Editor's note: The following account is the testimony written by Jared Smith, which he has entitled, A Coward's Enlistment. Although he looks back and recalls his morally cowardly life, brother Jared is in no way a coward when it comes to his present testimony and conviction from the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind there are many who are in the position Jared found himself. These young men and women are truly a part of the persecuted church in today's world. The temporary persecution is primarily psychological (although some spend time in detention), by peers and authorities over them in a very closed society; but the result of their decision to follow the Lord's commands to all who follow Him is a total disruption of their life plans and goals. If this were not enough, they are criticised, and even austracised by church people who follow the traditions of men above the Word of God. These young disciples are worthy of our respect, support and recognition. Jared's testimony is inspiring in these days of lukewarm Christianity. You may direct correspondance to Jared through Polyventure Publications - firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Coward’s Enlistment
By Jared Smith
Conflict between our relationship with God and our relationship with the world exists for us all. Sometimes we try to ignore one and embrace the other while at other times we try to blend the two into some sort of compromise. My experience with these conflicts have been consistent since I was a young boy. Knowing the difference between God’s way and the world’s way is terrifying, especially when those who teach you God’s way only follow the world’s way.
As an adolescent growing up in the church I could see and hear the hypocrisy of my family and other church members. One belief was professed at church while a contrary belief was practiced at home. (Please do not think this is isolated to my church, I have seen the same things in different churches and different denominations). I detested this sort of compromise between God’s way and the world’s way. This was an out and out lie, speaking the truth but not following the truth. It appeared as though everyone was using God as some sort of Santa Claus. I began to think that parents use church and God the same way they use Santa Claus. What a disgusting revelation for a child to stumble upon.
Parents/church members – this sort of duplicity has dangerous effects on your little ones. You should be terrified at the internal conflict you may be causing your children. Following their elder’s footsteps may result in their adoption of the same hypocritical practices, causing them to reluctantly submit to the world’s way and ignore God’s way. Worse yet, you may turn your children into cowards, like me.
As I said before, compromise is detestable but instead of continuing in the struggle against this hypocrisy, I chose not to be a bad example. This may sound noble but I assure you that it is a great example of how to be a coward. Not being a bad example can mean either to be a good example or not to be an example at all. After looking for support from family, friends and church leaders I discovered that all of them believed it was ok for our actions to contradict our words. So I became a coward. To be more specific; like my family, friends and church leaders I also accumulated wealth, told small lies, drank too much alcohol, and joined the military.
“Not a bad example?” you ask. Good question. At this point I refused to call myself a Christian so as not to be an example at all. How can anyone who calls himself a Christian be greedy, lie, drink and join the military? The man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4). Cowardice is just as wrong as hypocrisy and I was just as wrong as those I confronted. In fact, the following verse places cowards at the front of the list of those whose place is in the fiery lake. “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
From here I completed college hoping that nobody thought I was a Christian. The problem was, however, that I fit most people’s definition of a Christian even though I tried desperately to avoid theological situations. It is very disheartening to think of what qualifies as a Christian lifestyle today. I would ask myself, “How can these people think I am a “Good Christian”?”.
Even though I was not a fan of the government or the military, I chose to join the army straight out of college. Trying to change things from the inside is a popular notion among many of the soldiers I met. This was also my justification for joining. Please do not forget that at this time I was a worldly thinker and believed that to change things I needed an appropriate résumé that the world would accept. This was also my rationale in enlisting as opposed to becoming an officer. It was just another step in working my way up the ladder into a position where I could make influential decisions. Thirteen months passed just as I expected they would. I acquired some notable achievements and became a part of the army’s military intelligence corps. My first duty station was in
Occasionally, lying and getting drunk were a part of the job, which I thought I could handle at first. Throughout my training I could not free myself from serious misgivings about blatantly lying to another human being. When confronted with situations like this I always tried to avoid acknowledging my religious beliefs, convinced that it would only lead to a career change not to mention an enormous waste of time. At this point my supervisor had already tried to talk with me about my religious beliefs, finally I relented and told her the truth. She was a self proclaimed Christian so I tried not to be too judgmental as I pointed out the love of a Christian prevents us from lying, killing, drunkenness and sexual immorality. During that conversation, I confessed to her that I did not want people to think I was a Christian because a Christian should not partake in the aforementioned acts. She then told me that she had already assumed I was a Christian.
