This is the last post in the series of four.
In the Old Testament we see a very ancient feudal approach to military service. As a profession, it was not limited to nobles, but included a large number of peasants recognized for their military virtues and talent, men kept on staff as bodyguards and messengers. With the birth of Western Germanic feudalism, this idea didn’t catch on until rather late in the Middle Ages. It’s appearance is mixed with the rise of the merchant middle class. Prior to that, violence itself was considered both a talent and right restricted to noble blood. This exclusive attitude left the merchants few options to exercise their talents, so they developed their own systems and a different approach to things.
Remember that, for a merchant, everything must serve the virtue of monetary profit. The idea of the modern secular state is entirely a creature of the middle class culture. I’m not going to wade too deeply into a historical analysis of Germanic military culture, but I will tell you that the US military is self-consciously modeled to a great degree on Prussia. You can find an excellent summary here. The author notes the essential element of Calvinism. The hide-bound legalism of both religious Calvinism and US Military ways is well known.
Have you noticed that a very religious Calvinism is the primary source of a secularized state? The whole idea of modern military conscription is based on the Calvinist Prussian model of creating a system that swallows everyone and spits out uniformity in a sense of honor and duty to the state. It’s part of the US education system, of course. It’s this all-encompassing compulsory participation based on the a priori assumption that the world is a threat. It is very uniquely rooted in the dour and gloomy outlook of primitive Germanic tribal culture. If you understand the dark world of Beowulf, you understand the basis for Calvinism, Prussian culture, as well as the US education and military systems.
The harshly leveling effect did tend to pull up the weak, but it also makes precious little room for those who are highly talented. At the very least, it constrains and harshly channels that talent in service of the state. There is no such thing as genuine military virtue in the US Army; there are only varying degrees of bringing glory to the state. At least, that’s how it comes out on paper. In actual practice, everyone in the military who deals with a natural born trooper recognizes it and seeks to advance his opportunities, even if they all have conflicting ideas about what path of advancement is best. But that favor is fragile, because it pushes the talented trooper up against the boundaries of the envelope.
The bureaucratic hive-mind is the direct result of the Calvinist Prussian model, which in turn is a very critical element in middle class culture. Everything must serve the state, so much that the health of the state is the definition of “common welfare.” It’s when people instinctively balk at the dehumanization that they start wondering if violence itself is inherently immoral. Such is the natural result of being still stuck deeply inside the idolatry of the state. This whole thing of the genetic gloomy disposition and it’s resulting cultural paths through Calvinist Prussian middle-class and fundamental assumptions about reality can leave very few escape routes for the individuals who realize they don’t belong in that system.
Only when you make a concerted effort to understand that false world view in comparison to other world views can you find a better path. We who promote the heart-led way have a very big task breaking people free from the cultural prison here in the US. You have to crawl completely outside of this prison in order to understand who you are in Christ before you can go back inside and help others to escape. That’s the paradox of being a witness for Christ; the whole point of escaping is to come back inside the walls on His terms. We are truly free, but for most of us that freedom means nothing until we demonstrate it to those still chained.
This is the whole point of God’s revelation in the first place. It sets us free to walk in the truth inside the prison walls of the Fall. In a very real sense, the prison is just an artificial construct of the human mind. Our mission is to pretend just enough that the walls are real, because they are very real to those still enslaved to their sin. That’s how we enter their prison in order to bring them out.
On the one hand, I’ve often tried to deny that I am a soldier by nature. That’s because I cannot embrace the Calvinist Prussian model of external constraints. Instead, I was born with a sense of obligation based on the moral character of God. That’s in contrast to the “duty, honor, country” ethic of mainstream US military thinking, which amounts to idolatry of the state. My motto is that “duty, honor, order” in the sense of conforming to the image of Christ.
While English translations vary widely, some implying that violence itself is evil, that’s not what the Scripture actually says. The Bible is loaded with lauding a proper military posture based on personal calling and commitment to protecting God’s blessings (shalom) from the ever-present threat of those guided by Satan. So long as we are under the Curse of the Fall — until Christ returns to restore Eden — it’s part of the resistance against sin to know that we must be ready to shed blood. Sometimes it’s our own, but too often people have chosen a path that demands their blood at our hands. Somebody has to do that job; that’s fundamental to the Covenant of Noah.
I’m one of those people called to that job, one of those peasants with a talent for military service. I take no pleasure in violence, but I understand it’s place in Biblical Law. I do take pleasure in keeping shalom at whatever price fallen men want to charge for it. While shalom is commonly translated as “peace,” it also means duty, honor and order under God’s hand. God commanded violence often enough to make it clear He intends some of us to be talented at executing His justice among men. That’s part of my calling.
This is why I still feel drawn to military service. The only option for such service is a system still stuck inside the prison. I’m determined in Christ to bring His truth back into the prison. I can’t free military service itself, but I have already seen with my own eyes individuals within that service who were set free when I obeyed the call to get involved. That call has not ended. The circumstances have changed greatly, and I’d be shocked if I found myself in uniform again, but I cannot avoid praying and seeking a way to get involved in the military again where my Kingdom harvest was by far the most fruitful times in my life.