Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Faith in the Military: Which Church to Attend?

First I was blind.  Then I believed.  Then I got my sight back.  I should have quit smoking right at that moment.  It was soooooo hard to light cigarettes when the slightest flash was blinding.  I had to flick the lighter and look out of the corner of my eye to get the cigarettes lit.

As my sight and use of my fingers returned, I had to get to the practical matter of going to Church.  I knew enough about faith from Collin that Christianity was not a solitary faith.  I had to commit to a Church, or at least start attending one.  The base chapel was not an option.  Then as now, whatever the military blesses as faith is what the old soldiers believe.  In the 1970s, the military chapel system was run mostly by priests and pastors from Catholic and Mainline Protestant denominations.

In a later post, I will talk about today's chapel system, but for now, I was not going to the base chapel.

Since I was in Utah, the biggest Church was the Mormon Church.  I went to a Baptist Church just off post.  It was founded by non-Mormons who worked at Hill Air Force Base.  In fact, the pastor of this Church believed his main mission beyond leading the Church was to convert Mormons to Christianity.

This may seem strange, but before 1980, most Churches, especially those that were theologically conservative, had a statement of faith that was central to their mission and membership.  Christians actually believed doctrine was a matter of life and death, at least spiritually.  After I read the Bible (King James, of course) the next book the pastor gave me was Walter Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults.

This book was an encyclopedia of the beliefs of religions other than conservative protestantism and was clear that most of these religions were heretical.  Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bahai Faith, anything that used the name of Jesus, but departed from orthodox Christianity was a pathway to Hell.  Liberal Protestantism was also condemned as was Catholicism.  With this view of the world, more than 99% of the planet was a mission field.  Because pretty much everyone in the world was wrong.

Wow!!!  Being a Baptist was like walking down a slightly cone-shaped cave.  With every step the cave gets smaller.  By the time I finished The Kingdom of the Cults the number of believers in the world was huge, but the number of believers who knew the truth was tiny.  I, of course, was in the elect.  I was in a Baptist Church.

I could have settled in for a comfortable life of knowing I was one of the elect and most everyone else was not.  But then the cave got too narrow.  The pastor said Collin and all of his kind, Pentacostals and Charismatic believers were wrong too.  At that point, I did not know a lot, but if Collin my old roommate was not a Christian nobody was.

At that point I got out of the Air Force and my luminous faith went rather dim.

So I re-enlisted in the Army.

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