Do We Think Law Enforcement Officers and Military Personnel are Necessary Evils?

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Recently, I had coffee with a fellow GRT (GORUCK Tough) who happens to be a reserve police officer in Oregon.  As we talked, the conversation drifted to the sheepdog metaphor often used to describe First Responders and Military personnel.  He made an interesting observation, “You know…with the whole sheepdog thing…the sheep never really like the sheepdog.”

As I thought about what he said, I realized that many segments of our society treat men and women in the military and law enforcement as a necessary evil rather than embrace them as part of the family.  I often have the feeling – whether right or wrong – that many members of our current Administration believe the military is a necessary evil rather than a celebrated  part of our national family.  Unfortunately, I get the same feeling from many Christians in American, as well.

My feelings come out of my personal experience.  A few years ago I began my study of Tae Kwan Do.  A year or so later, I added learning how to use firearms into my life, ultimately getting my CHL.  After moving to Oregon, I took up Krav Maga, an Israeli Combat Art.  For the last two years, I’ve followed the Special Operations Forces community, reading books and talking with men who served, to learn from their training and experiences.  In 2013, I trained for Tough Mudder and ultimately connected with the GORUCK community.  I became a GRT last year and will participate in a GORUCK HCL 2014.  Finally, I started the road to get my EMT-Basic in 2013 and should have my license and certification in March 2014.  I’ve learned that I’m a very competitive, intense, and passionate fellow.  Some might say I’m aggressive.  While the Military and First Responder communities are more open to me – an outsider – Christians act as if there is something wrong with me for engaging in what they perceive to be incredibly violent pastimes.

This is an incredibly complex issue.  One root issue, the focus of this post, is a misunderstanding of violence.  There is a difference between being a violent person and being a person capable of great violence.  Violent people are unrestrained.  They lack the personal moral code to restrain and focus their violence.  People who are capable of violence – including martial artists, Military personnel, and Law Enforcement Officers – are restrained by oaths, personal moral codes, and professional codes of conduct.  They can act quickly and with violence, but only when necessary.

Many in the church seem to think that people capable of violence enjoy violence or celebrate violence.  I think Marcus Luttrell, author of the popular book ‘Lone Survivor’ does a great job of  communicating the opposite in a recent interview.  Marcus states, “There’s nothing glorious about war,” he said:

“There’s nothing glorious about holding your friends in your arms and watching them die. There’s nothing glorious about having to leave your home for 6 to 8 months while your family’s back here and you’re away.”

“Bottom line is that there’s bad people everywhere. And every now and again we are going to have to step to them to make sure that we preserve our way of life. It’s people like my teammates and I that have to do that, and the men and women in the military. But there’s nothing glorious about it, there’s nothing pro-war — nobody wants war, it’s the most horrible thing in the world.” – Marcus Luttrell

From personal experience, the more I become capable of violence, the less I desire to ever react violently to a situation.  I will not shy away from violence, if it is necessary, but I look for other solutions.  Seemingly counterintuitive, the reason is quite simple: I know violence hurts.  I know violence will hurt me and hurt my enemy.  I know violence might hurt innocent bystanders.  This thought pattern is characteristic of most people, who are capable of violent action, that I know.

Like I said before, this is a complex issue.  The importance shouldn’t be overlooked.  I have so many questions that I wrestle regularly:

  • How can any of our Military personnel and Law Enforcement Officers feel valued if they are perceived to be a ‘necessary evil?’
  • How can the church expect to play a significant role in helping returning military personnel find a place in their community and deal with vital issues like PTSD if the church believes the Military is a ‘necessary evil?’
  • How can we stand an applaud our Military in one moment and yet reject them on a deeply personal level on the next?

