USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, CVN-69
As someone who served 24 years in the military, I naturally favor a strong national defense. But I have to ask, just how much defense is enough? Practically every day we hear one politician or another warning there’s not enough money for Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, job creation and a host of other programs. Even worse, there’s not enough money to help feed hungry Americans, so many children go to bed hungry every night.
The popular TV comedian Stephen Colbert, who is also an outspoken Christian, said of America, “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” Among the needy I include those who lack the health care, education and jobs that are essential to growing self-sufficient, productive citizens.
Despite our country’s perilous economic condition, some politicians wail and moan that we need to spend more on defense. They warn that China is going to overtake us in military capacity. Iran and Syria are threats to the world. North Korea has the ability to strike America’s west coast with a nuclear missile. And the list goes on! These are the talking points of the war hawks—and the hawks aren’t limited to those on the political right.
Many liberal politicians have joined the war hawk ranks on the premise that growing the defense industry can help bring jobs to their respective districts. Perhaps that’s true, but manufacturing televisions or a host of other products that are no longer made in America would also create jobs.
According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, in 2012 (the last year for which full records are available), the United States spent 4.12 percent of its GDP ($645.7 billion) on defense. China spent 1.24 percent ($102.4 billion). In fact, the United States outspent all Asian countries combined, which had a total defense expenditure of $314.9 billion, less than half of America’s total. In 2012, the United States accounted for 41 percent of global defense spending. How much is enough?
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
I believe we need a strong national defense, but we have to balance defense with domestic needs. If we can’t maintain a healthy, well educated, well nourished and self-sufficient population, then what is left to defend?
America is truly threatened from many directions, but the greatest threats stem from internal problems, not foreign countries or transnational groups. Perhaps the biggest threat is our ignorance of history. American society seems to have lost site of a key historical fact—the farther a nation separates itself from God, the more imperiled it becomes.
The Bible is full of examples validating this. Those who don’t care to read the Bible should try reading Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and fall of the Roman Empire.” The similarities between Rome’s decline and what is occurring in America today are astonishing. (Sharie Pyke comments on this topic in an informative piece titled, “Is America like Rome in decline.” http://goo.gl/7BgZFS)
“God is present in the places where our fears live.” —Randy Kilgore, Our Daily Bread
Just as our nation is imperiled by pulling away from God, the more we humble ourselves before God the stronger we become. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (ESV)
Chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Judges provide a wonderful example of this. The Midianite people had impoverished the land of Israel through constant raids and pillaging of the countryside. God chose Gideon to defeat the Midianites at a time when they were encamped in the land of Israel with a large Army. From across the land, Gideon raised a great Army to defeat them. But God had other plans.
God knew that Gideon’s army would overwhelm the Midianites, increasing their confidence in their own abilities to take care of themselves. God wanted to teach Gideon’s followers to trust in Him, not in their own abilities. He had Gideon select 300 of his best men and instructed him to have them surround the Midianite encampment. With these 300 men and through a clever ruse God enabled Gideon to crush the Midianite force. God delivers strength from our weakness.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13 (ESV)
Just as God wanted the Children of Israel to trust in him, he also wants us as individuals to trust in him. The law given under the Mosaic Covenant does not consider the moral weaknesses or infirmities of humans in their natural, fallen condition. God’s law is absolute, demanding absolute morality and obedience before Him. The law accepts no excuses. When a person comes to this realization, his life seems an inescapable, fatal tragedy.
St. Paul describes this in Romans 7:9, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” (ESV) This is the powerful conviction of sin—a person coming to grips with his or her absolute weakness and inability to please God through works. The cross of Christ is just a foolish notion to anyone who has never come to this realization. To believers, however, the cross is the only logical remedy for sin.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Likewise, the cross of Christ is a foolish notion to anyone who believes our nation can prosper without God. Jesus doesn’t command us to have a strong national defense, but in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), he does say He will bless us if we are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and hungry and thirsty for righteousness. He also tells us to give to the needy, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
The best form of national defense is unquestioning trust in God. God will allow us to push him from our government, schools, businesses, social organizations, sports teams, televisions, movies, homes and lives. Unfortunately, those pushing God away do not understand that every vacuum created by God’s departure is filled by something less desirable.