Some years ago I gave my expression to my own feeling – anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called – in a somewhat startling way. It was at the time of the second Afghan war, when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenæum Club a well-known military man – then a captain but now a general – drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying – ‘When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.’” ~ Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
If you skipped over the quotation from Herbert Spencer, then go back and read it. If you just skimmed the quotation, then go back and read it carefully. If you read it all the way through, then go back and read it again.
“When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.” These are harsh words. Most—probably a great majority of—Americans think that this is a despicable attitude to have about U.S. soldiers. You know, the ones who “serve” us, keep us safe, preserve our freedoms, “support and defend” the Constitution, keep us from having to speak a foreign language, and fight “over there” so we don’t have to fight “over here.”
There are almost 50,000 U.S. military personnel in the Persian Gulf region and tens of thousands more military contractors. There are 35 U.S. military bases that surround Iran.
More U.S. troops are now being deployed to the Middle East after President Trump’s foolish act of state terrorism in ordering the political assassination of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. According to military.com, in the days since the Jan. 3 drone strike that took out Soleimani, “roughly 9,000 conventional troops have been deployed to the Middle East, ranging from Marines on amphibious ships to Army Rangers and paratroopers.” “We’re going to war, bro,” cheered a young soldier of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while he held up two thumbs and grinned.
I have already heard, and heard reports of, conservative Christians expressing the opinion that we should pray for the troops being deployed to the Middle East. We should pray for their safety, pray that they be kept out of harm’s way, pray that they avenge the attacks on the American embassy in Iraq, pray that they neutralize the threats to the United States, and pray that they get the terrorists before they get us.
A more shameful prayer has never been uttered.
U.S. soldiers are invaders, occupiers, destroyers, aggressors, and killers. As a conservative Christian, I cannot in good conscience pray for their safety or the success of their mission. And I fail to see how any Christian can.
The fact that U.S. troops are young and dumb, just obeying orders, are ignorant of U.S. military interventions for the past 200 years, don’t draft the rules of engagement, don’t make U.S. foreign policy, can’t just quit their job, don’t get to vote on whether the United States should intervene militarily, or just joined the military because they couldn’t find a job is immaterial.
Christians should not pray for the safety or the mission of the troops when they fight unnecessary, immoral, offensive, unjust, foreign wars.
Christians should not pray for the safety or the mission of the troops when they intervene militarily based on lies.
Christians should not pray for the safety or the mission of the troops when they fight “in a region and in a string of backwater countries that have virtually no bearing on homeland security, safety and liberty?”
Christians should not pray for the safety or the mission of the troops when help carry out a reckless, belligerent, and meddling U.S. foreign policy.
Christians should not pray for the safety or the mission of the troops when they fight against a country that is “zero threat to the American homeland.”
Doing these things is like praying for a member of a criminal gang or the Mafia while they “shake down” a store owner, “send a message” to a rival, or commit acts of violence.
A military uniform does not magically transform evil into good.
But does not the Bible say that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (1 Timothy 2:1)?
Okay then, if you want to pray for the troops, then here are some things you can pray for:
- Pray that they stop fighting immoral and unjust wars.
- Pray that they don’t make widows and orphans.
- Pray that they stop killing civilians.
- Pray that they stop being a pawn of the Pentagon.
- Pray that they engage in defense and not offense.
- Pray that they stop intervening in other countries.
- Pray that they stop serving as the president’s personnel attack force.
- Pray that they cease being a global force for evil.
- Pray that they stop policing the world.
- Pray that they don’t reenlist.
- Pray that they come home, permanently.
And especially for now, pray that they will have the moral courage to say enough is enough, I refuse to deploy to another country and fight for Uncle Sam.
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from central Florida. He is the author of The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom; War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism; War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy; King James, His Bible, and Its Translators, and many other books. His newest books are Free Trade or Protectionism? and The Free Society.