What can you add to this conversation?

photo by RayMorris1

4 Comment

  1. The casting of “The Church” as being hostile to or percieving the military and law enforcenent as necessary evils clearly demonstrates that the writer is either misinformed or has some personal bias against “Christians” or whatever it is he calls “The Church.”
    .
    As a Bible believing Christian, an Ordained Lutheran Pastor, and a sworn Reserve Police Officer for the past 27 years, I have experienced “The Church” to be exceedingly supportive of both law enforcement and the military. “The Church” provides hundreds, perhaps thousands of Chaplains to law enforcement and the military.

    “The Church” frequently honors those who serve or have served in law enfircement and in the military during various holidays and other events.

    In my experience, “The Church” and the Christian people who are “The Church” embrace, respect, support, encourage, and regularly pray for those men and women who are the law enforcement and military people whom they value and whom they trust.

    1. Walt,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Thank you for your service – inside the church as a Pastor and as a sworn Reserve Police Officer. I love the balance in those positions – nurturing the spirit and protecting lives. In those two roles you truly embody what it means to be a Shepherd. Thank you.

      I’m not biased against the church. In fact, as you can see in the ‘About’ section, I’m pretty engaged. I love the church enough to celebrate its strengths and express concern over its weaknesses. Rather than being an armchair quarterback, though, I’m working make the good things better and help strengthen her weaknesses.

      I’m glad your experience as a Reserve Police Officer has been positive. Although I don’t know the particulars of your situation, I have a couple of questions:
      1. In what region of the USA do you live? When I lived in Texas, I saw the church readily embrace police officers and military personnel. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, however, I have not observed the same.
      2. Is it possible that people see you as an exception to what a Reserve Police Officer is, rather than the rule? Maybe they see you as Pastor first and Police Officer second? Perhaps your experience may not be as normative as you perceive it to be?

      Immediately after posting this article on Facebook and Twitter, a Police Office in Utah thanked me for writing it. I agree with you that we need to be careful about painting the Church with too broad a brush, but we cannot deny that some Police Officers and Military personnel have not had the same positive experience that you have.

      Once again, thank you for your service. We need more men like you and more churches like yours.

      Blessings,
      -Paul.

  2. It seems good to separate the people from the institutions here. People are valuable regardless of their occupation.
    The Military and Police Forces in our country (and in every country around the globe) are institutions. The ‘rightness’ of the institution may be measured by how well it serves itself versus how well it serves the people of the country it is a part of.
    My judgement (served 6yrs in the US Army, son of at least two generations of US Navy vets, good friend of an active duty police officer, and of several firefighters) is that our institutions are generally very good They generally serve the people. In other parts of this country, or with other circumstances, (eg your post on Trayvon Martin), and certainly in other countries, the situation can be much different.

    Your questions:
    How can any of our Military personnel and Law Enforcement Officers feel valued if they are perceived to be a ‘necessary evil?’ – They can feel valued if we can see them as people, and reach out to them as people. A challenge to this is that the unique and intense experiences in these occupations create for them a strong fraternal bond which can tend to create a barrier to outsiders. Love can find a way to push in as far as the MPLEOs are able to allow.
    How can the church expect to play a significant role in helping returning military personnel find a place in their community and deal with vital issues like PTSD if the church believes the Military is a ‘necessary evil?’ – I think it is possible for the church (Christians) to have a dim view of the military but still embrace the individual members of the military. That’s the position the church has been in for a very very long time in a huge part of the world (eg China, USSR, Iran, etc, etc, etc,). Right from the Gospels forward, the church has been at odds with the powers of the state, but embracing of the individual human beings.
    How can we stand an applaud our Military in one moment and yet reject them on a deeply personal level on the next? – How about flip that around. Let embrace them on a deeply personal level, as human beings. Perhaps we can applaud our Military. I think we can usually applaud the efforts of the soldiers. Can we always get behind the way our Military is used? I doubt it. And, if you think we can in the country, you know that we wouldn’t be able to in many other countries.

    1. Paul Watson says:

      Thanks for your comment, Dan. And, thank you for your service. Excellent points. I don’t think there is anything I can add.

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