, most of them do not invoke Jesus as they beat their wives and children, but many of them do attend church and then go home and do so. Bottom line, there is no reason to pay special attention to the practitioners of any particular faith. Especially in the most recent case, there is no evidence at this time, that Maj. Hasan was part of any larger conspiracy, religious or otherwise.
Of course, the behavior of those who invoke their faith to justify hostility to our nation or those who do not share their faith should be scrutinized even if doing so strikes some as less than politically correct. That however, is a matter for Military Police, the FBI and other federal agencies to pursue on a case by case basis, not a religion by religion basis.


Second, military chaplains should continue to serve the needs of all personnel regardless of the faith they follow, including those who follow no faith at all but turn to them in a time of need. The test of a good chaplain is NOT their ability to serve those who share there faith, but rather how effectively they can draw upon their particular faith as an effective tool to meet the spiritual needs of all personnel.
This rule assumes that proselytization is generally wrong, at least when done by chaplains taking advantage of a soldier in need by suggesting that he/she will never be really happy until sharing the chaplain’s faith. And while there are certainly exceptions to the norm, the vast majority of military chaplains honor this approach with great diligence and humility.
The abuses in this area are typically found among officers who marry their religious zeal to their faith. That is an ongoing challenge to which the military could respond more effectively.
Finally, we should recall that faith continues to be an important part of life for many members of the military, sustaining them through challenges which I hope many of us never have to know. Assuming, either because of our hostility to one faith in particular, or all faith in general, that we would be better served by discharging God from the military, flies in the face of everything we know about how religious faith works in the lives of so many people serving our country.
Like all deployments, we need to move forward assuming the best about those who move with us, preparing for the worst because sometimes it happens, and creating practices and policies which nurture the former rather than giving in to our fears of the latter.

  • Eytan

    Dear Rabbi,
    I think that lately your columns are more political than inspirational.

  • Denise

    Dear Rabbi,
    I agree with Eytan. This country was founded on the presence of THE ALMIGHTY. God Created the army. As with all of the other names of gods, that is just it they are gods not THE GOD. Political correctness has no place in the war on terrorism. Many battles have been won in the Name of JESUS and with praying the 91st Psalm. All throughout Torah God says he will destroy those who bow to other gods. We need to stay focused on the one who created no the one created. If God is for us who can be against us, dont fear the one who can take your life but fear The One who can take your immortal soul.

  • Lloyd S.

    I would say the Rabbi is right on the mark with this one. As the old saying goes, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” That said, atheists are Americans as much as anyone else, and a bar on their service would be a betrayal of the principle of Freedom of Religion upon which this country was founded. Likewise, barring religious faith and observance on the part of members of the military would violate the same principle.
    That said, I take issue with Denise’s characterization of the Army as founded by God. Some of the members of the Continental Congress (perhaps most) may have thought of themselves as carrying out a divine purpose, but they certainly weren’t God themselves, and would never have presumed such.
    Finally, since I am not a Christian, I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. However, from what I’ve heard of his alleged teachings (Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, etc…), he would probably have regarded the fact that battles were fought and won in his name as a violation of those teachings. And considering the number of battles fought where both sides claimed to be fighting in Jesus’ name, there were probably as many battles lost in his name as won.

  • Emily with the Kippah

    Rabbi, thank you for your stance on this subject. I agree with it 100%. Denise’s logic is flawed not because it is “un-P.C.,” but because most American soldiers do not follow the God of the Torah, HaShem, but instead follow the God of the Christian scriptures, which she professes to follow. They are different and incompatible if one takes scripture seriously.
    If the God of the Torah will destroy all other gods, then this includes Denise’s Trinitarian god of Christianity whose story revolves around pagan mythical tropes such as being born from a woman impregnated by a god, human sacrifice, and an ascension into heaven to become a god. (Hercules for example had a very similar life-story.) If she is to take the Torah as seriously as she claims, she would do well to give up worshiping a false god she claims to oppose and instead worship only the God of the Torah.

