Monday, September 21, 2020

We are Citizen-Soldiers, Mr. Trump!*

We consider ourselves winners rather than “losers” and “suckers.”2 Although I will admit that from the perspective of a man alleged to have inherited millions from his father, I might have looked like a loser in 1953. After one year at a Baptist college in Mississippi,3 I enlisted in the U. S. Army in May of 1953 as a Pvt E-1 during the hostilities of the Korean Conflict. Some months later (July 1953), while I was in Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, military leaders signed a “cease-fire” order at Panmunjom. A few months later as the honor graduate of an Army Leadership School at Ft Lee, Virginia, I was given my choice of area of assignment. I chose the European Theater, where I served the rest of my initial three years of military obligation in Germany at Headquarters Southern Area Command (with five years reserve duty remaining to my enlistment). The rest of my class was assigned to the Far East Command (Korea). I returned from Europe in 1956 with the GI Bill in hand and a wife (now of 65 years), who was pregnant with our first child and we headed back to college. Supported by the GI Bill I completed college in 1958 (B. A.) and Theological Seminary in 1962 (B. D.) in California. While serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Needles, California (1962-65), I applied for and received a direct commission from the President as a Reserve Commissioned Officer (Chaplain) on the 8th of September 1964. Why did I join the Army again? I wanted to serve my country—and besides I liked the professionalism and camaraderie of military life.

Volunteers who choose to continue their military service as soldiers in the active reserve force think of themselves as citizen-soldiers. They work in their civilian occupations or careers, but one weekend each month they put on the uniform and train in their MOS.4 At least two weeks every year they serve a tour of active duty working at the military job they trained to do. Citizen-soldiers are required to take additional time away from civilian jobs to go through military schools to qualify for promotion and retention in the service, which again takes them away from family and civilian jobs. In addition, they may also be called up to active duty for special tours anywhere in the world where the military needs their skills. They are paid commensurate with their rank and if they elect to continue this demanding schedule for at least 20 years, upon retirement they are paid a retirement stipend, receive medical coverage for life for them and their spouse, and all the other benefits that active duty soldiers receive. In the event of a national emergency, like the Roman farmer, Cincinnatus,5 they are subject to “activation” to serve wherever the military assigns them for the duration of the war or the duration of the emergency. I was activated for Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and served 7 months as a Colonel (Chaplain) in the Personnel Office of the Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon (Washington), to which I was assigned as a Mobilization Designee in reserve status. This meant leaving my family and civilian occupation abruptly in the middle of the academic year. I was a tenured faculty member at Missouri State University, and the university had to cover my classes at the last moment. My salary and benefits at the university stopped and I and my family were completely dependent on the Army for salary and medical benefits. My service to the country came at the cost of a disruption to my academic career and to my family (I left behind a wife with a severely broken ankle). When hostilities began, I had no idea how long the war and separation from home would last.

Citizen-soldiers are members of the National Guard and the U. S. Military Reserve that serve as a ready reserve force for the U. S. Military in times of National emergency.6 To understand why they do it, Mr. Trump, one must first understand patriotism. I have found that career soldiers, both Regulars and Reserve, are motivated to choose a profession of arms out of a sense of patriotism; they continue patriotically serving their country from a sense of professionalism. Still don’t get it? Ask a soldier!

Charles W. Hedrick
Chaplain (Colonel), USAR, retired

*This essay is one of those rare occasions where a current issue has motivated me to stray into politics. It has nothing to do with religion except that the author is a retired U. S. Army Chaplain with thirty years’ service.

2It has been confirmed by several different media outlets that President Trump referred to members of the military who are killed in the course of their service as “losers” and “suckers.” This is the article that started the flap:

3Since I had no financial resources to continue my education the next fall, I enlisted in the Army to secure the educational benefits of the GI Bill—an excellent choice for me.

4MOS, Military Occupational Specialty.

5Cincinnatus was a Roman patrician, statesman, and military leader of the early Roman Republic who was called from his plow to serve the Roman State. At the end of the crisis he returned to his plow.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Is "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself" Something Jesus taught?

