The Most Important Post on Religious Persecution in the Military You’ll Ever Read

Retirement Prayer
Yours truly giving a prayer at a retirement ceremony!

Let’s settle this now: THERE IS NO WIDESPREAD RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN THE MILITARY.

A lot of well-intentioned Christians say that we can’t share our faith in the military, or that the Obama administration took away our religious freedom, or that we are accommodating Muslims but not Christians.

It’s just not true.

I think some people genuinely misunderstand what’s really going on. But I also think that some people are preying on the fears of others. For those who are doing so, read this next sentence carefully: KNOCK IT OFF!

No one is taking away our Bibles! President Obama didn’t care if I talked about Jesus or not! And if the President did want me to stop talking about Jesus…and tried to stop me…could I stop? OF COURSE NOT! I have to share my faith in Jesus or I violate Christ’s command (Matthew 28:18-20)! And for those who believe that Trump is the modern American savior of religious freedom, I can’t wait to laugh at you when his term is over.

I admit freely that I have faced some ridicule from my peers in the military. One time I will say it was actual persecution. But I have not experienced, nor has anyone else I know, any widespread persecution in the military. Yet the story keeps getting told that we aren’t allowed to share openly about our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s time to fix this misunderstanding for good.

Pattaya Day 04 006
Services held on Easter morning in 2009…on the ship! Freedom is wonderful!

NO PERSECUTION

First, there is no noticeable persecution in the command structure of the military, certainly not the Navy. In the very few cases where I have been told that it is wrong to talk about my faith, it’s come from peers, never from a command level. In fact, at the command level, I’ve almost always been ENCOURAGED to talk about my faith in order to support the spiritual development of the crew. Of course this has to be at the right time and the right place…same as your work setting.

When I was a Petty Officer 3rd Class, I requested special liberty in a foreign port to paint a church. Not only did the command approve my request (and therefore get me out of duty), they awarded me the Junior Sailor of the Quarter honors for my work! That was in 1998.

IMG_8391Now I’m a Chief Warrant Officer. Knowing that I’m a Christian, my executive officer (XO) came to me and asked me to lead prayers on the loudspeaker each day and lead services on Sundays as we had no chaplain. If the command didn’t want me to talk about my faith, my XO could have just stayed quiet! But he sought me out!

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1998 and I’m a PO3 or 2017 and I’m a CWO3…THERE IS NO PERSECUTION!

RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE

Secondly, I share my faith intelligently at the right time and the right place. It’s more about respecting those I’m witnessing to than obeying some non-existent regulation. It is true that we are “always on” duty, and that someone could make the argument that I should never share my faith because we’re always “at work.” Again, no one has. Still, as a sign of respect for my fellow humans, I try to be mindful of work time.

In his excellent book on the subject of sharing Jesus, William Fay talks about sharing with coworkers “on the clock.” In his book, he says, “I do not believe you should take time to present the gospel at work.”* However, he does believe it’s perfectly acceptable to start a conversation that will later lead to a salvation testimony. I’ve done this several times and then, even though we are technically never off the clock, I find times when we’re “off watch” to talk about my savior.  It’s all about right time…right place. It’s no more difficult to be a Christian in the military than it is for you at your office.

BLESS THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED

Third, even if I was facing persecution, I could not stop. You know, there was one time when a guy told me I shouldn’t talk about the Bible in a work setting. I looked at a fellow believer, someone who should have stood with me, and said, “Even if I was wrong for talking about God, would it matter? What better way to lose my career than because I talked about Jesus Christ!”

Jesus said that we should be grateful when we are persecuted for our faith (Matthew 5:10-12). Yet I get the feeling that Christians in America want to avoid persecution at all costs! Why is it that we fear persecution? Why do we spend all of our time screaming about how we have the right to talk about Jesus or pray in his name? Why???

There are entire countries where people are ACTUALLY PERSECUTED for their faith. America is not one of them!

S D Smith Protestant Lay Leader

WHY THE LIE?

So, if reports of persecution are overblown, why do we keep hearing about it? Again, I think that many people hear something about persecution and assume it’s true. They don’t mean to misrepresent the facts, but they spread these untrue rumors anyway.

I propose three reasons for this.

First, this is about power. We want it, plain and simple. We don’t care if individual hearts are changed…we want our “Christian Nation” back. So we’d rather “vote our conscience” than share our faith.

If there is persecution in sharing our faith, we can scream about how our Christian Nation is against us and we need to vote more. Very seldom do I hear that we need to share the Gospel more…it’s always that we need to get out and vote and/or demand our rights. This frustrates me to no end, especially because the road to revival isn’t in the voting booth, but in the hearts of humans.

Second, the American form of Christianity is about being safe, not about restoring a fallen world to a right relationship with our Creator. We weaken men and women by telling them that their highest calling is to their families and the local church. That’s cute, but not in the Bible. Our claims of persecution keep the weak in faith where they are…in a pew in a musty sanctuary instead of boldly spreading the gospel.

Third, and most importantly, and with a much more damaging eternal consequence, I think we are quick to complain about persecution because we are afraid to talk about Jesus. We will scream about Jesus at the top of our lungs to people who don’t want to listen, but we refuse to talk about him with those who need him most.

I am scared to share Jesus too. I’m afraid of rejection just like you are. But I can’t refuse to share the Name of Jesus and then tell people that I’m being persecuted as an excuse. I have to earn persecution.

If I should ever be disciplined for this post, or for being upfront about my faith, then so be it. I will gladly exchange this wonderful career for my savior’s honor. You can scream “Told you so!” all you want if that happens.

Just imagine though, what Jesus might say to you if there is little to no persecution and I’m right. I doubt it will be, “I told you so.”

Just before going to press, my dad shared with me the story of an Air Force officer who is under investigation for having a Bible on his desk. At first I thought I was reading a Babylon Bee article, but after some research, it seems legit. Is he being persecuted for his faith? A form of it, yes. Notice, however, that he’s facing this persecution as a consequence of his actions, not as a threat before his action. It’s cause and effect. The cause is his Bible on his desk. The effect is the investigation.

Much as I like to discount the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, it appears to be a legitimate attack. I’m not sure how I get away with what I’m doing except to say that he seems to be focused on the USAF.

I’m rambling. Despite the fact that this is a form of persecution, I want to reiterate the point that there is no widespread persecution of Christians in the military. Like what I’ve experienced, these are one-off events.

The scriptures tell us not to be afraid. In his book, Underground Church, Reverend Robin Meyers says, “Our gospel teaches us not to fear death, which has lost it’s ‘sting’ as Paul puts it, but we do.”** We cannot use fear of persecution, no matter how minuscule or severe the threat, as a faith ejection button. Instead, we are to live the way of those who went before us…reckless in our faith and the cause of Christ.

Stop talking about persecution and start earning it, if you dare.

* Share Jesus without Fear, page 22.

** Underground Church, page 155

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2 thoughts on “The Most Important Post on Religious Persecution in the Military You’ll Ever Read

    1. Thanks for your comment! By that I mean the cause and effect of persecution. A threat of persecution does not equal persecution. Persecution, ridicule, etc, are effects of the cause of Jesus. I’ll review the post in the next few days and see if there is a better way of saying that.

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