  • Scott E.

    3 chhers for Emily – agree 100%!

  • Davis Morley

    In the name of the God of Israel David slew the giant Goliath and in that same name wars were fought and won throughout the words of God. If God is never changing then He is still the God of Israel and will fight the battles of Israel through inspired people as was David.
    Today as the writings of Paul in the New testament said we fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and the rulers of darkness in high places.
    There are many Davids being raised up in Israel today and are facing the Goliaths of darkness in high places. We should not fail the Lord for He will not fail Israel if Israel continues to Love and worship with that never changing God who Loves Israel.
    Those who worship any other God than the God of Israel are not for Him but against Him as were the Philistines.

  • Andrew

    Allah, Rabbi Brad what do you know of Allah? not much I’m sure.
    During the autumn of 1843, in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey, Sir Henry Layard, the British archeologist, writer, and diplomat, witnessed the punishment mandated by Sharia (i.e., Islamic) Law for apostasy from Islam. He described this abhorrent spectacle as follows:
    An Armenian who had embraced Islamism [emphasis added] had returned to his former faith. For his apostasy he was condemned to death according to the Mohammedan [Islamic] law. His execution took place, accompanied by details of studied insult and indignity directed against Christianity and Europeans in general. The corpse was exposed in one of the most public and frequented places in Stamboul [Istanbul], and the head, which had been severed from the body, was placed upon it, covered by a European hat.
    Layard’s narrative demonstrates how in mid-19th century parlance, “Islamism” and “Islam” were synonymous, meant to be equivalent to “Catholicism,” “Protestantism,” and “Judaism” — not to radical or fundamentalist sects of any of these religions. Moreover, through at least the mid-1950s, scholars devoted to the formal study of Islamic doctrine and history were still referred to as “Islamists.”
    Turkey’s current Prime Minister Erdogan, commenting in August 2007 on the term “moderate Islam” (frequently used in the West to describe his ruling political party, the AKP) stated, “These descriptions are very ugly. It is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” Erdogan’s displeasure is ironic, even somewhat humorous, given the contemporary Western apologetic obsession to recast the terms “Islamism” and “Islamist” to exclusively denote radical or immoderate Islam and its adherents. But the irony of Erdogan’s ire aside, artificial distinctions between Islamism and Islam, Islamist and Islamic are logically incoherent, obfuscating irrefragable truths about living Islamic dogma and its modern manifestations.
    The 1990 Cairo Declaration, or “Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam”– not “Islamism” — was drafted and ratified by all the Muslim member nations of the Organization of the Islamic– not “Islamist” — Conference (OIC), a 57-state collective including every Islamic nation on earth. The OIC, currently headed by Turkey’s Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, thus represents the entire Muslim ummah (or global community) and is the largest single voting bloc in the United Nations.
    Its preamble and concluding articles (24 and 25) make plain that the OIC’s Cairo Declaration is designed to supersede Western conceptions of human rights as enunciated, for example, in the U.S. Bill of Rights. The preamble repeats a Quranic injunction affirming Islamic supremacism (Quran 3:110): “Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which Allah made the best nation …” The gravely negative implications of this Islamic Law (Sharia)-based document (“There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Sharia”) are most apparent in its transparent rejection of freedom of conscience in Article 10, while articles 19 and 22 reiterate Sharia principles stated throughout the document which clearly apply to the “punishment” — death for so-called “apostates” — from Islam.
    The Cairo Declaration — entirely consistent with Islamic law — also introduces unacceptable discrimination against non-Muslims and women while sanctioning the legitimacy of dehumanizing, Sharia-compliant punishments, from flogging to mutilation and stoning.
    And polling data from a rigorously conducted survey released April 2007 demonstrate that the Cairo Declaration’s Islamic law principles — antithetical to Western formulations of human rights — are embraced by the preponderance of the world’s Muslims. Fully two-thirds of a representative sample of 4,400 Muslims from Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia desired the ultimate jihad conquest imperatives: to recreate a unified supranational Islamic state, or Caliphate, ruled by “strict application of Sharia.”
    These quintessential goals of jihad were reiterated by the mass-murdering jihadist psychiatrist Nidal Hasan as part of an erstwhile “medical grand rounds” given on June 27, 2007. Although Hasan merely reiterates salient aspects of classical jihad theory (see slides 35, 39, 42, 43, 44, 45, and 49), this reality is understandably “shocking” to our willfully uninformed elites in the media, military, and government. Nidal Hasan’s presentation concludes, in full accord with classical Islamic doctrine regarding jihad war, (slide 49), “Fighting to establish an Islamic State to please Allah, even by force is condoned by (sic) Islam.”
    Unapologetic observations from 1950 by G.H. Bousquet, a great 20th-century “Islamist” scholar of the Sharia, contextualize these ominous trends. Bousquet described Islam itself as “as a doubly totalitarian system,” which “claimed to impose itself on the whole world and it claimed also, by the divinely appointed Muhammadan law … to regulate down to the smallest details the whole life of the Islamic community and of every individual believer.”

