Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 24, 1953
NUMBER 20, PAGE 10-11a

The Christian In The Armed Forces

Chaplain David C. Sprague, Camp Polk, Louisiana

John was 20 years old one month before the truce was signed in Korea. His birthday had barely passed when the mailman brought a letter from the Selective Service Board stating that he must report for a physical on the following Monday at 6:00 a.m.

Another letter came ten days after his physical telling John to report to Fort XXXX for induction into the army on the following Thursday. Sadly, his mother saw him off, encouraging him to be faithful in worship and service to God.

Shots, tests, questions, and long lines of waiting for clothing, the dentist, the photographer, and chow were to follow. Soon John was on his way to begin his eight weeks of basic training and another eight weeks of special training in a certain branch of the Army.

Upon starting basic training, John sat with other trainees listening to the Commanding General, the doctor, the Red Cross representative, the Provost Marshall, and the Chaplain. Later, his Company was marched to the chapel to hear from the Chaplain. The Chaplain told about the general Protestant worship services, the Catholics and the Jewish services. He gave the times and places of each. Then he asked each to raise his hand as he called out the different "denominations" so that the men might find some others who are of the same church. There were lots of Baptists and Roman Catholics, few Jewish men, and what do you know, another man who acknowledged he is a member of the church of Christ.

Basic training started out hard. Rush, rush, little time for letters, little sleep, but lots of time training. The week ended and John had forgotten that tomorrow was the Lord's Day until the Sergeant told the men that those who wanted to attend the general worship services tomorrow would report before the orderly room at 0830 hours. All men were to remain within the Company area — no passes, no going into town for any reason. John found out that they would be restricted to the Post for three more weeks, so he decided to go to the general Protestant service tomorrow just to see what it was like. He went, and decided immediately that he could not conscientiously worship with them because they used the instrument with the hymns all through the service, there was no Lord's Supper, and the Chaplain did not preach as John had been accustomed to hearing. He met the other member of the church of Christ that afternoon. His name was Jim. Jim had also attended that morning and both agreed they would wait until three more weeks were up and find the church in the nearest town, thirteen miles away.

There was much to do on the Post in the way of entertainment — movies, baseball, boxing, swimming, and the PX where they could get supplies, so John and Jim did not have time on their hands. The Post also had a very extensive religious program going, with the Chaplains conducting many services. For most men those services were adequate, but Jim and John did not feel they could conscientiously take part in them.

For three weeks, then, Jim and John did not worship. Soon their minds forgot God; they left off daily prayers, and though the army furnished them with a New Testament and a large edition of the whole Bible, they forgot to study God's word.

There is good reason to believe that Jim and John will forget to look up the church in the nearby town at the end of three weeks, and within two years they will have forgotten completely about God and Christ.

Did the army do this to them? No. The army tries to provide everything possible to its men that will help build good morals, character, and bring men to God. It has both good and evil influences coming forth from the men that make up the bulk of the army. When Jim and John neglected to worship and pray, the evil influence took over. Yet there are plenty of other good men that they could have met, and with which they could have worshipped and fellowshipped.

Where is the answer? It lies with the members of the church. Somewhere and somehow the church ought to be more interested in seeing that Christians who enter the Armed Services are contacted and encouraged about worship and morals, and if possible, worship services be provided. These things can be accomplished by:

1. More brethren becoming qualified and entering the Chaplaincy in order to supply the needs of our brethren. At present we have less than ten Chaplains from the church on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Yet, there are thousands of brethren serving in these Forces.

2. The churches near Posts, Bases, and Ports contacting the members and providing services for them. (Details follow in discussion.)

3. The minister or elders at the soldier's home writing both the soldier an encouraging letter and the churches nearby the Post to inform them of his presence and suggest that the church there contact him. If a Chaplain from the church of Christ is located at this Post, he should be written about the soldier.

Here are some very important things the brotherhood ought to know about the opportunities the church has in connection with the Armed Forces:

1. "Denominational" services are allowed on all Posts provided a respectable and dependable person or persons are there to conduct or lead each service. This simply means that a service for men of the church of Christ is permitted on any Post, Base, or Port. Of course, permission must be received from the correct authorities. This may be done by seeing any Chaplain, who seeing that the services would be properly conducted will be happy to secure such permission. For example, John and Jim could have gone to their unit Chaplain, explained their beliefs, and asked for the Chaplain's help in: (a) locating other members of the church of Christ on the Post, (b) receiving permission to conduct services, (c) advertising the services all over the Post, and (d) contacting the church of Christ in the nearest towns.

2. Perhaps already you see the value of becoming acquainted with the Chaplain regardless of his affiliation. He is sincere in his beliefs as you are. But regardless of the differences, he will be happy to try to supply the religious needs of all members of his unit, and for that matter, all in the Armed Forces. Perhaps, too, the brotherhood can see the dire need for Chaplains who are members of the church of Christ, for if John and Jim had been able to attend a general worship service where the Chaplain was of the church of Christ, they would have felt at home. Besides, the Chaplain from the brotherhood would have a special service already arranged and announced for the men of the church of Christ.

3. Churches of Christ located in cities or towns near Posts, Bases, or Ports can provide services, advertisement, or transportation to the services if they wish. This can be done by the minister or elders seeing the Post, Base, or Port Chaplain. There they explain their desire and they may expect a most wonderful attitude of cooperation from the Chaplain. They may request: (a) place and time to hold a worship service, (b) announcement of services in all units; over all the Post, (c) transportation facilities if necessary, (d) names of all men who have listed church of Christ as preference, (e) and anything else within reason that they need.

4. Members of the Armed Forces may request permission from a Chaplain to hold services of their own during basic training. After basic, with more freedom given to them, they may find the church in nearby towns. But wherever a member goes, he may look for other members and they may request to hold their own services. The Chaplain will be glad to help locate other members on the Post. The offering or contribution at these services should be definitely designated to go to a particular place or project. This may be to one of the churches of Christ in towns nearby or to mission work anywhere. This must be announced at the service, the offering be turned over to the Post Protestant Chaplain's Fund, and a check for the amount will be sent to the designated place. Communion supplies, Bibles, and study supplies may be obtained from the Chaplain by asking.

5. Those members of the church who believe that the Bible teaches that a man must not take up arms for his country regardless of the situation, but is willing to serve any other way (called a conscientious objector) should follow these steps: (a) Upon registration with the local Selective Service Board, make it known to them that you register as a conscientious objector. The board will consider your case and you can get the church to support your request. (b) If you have already registered, but not as a conscientious objector, yet you believe as such, then you may request the Selective Service Board to reconsider your classification. (c) If you are inducted into the Service and you are a conscientious objector but did not register as such inform your unit Commander immediately. He will confer with the Chaplain and the two will try to get you classified as such. You may secure a letter from the elders or the minister on "church stationery" from the church at home. They must substantiate your claim. Through the help of the Chaplain and the unit Commander you may request the classification of conscientious objector and if approved, be sent for special training in non-combatant service. If for some reason you are registered as a conscientious objector with the Selective Service Board, but are assigned to an Arm branch of the Service (such as Infantry, Artillery) for basic training, then inform your unit Commander and the Chaplain. Your case will then be considered.

There is no excuse that a Christian should neglect the Lord in daily life or worship while he is in the Armed Forces. The cause for such neglect is due to the lack of encouragement given to the brethren who are serving. I sincerely hope that this information will be helpful to the drafted members of the church and to the congregations near Posts, Bases, and Ports. We can help these men in Service remain faithful to God. See what you can do!!