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!
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!)