Service to one’s country through the various military branches is an honorable thing. The branches act, under the government’s authority, to preserve the peace and to protect the citizenry from threats foreign and domestic. They are servants, not unlike police officers or firefighters, who are willing to risk their lives for the country and for a paycheck.
At the risk of offense, I want to say that no one would serve in the military for very long if they didn’t get paid. Not unless there was a full scale invasion that demanded an all-out defense of our country. That’s as it should be; they certainly earn their pay. The reason I bring this up is to remind us that serving in the military is, thankfully, a choice and a vocation. It is a job, and I often worry that we elevate the occupation so highly that we hamper our ability to be critical of our military policy.
Take, for example, our police department. We love and appreciate them and support them. But we are careful about restricting how they can search us, for what reasons they can detain us, and even when and why they can pull us over. We make certain that they cannot search our homes without a warrant. If they violate the parameters of our constitutional rights, we will protest. Does this mean we no longer support our local police officers? Certainly not! It means that we will hold them accountable for their actions, just as we would anyone in any job who had such authority over the citizens of a city.
I admit that I have a certain fear of patriotism. There is, I believe, a certain love of country that is both good and necessary. But there is a kind of patriotism that turns a blind eye to tyranny, injustice, and even death camps. We have seen this happen in history, even in democratic nations. I felt this unease this very day as I marched in a Veterans Day parade at my son’s school. He held my hand and the students cheered and waved flags. Everyone thanked the veterans, and I did as well.
However, I want our children to know that while it’s a noble thing to support our troops, it’s equally important to question the policy of our military and of our elected officials who give them their orders. We ought to take a long look at the military actions we are taking, from wars to drone bombings, and we ought to ask ourselves if the military and our government is over-stepping the bounds of just war. This is not unpatriotic; it is the very heart of patriotism. It is what is necessary to preserve an honorable and free society. We must teach our children to think critically, to ask hard questions, and to be prepared to hold men and women in power accountable for their actions.
My son told me today that he might like to be in the Air Force. I smiled and told him that would be fine. It’s an honorable job. But I want him to know what he’s getting into before he signs on the dotted line, and I want to make absolutely certain that I work hard to see women and men elected to office who will not send him overseas to fight for unjust causes.
So how do we keep things in perspective? We remember that ultimately, we only owe our allegiance to one King, and His name is Jesus, and He demands that we strive for truth, compassion, and justice for all until He returns. Anything else would be unpatriotic to the Kingdom where our true citizenship is held.