Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Recruiting Souls and Soldiers, Sadly Similar: Faith in the Military, Part 15

In His brief ministry on Earth, Our Lord was a lousy recruiter and an utter failure at marketing.  In all of the Gospel accounts, Jesus gathers huge crowds then, just when he should be signing them up for The Lord's Army, he sends them away.

The crowds were attracted by healing, by food, by His words.  He had them.  Then he told them that following Him would lead to suffering and loss and the crowds left.  Jesus was the opposite of a recruiter or a marketer.  The Lord wanted committed people willing to suffer and die, people who knew what they were facing before they decided to follow Him.

Inside the military, becoming a believer actually meant some suffering.  Believers serving in the military back in the 70s were sure to be hassled.  And tempted.  A believer who was living his faith in the Army had to take a lot of shit from fellow soldiers.  While his friends were getting high and getting laid, he (there were no women in combat units in the 70s) had to live in some semblance of Biblical morality:  certainly no drugs, no booze, no women.  the other five men in the typical six-man room were sure to be making fun of the guy who was reading his Bible, praying and not partying.

When I got back to the civilian world, Church recruiting was a lot more like marketing than Jesus telling followers to "count the cost."  Mega Churches became "Seeker Friendly."  Instead of presenting a life of denying this world to gain the Kingdom of God, preachers are following marketers, finding out what people want in a Church and modifying the Church to suit the converts.

So standards for entering the Church became more flexible.  Divorce, drinking, dancing and other devilish Ds became acceptable.  Not encouraged, but some former sins clearly became less sinful than others.

The Army did this during the worst days of the Iraq War.  I would not be serving in the Army now if Congress did not raise the enlistment age by seven years in 2006.  The Army took back a 54-year-old after 23 years as a civilian because they needed bodies.  Two years into the recession with the Iraq War winding down, the enlistment age dropped back again and recruitment standards went up.

All of the military is now in the process of cutting its numbers of troops.  As in the 1990s, the cuts will be aimed at mid-career NCOs and Officers, both the save money and to make room for new younger leaders in a smaller Army.  The way this will happen, as in the 1990s, is primarily through tightening fitness standards.  In the 1990s a marketing firm determined that mid-career technically competent soldiers dislike the PT standards above everything else in the military.

So the new smaller force will literally be smaller.

Will the Church ever tighten its standards the way the military did?  Yes, but not from the inside.  The Church will gets smaller and stronger when it is persecuted.  People who want to be a success in this world want to be members of popular Churches where the Lord is promising riches to the faithful.

Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Pat Robertson and the dozens of televangelists promising health and wealth to their flock will disappear when their bank accounts are at risk as will their followers.

The Church will become smaller the same way.  In every Church through history that has come under persecution, the faithful stay with the Church, even becoming martyrs.  Those who were brought in under Seeker Friendly conditions will melt away like butter in the Mojave Desert.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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