Newspapers strive to be the first to report a big story. One of the biggest The Pathway has ever reported is the revival at Fort Leonard Wood. If you did not read this story, please do. It is garnering national attention.
Revival in our military is nothing new. The American Revolution was sandwiched between both Great Awakenings in the 18th century. Artist Arnold Friberg captured the importance of faith to the Colonial Army in his famous painting of General George Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge.
Southern Baptist evangelism professor Roy Fish noted how the revival of 1858 led to mass salvations in both the Union and Confederate armies. “Soldiers of the Confederate armies established camp churches and men by the thousands rushed to the feet of the Savior. By January 1865, nearly 150,000 Confederate soldiers had been converted during the progress of the war and there was hardly a regiment where the revival influence was not felt,” Fish wrote in his book, When Heaven Touched Earth. Southern Baptist Chaplain J. William Jones, detailed the Confederate army revival in his post-war book, Christ in the Camp. It has been suggested that the small, rural churches that sprang-up like wild daisies throughout post-war Dixie, were mostly built by Confederate veterans.
The importance of faith to the troops was also captured in the life of Sergeant Alvin York, the World War I Medal of Honor recipient. The importance of faith to the military was highlighted in World War II by movies like “Unbroken” and “Hacksaw Ridge,” which also addressed the threat to the First Amendment rights of military members.
While the importance of faith in the military has been highlighted by Hollywood, filmmakers have also ignored it. Such was the case with the recent movie, “12 Strong.” It is the story of 12 Special Forces soldiers who slipped into Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11. They attacked the enemy – on horseback – and dealt a serious blow to Afghanistan’s Taliban government. What the filmmaker did not tell you was how the horsemen’s Christian faith sustained them.
“We had God-fearing guys on our team, who loved God,” recalled Will Summers, the unit’s commander. “When we were there, we committed to pray. We committed to do something simple. We memorized Psalm 1. And we said every time we come together, we’re going to read the Bible. We’re going to pray. We’re going to pray for our enemies to know specifically the truth of who Jesus is.”
Despite its value, some want Christianity out of the military. The Air Force has been bombarded with anti-Christian threats and “fake news” for years. Christians have been threatened with disciplinary action for expressing their faith. Atheist groups, like the inaptly named Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), bark for Air Force leaders to ban the Bible and prayer.
Mikey Weinstein, MRFF’s founder and president, has equated the gospel in the military to Islamic jihadism. He said sharing one’s faith in Christ while in uniform is a plot to create “a systemic hostile takeover of the U.S. military by lunatic, fundamentalist Christians.” He has labelled Christian military members as a “cabal of deranged end-time warriors.”
Some military leaders agree. Earlier this month Weinstein complained about a Bible sitting on a POW/MIA table at Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. The base commander, Colonel Stacy Jo Huser, cowardly caved, removing the Bible and replacing it with something called A Book of Faith.
Weinstein recently called for Gen. E. John Teichert, commander of 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to be fired. Why? Because Teichert posted links to Christian articles and Scripture on his personal website called “Prayer at Lunchtime for the United States.”
Such attacks are impacting morale, retention and readiness. Staff Sgt. Preston Haskell, assigned to Creech Air Force Base, Nev., complained in an April 20 letter to The Air Force Times: “I absolutely love that I work with people from almost every background, race and religion our nation has to offer. So why would the Air Force encourage division? You are allowed to be proud, and even proclaim that pride, in being black, Latino, homosexual, atheist or transgender, yet I cannot proclaim my pride in being a white, heterosexual male Christian without serious reprimand.” He said political correctness is driving people out of the Air Force.
One does not surrender one’s religious freedom by joining a military charged with protecting a Constitution that guarantees such rights. Yet, God is not deterred. Witness Fort Leonard Wood.