Persecution In The Military and The Church

chariot

chariot

This article on persecution is the fifth in a series called, “The U.S. Military and the Catholic Faith: A Comparison”, which examines the comparisons between the U.S. Army and Catholicism. Throughout my articles, I use the word ‘military’ loosely. I focus on the Army because I am a soldier and grew up through the ranks of the enlisted side. In fact, when I get to Heaven Saint Peter’s going to say, “How’d you earn your living boy?” and I’m going to say… “Army Cadence” and reference Matt 16:19:

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

There are those who ignore, do not support or criticize the U.S. military. Yet, they take for granted what the military does to keep their nation free. Likewise, those who don’t believe in God, do not support Christianity in general or even persecute the Church. These people also take for granted the fact that without a strong Catholic Christian faith, there might be no education system nor medical facilities as we know them today. The possibility of us even being able to even debate these topics may not be allowed or be possible without the efforts of both the Church and the military. Now, of course, there are many who try to keep neutral, with no personal feelings for or against the Church or the military. However, this passive attitude is a subtle form of persecution. These are the people I would like to reach out to because as the book of Revelation warns us:

I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17)

Suffering and Persecution

Everyone goes through different forms of suffering and varying degrees of persecution. In the military, a type of persecution called hazing still happens, even though it is not sanctioned officially. People are belittled, harassed, and picked-on for all various reasons. These types of punishments can even drive someone to commit suicide to escape the pain. There are other countless other forms of persecution people endure while serving in the military. Dealing with hard times as the result of simply carrying out your duty often leads to family problems and even divorce for those in the military.

There are those who also may not be able to handle the pressure of a military lifestyle so they may decide to go AWOL (absent without leave) or desert. Desertion under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is a serious offense. If a service member is found guilty then according to the UCMJ 885. Art. 85 on Desertion states in paragraph (c)

“Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.”

Though this is stated in the UCMJ, doesn’t mean that it is usually applied. Similarly, in the Church, people believe and remember only the worst examples from the inquisitions. Generally, the inquisitions were used more of an apologetic approach to rebuke heretics and bring fallen away Christians back to the Church. I am not stating that there were not incidents of torture or death but it was not the norm for the entire history of the Church.  Jacques Fournier (Pope Benedict XII) a famous inquisitor “who interviewed some 930 suspected heretics during his career, never used torture; he got all the information he needed through skill and not force.” (Moczar, p. 88, 2010)he early Church, first with Jesus and his Passion. His Apostles who initially started to the spread of the gospel were persecuted for believing in something they knew to be true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the power in the blood of the martyrs.

Starting with the Passion of Jesus and then His Apostles who  started to the spread of the gospel, the early Church was persecuted for believing in something they knew to be true. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the power in the blood of the martyrs.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

(Tertullian, 2nd century, “Apologeticum” Chapter 50)

 Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. ‘Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2473)

Men and women in the Military have also laid down their lives to keep the rest of their country safe. Often the price for standing up for the ideal of freedom and truth against tyrants or those who seek to deceive and enslave others is death. These men and women, who have died while serving our country in the military, are like martyrs of the faith both now and in the past.

References

  1. ARTICLE 85. DESERTION « UCMJ – United States Code of Military Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from http://www.ucmj.us/sub-chapter-10-punitive-articles/885-article-85-desertion

Moczar, D. (2010). Seven lies about Catholic history: Infamous myths about the Church’s past and how to answer them. Charlotte, NC: Tan Books.

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5 thoughts on “Persecution In The Military and The Church”

  1. “There are those who ignore, do not support or criticize the U.S. military. Yet, they take for granted what the military does to keep their nation free.”
    The function of any military of any country is not to keep its country free. It is to do whatever it is told to do by its government.
    Do you think it was the task of the military of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany to keep those countries “free”? So you think it was the role of the British military 100 years ago to keep India and the other colonies “free”?
    And when the U.S. and British military invaded Iraq, ultimately costing millions of lives worldwide – did they so to keep America and Britain “free”? Or to please the international oil interests?
    If a superior officer tells you, Brandon, to, “Kill that man over there” – what are you going to do? Ask why? Ask what he’s done to deserve it? Start debating with your boss over the morality of the situation? I think not.
    America soundly lost the war in Vietnam. But, strangely enough, America seems just as “free” today as if it had won. Doesn’t that make you think?

    1. Thank you for your comments and most importantly
      thanks for taking the time to read my articles. Even though some of your
      comments can come a bit harsh, they do carry some perspective on them. Sorry I
      have been busy to respond.

      To your first comment:
      I will agree with you that I can’t blame them but I can also say that even here in America we have had a bad history and yet people will only pick and choose at what they want to believe. I bet the history books of Vietnam shows us as bad people, even certain generations of Korean and Germans look at us as bad people. Sadly, enough history is written by power but, there is truth to a double sided coin that people should look at and not just one perspective.

      Second comment:
      You brought up some valid questions on your second comment, I have asked myself many of those. To be honest not all commands are direct as some may think, of course “killing that enemy over there” is just for sport there will be a very good reason for it. Now of course you might ask “is it justifiable?” Like I asked you in previous comments “would your stop
      an intruder into your house if he/she would harm you or your family?” You stated that the military doesn’t make a nation free but the government, I think that is a two-sided coin. Yes, the military does what it is told, but without a military force would you have a free nation? Sadly, there are those nations (communist) who are not free and don’t have a volunteer fighting force that is proud, but they are forced to do it. What would stop intruders to come in and take over? We could all join hands as a militia, but that would be ugly as there would be no control over the
      unit(s). Think of police, we would still need them regardless if there were no criminals. We need enforcers regardless if they are liked or not.

      Your thoughts?

    2. Many thanks for the very courteous reply, Brandon.
      “would your stop an intruder into your house if he/she would harm you or your family?”
      I certainly would, or at least try. I suppose the Vietnamese and Iraqis felt the same. How would you feel, as an Iraqi soldier when foreigners came into your “house” to harm you?
      I disagree with you that if there were no crime, we’d still need police. What for?
      MY basic question to you is still how, as a Christian, can you justify violence of any kind. Quakers don’t. Are they wrong, in your opinion?

    3. Hello again,

      Sorry for again a delay, I seen you posting I wasn’t trying to ignore you just been busy. First thing your comment on people coming invading my country or house reminded me of a bible verse “how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.” (Matt 12:29). As for comment on Quakers being right or wrong, I don’t know much about Quakers to validate, are you one if so can you tell me what they believe? For me they seem similar to the Jehovah Witness but their theology is much different.

      I will agree that there is no justification for a violent act, especially for revenge. With that not every situation will be fixed through interpersonal communication. I will agree that there are war crimes that shouldn’t happen, but still you need defenders of freedom. Likewise, a police officer in most cases will ask, tell, and then make the assailant. This is giving three chances to obey his command, of course there wouldn’t be no problem if the person wasn’t breaking the law. If the police officer just stood by and said “oh ok, just letting you know you broke the law, come with me please.” A. that is dumb and B. the crimes will multiply because of the lack of enforcement there is. Rules and laws are put in place to keep people safe but without having an authoritative figure to enforce these policies there will be more crimes, that’s just a fact.

  2. “Similarly, in the Church, people believe and remember only the worst examples from the inquisitions.”
    Well, we can hardly blame them, can we? People remember the worst examples of what Stalinist Communism and the Nazi regime did, don’t they Brandon? Should we prefer that they didn’t?

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