If Only War Were that Simple.

The Washington Post today profiles Lt. Carey Cash, the Navy chaplain serving at Camp David, where President Obama attends services. Cash -- a great nephew of music icon Johnny Cash -- is a conservative Southern Baptist who won't, apparently, give Obama the trouble that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright did.

If Obama is seeking some spiritual guidance as he contemplates troop escalations in Afghanistan, though, I hope to God his admiration for Cash does not lend credence to what Cash has to say about God and war.

According to remarks he made to the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces in 2003 (h/t to David Brody for the link), Cash believes that faith actually saved Marines from death on the battlefield. He described a brutal battle in Baghdad, on April 10, 2003, after which, "by every assessment, during that nine-hour ordeal, our battalion should have sustained untold casualties and countless dead." Instead, Cash maintained, there was a "miracle":

It cannot be denied. Someone was watching over us. And He was beside us and surrounding us, shielding us and defending us, fighting for us. And it wasn’t luck, or good fortune, or just some cosmic play of chance. … It was the Lord God Himself. You see, according to my religious tradition (and the tradition of many in our battalion) – our God knows something about battle. He fought against Satan in the wilderness and defeated his schemes! He fought against sin at the cross and defeated its power! He fought against death at the tomb, and burst its bonds. And because of this, can He not do all things for you and for me?

As military leaders and strategists reflect back upon our battles in Iraq, there is no doubt that there will be many lessons learned, many conclusions drawn. But the one conclusion that cannot go unspoken or unsung…is that OUR GOD IS ABLE TO DELIVER US! For He is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Deliverer. And the truth is, we all, whether we are in the streets of Baghdad or not, we all need His deliverance. Because we all face enemies. Fear, doubt, worry, discouragement, temptation, despair, the rising power of unbelief…these too are enemies, and they are often just as sinister, just as fierce, and just as unrelenting as evil men lurking in the shadows of Baghdad. But here’s the message: If God can deliver an isolated, cut off battalion of U.S. Marines, surrounded by enemies in the Belly of the Beast … can He not deliver you and
me from the enemies that assail us in our daily lives?

Frequently critics of the military's evangelizing culture, including me, have defined it as a civil-liberties issue for American service personnel, as well as a public diplomacy question, to the extent that proselytization of non-Christian civilians takes place. (Cash also has some things to say on the inadequacies of the Muslim faith.) But reading Cash's speech today raised another, possibly more dire concern: Should military chaplains really be misleading young service members that God will save them from a rocket-propelled grenade if they just believe? Surely their lives are more precious and in need of real protection than such simplistic theology maintains.

--Sarah Posner

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