It was the thought of being labeled a Christian that really kicked me in the gut. All this time I tried not be an example of a hypocritical Christian, yet I was viewed as such despite my efforts. At this point I finally realized that my way was not working, and decided to trust God’s way. I acknowledged my faith and began to live the life I was too scared to live years earlier. Shortly after I informed my supervisor that I could no longer get drunk or tell lies at home or on the job. At this, she told me that I was incapable of performing the mission to which I was assigned. She asked if there were anymore moral issues, to which I brought up the fact that a Christian can not kill. She then suggested that I might be a conscientious objector (CO), and I agreed that this might be the case. Soon after, I told my supervisors I wanted to apply for conscientious objector status. They said I should take some time to think about it.
During this time I had grown uncomfortable with wearing the uniform. It sickened me to see how other soldiers idolized their superiors and their country in a way that should only be reserved for God. Normally on a military installation soldiers have to stop and salute the flag at two predetermined times during the day. Even if you are driving a vehicle you have to pull over, stop, get out, stand at attention and salute until the music is finished playing. This same flag is worn on the uniform and for most jobs the uniform is worn throughout the duty day. Luckily for me, my job required wearing civilian clothes most of the time. So, when I told them that I could no longer wear the uniform in accordance with my religious beliefs it did not make as big of a wake as it would have in a typical unit.
These types of choices were no problem for me since I never believed that it was ok for a Christian to take part in such an organization. I saw none of Jesus’ attributes in the military, only the idolatry of nationalism and power. Continuing to wear the uniform was stating that killing was ok, violence was ok, lying was ok, prejudice was ok and putting faith in something other than God was ok. As a Christian that uniform was literally a lie, so it was very easy for me to set it aside. If we are to be like Christ, and the Word says, ...though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9) then how can we belong to something or represent something whose very purpose is deception and violence? These are only a few of the reasons I could not continue to wear the uniform.
Everyone was scared of violating my religious rights, so it took a couple of weeks for them to determine how to handle the situation. Before I quit wearing the uniform I informed my superiors that I wanted to go ahead with the CO application but I quit wearing the uniform prior to submitting all the required paperwork. They claimed this was a loophole which allowed them to process me for separation from the army under Chapter 14. This meant that both the CO application and the chapter process were going on simultaneously and I was stuck with whichever was completed first (the Chapter process took about three and a half months). I was later told in my final days of separation from the military that no disciplinary action should have been taken until my CO application was approved or disapproved. I was informed of this by a reliable processing agent for the military but for me it did not matter. I was sick of being called a soldier so I went ahead and accepted the General Discharge.
Since I have left the military I continue to ponder the reasons why admitted Christians remain in the military. Unfortunately, I can not give any personal examples since I sought dismissal from the military after I admitted my faith. I can, however, give some of the examples given to me by many present and past members of the military who tried to assure me that the military is in every way Christian. The most common excuse I heard was “what if…”, which usually was followed by “then it’s ok…”. My question is, where in the Bible does it say, “love your neighbor unless he…” or “only feed and clothe your enemies if…”?
Almost all of the excuses I heard were based upon something more troubling than disbelief. They were based on fear. These individuals were terrified of placing their lives in the hands of something unseen. They wanted to believe that they had some kind of control, so they put their faith in man which they could see rather than God which they could not see. For unbelievers these fears are completely legitimate but not for those who call upon the name of Jesus. If you put your faith in men then call upon the name of your country, but if you put your faith in Jesus, then you are free from fear and worry.