Sunday, January 31, 2010


Inspiration often comes from unexpected places.

Last night, as I was watching TV and winding down when this commercial interrupted my regularly scheduled viewing to enlighten me about the great honor it is to serve one's country.

Now, if you know my political views, you know I say that with more than just a tinge of sarcasm.

However (and I'll give you a moment now to watch the commercial, otherwise the following will begin to make less sense), this commercial makes some incredibly profound theological statements... and this I say without the smallest hint of sarcasm.

Just for the sake of reference, here is a transcript of the commercial:

"The call to serve: it has no sound, yet I have heard it in the whispered retelling of honorable sacrifices made by those who have served before me.

The call to serve has no form, yet I have clearly seen it in the eyes of men and women infinitely more courageous and more driven than most.

The call to serve has no weight, yet I have held it in my hands.

I will commit to carry it close to my heart until my country is safe, and the anguish of those less fortunate has been soothed.

The call to serve is at once invisible and always present, and for those who choose to answer the call for their country, for their fellow man, and for themselves, it is the most powerful force on earth.

America's Navy: a global force for good."
What occurred to me as I sat and listened to this for the first time was not quite what I expected or prepared myself for. Typically, when a military recruiting commercial comes on, I begin to build up my inner walls and prepare to be disgusted by the over-glorification of American dominance and cutting-edge technology, but this one struck me from a slightly different angle.

Yes, I was still very much turned-off by the propaganda, but at the same time I was nearly moved to tears by the message of the commercial.

As I listened to the narrator's words, I knew I wasn't actually hearing a recruiting pitch nearly so much as I was getting an explanation of the U.S. Navy's nationalistic theology.

This realization clicked as the narrator repeated the phrase, "the call to serve," and then continued to compound as I realized, if the images on the screen were different, and the narrator were to be speaking of the Kingdom rather than a country... how beautiful of a message it would be. (If you're catching my drift, go back and read the transcript or watch the video again through those lenses... if not, just keep reading and hopefully it will make more sense later... but either way... keep reading)

This commercial so clearly expresses a theology, and I could see that because it is so very similar to my own!
Instead of living for a King and Kingdom, the Navy recruiting theology is one that calls people into service for a government and a country.

This is such a clear picture of the masters we are choosing between as Christians in America. There are those who serve the Kingdom of YHWH, there are those who answer a call to country, and then there are many who seek to pledge allegiance to both masters.

But in both theologies, there is a "call to serve," in both theologies that call is intangible, but very real, both theologies seek victory for a kingdom and to alleviate suffering, and both seek to be a "global force for good." (I think some of this could certainly be argued on the military side, but that's beside the point for now)

I only wish this script (only slightly altered) had been used for a commercial recruiting people to serve the Kingdom.
Maybe it would have a website link at the end where you could order a cross to carry instead of a uniform, so you could begin dying to yourself rather of ending the lives of others... I'll have to work on that...

I'm sure this is far from the best-written blog I've ever put together, and I'm also not going to take the time to call into question the more specific claims of the commercial that I find incredibly misleading here, but maybe it can help us understand that we are not just Christians who are Americans, and should, therefore, be more than happy to pledge allegiance to America.
But, in fact, we are choosing between two well-established theological positions with two very different gods.

Are we serving a principality for the sake of a power, or are we serving a Kingdom for the sake of a King?

We face this decision all-to-often as American Christians who are raised to honor their servicemen and women, pledge allegiance the flag, vote republican, and settle for war when so much more could be done for peace. But it's time we realized there is a call far greater than the one our government is teaching us: a call to die to ourselves, to our old lives, our old code of ethics, and embrace the life and ethic of the Kingdom.

Because messages like this one from our friends at the U.S. Navy are just as much calls to worship as you might find in any church.

So who are we worshipping?

I realize this issue is far too large to tackle comprehensively in one blog, so I understand if you don't agree with me, and this idea will take further discussion. It is certainly worthy of much discussion. So, I will allow that this blog is more appropriately directed as a thought for those friends who already understand where I'm coming from.
However, If you don't understand where it is I'm coming from, feel free to extend an invitation to continue the conversation, because it goes far deeper than these few words allow.

Father of Peace,
May we seek the ways of your Love to all the ends of the earth. As our feet grow weary in our search for Peace, give us strength. Give us an unquenchable thirst for your Kingdom that is only satisfied when your creation is restored and new life is born. We eagerly await your healing hand to make us whole, but Lord, do not let us only wait, but stir our hearts to action now! Set a fire to our feet so that we will run through this world leaving restoration in our wake so that you may be glorified and your Kingdom exalted! Hosanna!
Amen, amen.

Disclaimer: None of this is at all saying that we should not honor and respect members of the military for who they are, but only that we should honor and respect everyone as fellow brothers and sisters as well (including Iraqis, North Koreans, Afghanis, and the rest!)


  1. Thank you for writing this sir...

    And if you dont like it then you can just leave...

  2. Or... if you don't like it, you can love it in spite of itself... a good approach to people and blogs.

  3. I appreciate these thoughts, and the person from whence they came, a great deal.

    what I struggle with concerning this particular issue is what is the most faithful, Kingdom-centric position to take. I understand God's vision, to some extent, for the world. and I understand that much of the military (the US military, at least) does works directly against His desire for us, and is detrimental to seeing it more fully realized.

    and yet, as you expressed so well here, there are so many parallels in the stated cause. who doesn't want to promote peace and provide international aid and manpower to those who can't help themselves?

    I guess what I am getting at is the practical details of realizing God's Kingdom. it seems like we must have a military to shut down dictators who slaughter their citizens, for example. if we lived in a fully realized Kingdom where God's love was our narrative, so to speak, than there would be no tolerance for evil intent nor any foothold in the hearts of citizens for evil power to take control. but we are not there.

    how, then, do we address forces that destroy and prevent the Kingdom without acting unfaithfully in the process (which would be just as detrimental)? there are no shortcuts to God's will. but what does our faith say about genocide?

    I'm not playing devil's advocate so much as expressing my genuine question. it's not doubt, but a sincere inquiry. how does God work in this world? hmm.

    thanks for sharing your heart & mind, Jesse.

  4. :) crossed back from Facebook:

    Ariel, I really appreciate this question, and of course can offer no real answer :)

    To add to it though I'll say that what I do know is that we cannot hope and dream for a world without militaries before the coming of full Kingdom redemption, but we can seek to limit the outrageous potency and seemingly unlimited power they hold in the world today.

    I wish I knew of all the ways we could carry-out life and national conflict without war, but I also recognize that we are fully limited by the fallenness of man. Therefore, we can't expect to see the world stop fighting entirely in this age.

    The problem, however, lies in the trying. As long as fighting is our first option, we will be failing as a human race to recognize our mutual humanity.

    It is outrageous that people are so easily compelled to call for war over commodities and preferences when so many times these things could be settled around a conference table instead of by the blood of thousands upon thousands of innocent lives.

    So, I have no answer, but only a hope that we can do so much better. And also a recognition of a call to strive for better.