  • Your Name

    A thoughtful and informative commentary. Religion has always had its place with the military. It’s when someone tries to marry it to a code of conduct or the law of the land that trouble begins. We’ve already seen one tragic outcome of this. Our founding fathers were passionate in their efforts to maintain the separation of church and state. Perhaps they were also visionaries.

  • g

    Does God Belong in the military?
    In which nation’s military?
    ‘God’ has been in the military since man organized ‘armies’ to invade /defend/conquer, and since man invented God.
    God is merely one of the weapons of warfare and still seems very functional towards that end.
    In this day and age, with the ability of man to virtually incinerate the ‘creation’, I think God should be removed at least from the ‘reasons we fight’ level of military command.
    Personal belief in God for strength and courage in the face fearful circumstances seems appropriate.
    The real problem with 21st century mainline religions is the rabid belief in ‘Messiahs’. Islam has a messiah/Christianity and Judaism all have ‘Messiah’ figures..all figured to be the victor in some battle against ultimate evil, of which the opposing religions are members of.
    All see some ‘Massive’ earth shattering destruction, but with the belief that their particular Messiah’ will save them and then proceed to clean up the mess.
    Reality is..if these ‘messiah’s’ are ever unleashed,, yes, the world will be incinerated…but whatever and whoever is left will have to clean up the mess as no ‘messiah’ will be showing up anytime soon to clean up mankind’s mess.
    My suggestion: DON’T PUSH THOSE BUTTONS!

  • g

    My messiah can whoop your messiah!

  • Abambagibus

    Andrew’s excellent 11.14.09 response to the Rabbi’s article on God’s place in the military reminds me that political correctness may be the death of us yet. In deference to those who may judge us to be so evil as to require extinction, we politically bend so backward correctly, that our vision, hence rendered askew, is blind to the view that, once we’ve contorted our compassionate bodies for the sake of our judges, we’re unable to judge for the sake of ourselves and unable to move for our lives.

  • Shonner

    There are no atheists in a fox hole!

  • Kingston Memory

    The God belongs to the heart of soldiers but it is hard to say that God also belongs to the military as a whole.

  • Your Name

    Yes He Does ” especially when our troops are defending this land that God Bless More than any other Nation ,Because of our faith and trust in him , I see what happens when prayers are removed from the schools ,i see young people saying they are an accident of something

  • Jendayi

    God has always had a role in military events according to the old testament in the bible, in his leading of Joshua to the promised land.

  • Rick L.

    When G– sent Israel to war they were told to Kill every man ,woman and child and burn the city to the ground. I wonder if we take this thing called WAR too lightly. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”! The devil waits for the politician. I do what I can in the name of TRUTH. After aLL, TRUTH IS ABSOLUTE

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