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?