Veterans Day and Christian Worship

One of the best parts of being a pastor has been the opportunity to sit in people’s homes and get to know them. I had an older widow in one of my churches, it was always a joy to see. Every now and then she would ask me, “Why don’t we honor veterans while we are in service?”

I guess this past Sunday many churches across the United States included a time in which all of the veterans who were present were somehow recognized by the congregation.

As a student of the New Testament and the early Church, I wondered if Paul had ever taken a moment during his time in Corinth to ask if any soldiers returning home after the conquest of Britain were present. so that the bailiffs can give them a special gift? Or did John, while in Ephesus, ever recognize those who may have served in the Jewish war and the sack of Jerusalem?

The United States must improve the treatment of its veterans

While I do not assert the merits of war, I would say that any nation that chooses to send its citizens to fight their battles has a moral obligation to care for them upon their return.

Many veterans do not receive the medical care they need even though their needs are a direct result of their military service. It is shameful that the homelessness and suicide rate among veterans far exceeds the societal average.[1] That some veterans are not able to get the psychological help they need is morally wrong.

The Church and the Veterans

In case you have not understood my thoughts on the relevance of recognizing veterans in Christian service, I will simply note: The gathering of the people of God is for collective worship, fellowship, prayer and proclamation of the speech.

I find it tragic that so many churches have welcomed empire and the glorification of war into their corporate worship,[2] and yet many of these same churches did not recognize All Saints’ Day.

To those who are unsure of my beliefs about the appropriateness of honoring veterans during a time devoted to the gathering of God’s people, I ask: Wouldn’t veterans be better served if we stood up for their cause and demanded? that the same government that sent them to war providing the care they need after their return? It sounds much better than giving them a symbolic moment of gratitude during a supposedly Christ-centered service.

Certainly, there is a lot more to say: and I will continue to address this issue in future articles.

One final thought: I guess some might answer my tongue-in-cheek question of whether Paul and John recognized Roman soldiers returning from the war by suggesting that it is not comparable to honoring American soldiers. To which I would answer: “is it?” “

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[1] There is some evidence that the homeless rate among veterans is double the national average. In fact, some data suggests that the number of homeless Vietnamese veterans exceeds the number of soldiers who died in the war.

[2] I will post in the future how this is what the first and second commandments condemn.


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