In a comment on a previous post, Abigail made the astute observation that sin and brutality have always been a part of life in this fallen world. This is a great observation, and one that we should definitely keep in mind.
However, as I noted there (and Abigail agreed), Western Civilization has been remarkably blessed by God in specific, tangible ways, not because Western sinners are less evil than others, but because by God’s grace Western Civilization soaked in the gospel for a thousand years or so. When society takes that kind of bath, it can’t help but come out a little cleaner than before.
Now, when people make claims like that (gospel-saturation has borne positive culture-wide fruit in the West), the first thing that we should ask for is some evidence. “Prove it,” as they say.
So here’s on piece of evidence: throughout most of history, those individuals (predominantly men) who have served in the military have not been noted for their chivalry and honor. In fact, the opposite is often the case.
When the Bible records that a certain Roman centurion loved the subjugated Jews and built them a synagogue (Luke 7:4-5), we are supposed to be surprised. “A centurion did what now?!?” Likewise, the story of Cornelius is meant to stretch our categories just a bit (Acts 10). Parts of the Sermon on the Mount seem to be designed to help followers of Christ deal with oppressive military grunts who would take advantage of the fact that they were licensed to use the sword (Matthew 5:40-41).
And it doesn’t stop with the Bible.
The Third Amendment to the US Constitution strictly prohibits the practice of quartering soldiers in people’s homes without their consent. When citizens were forced to house soldiers in their homes, the soldiers often failed to behave as civilized guests (to say the least).
During the Civil War, Union commanders like John Pope, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Phil Sheridan waged “total war” on their fellow countrymen in the South.
More recently, U.N. peacekeepers have been known to sexually assault refugees in Africa.
Examples could be multiplied of militaries and militias that assault and terrorize peaceful citizens in countries around the world. It’s this fact that makes videos like the one below so remarkable.
Now I have friends in the military; I know that our military has its share of thugs and perverts, as fiascos like Abu Ghraib remind us. However, on the whole, the American people do not fear our military. In many places in the world, if soldiers show up, it’s cause for terror. As the video shows, in the US it’s a cause for relief.
This is a precious reality and a remarkable gift, and one that didn’t come from nowhere. A civilized and chivalrous military that protects rather than exploits doesn’t just happen. And Christians of all people ought to know Whom we have to thank for that.