It seems likely to me that Jesus knew the Scripture “love your neighbor as yourself.” It was part of the legal code of ancient Israelite religion (Lev 19:18), and other Judeans familiar with the Scriptures surely would have known it. In ancient Israel, however, the neighbor was a fellow-Israelite (Deut 15:1-3; Lev 19:17-18). This definition of neighbor was expanded in Leviticus to include foreigners who came to dwell with the Israelites (Lev 19:33-34). It seems likely that Jesus was aware that the obligation of “loving the neighbor” also included foreigners in their midst. The issue, however, should not be decided on whether he knew the Scripture, but on how well it fitted his ideas and attitudes. Is it something he might have taught?

The Jesus Seminar voted several times on the saying and gave it a weighted average of gray,1 which meant “Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own.”2 Unfortunately the Seminar did not vote on the saying Lev 19:18 by itself, but rather they considered it as a package with Deut 6:4-5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut 6:5) as one of the two chief commandments of the law. There was a mail-in vote in 1989 on two of the three occurrences of the “chief commandments” appearing in the gospels: for Matt 22:37-40 and Luke 10:27 (Red, 0; Pink, 33; Gray, 60; Black, 7). At the University of Redlands in 1986 there was a vote on Mark 12:28-34 (Red, 11; Pink, 28; Gray, 22; Black, 39). At the University of Notre Dame also in 1986 there was again a vote on Mark 12:28-34 (Red, 4; Pink, 32; Gray, 28; Black, 36).

Paul (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:9, 10) and James (2:8) knew the saying, “love your neighbor as yourself,” but they do not cite Jesus as their source. It seems more likely that they were familiar with the saying through the Israelite Scriptures. Luke, however, seems to think that the saying fitted the attitudes of Jesus by associating it (Luke 10:25-29, 36-37) with the story Jesus told about a robbery and assault on the Jericho road (Luke 10:30-35). From my perspective Luke’s reading of the story is simply misguided. The story is an exaggeration of what it meant to be a righteous man in late Judaism: “a righteous man risks his life and living for the nobodies of the world.”3 The story has little to do with loving neighbors. But from Luke’s perspective the story reflected an attitude toward others similar with that found in the saying about loving the neighbor.

Surely it is not a wrong thing to love one’s neighbor, even defined as one’s “own people.” Paul even thought that loving the neighbor fulfilled the whole law (Rom 13:8-10)! But loving the neighbor, however defined, does not go far enough. Thus Paul (Rom 13:8a: “owe no one anything except to love one another”) and James (Jas 2:1-9: “show no partiality”) expanded the horizon of the saying “love one’s neighbor” to include one’s fellow human being (an attitude also shared by Jesus in Luke 6:32, which implies that love must be extended beyond one’s own kind); and Jesus expanded the horizon of the saying even further to include love for enemies (Luke 6:27b and Matt 5:43-44).4 Thus, these three ideas, loving one’s neighbor (narrowly defined), loving one’s fellow human being (broadly defined), and loving one’s enemy come together under the obligation to love others. It seems inevitable that Jesus would have taught all three concepts.

While the saying “love your neighbor as yourself” fails to meet the criteria of dissimilarity and multiple attestation, it may be considered a saying of Jesus under the criterion of coherence.5 “Love your neighbor as yourself” is an idea that is consistent with Jesus’ attitudes on love of others, and as such deserves a pink rating; that is to say: “Jesus probably taught something like this.”

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1The weighted averages ranged from a high of 0.42 to a low of 0.35: The Jesus Seminar, “Voting Records. Sorted by Group Parallels by Weighted Averages,” Forum 6.3-4 (September/December,1990), 299-352 (319).

2Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 36; Jesus Seminar, “Voting Records. Sorted by Gospels, by Weighted Averages,” Forum 6.3-4, 319.

3Hedrick, Parables as Poetic Fictions. The Creative Voice of Jesus (Peabody. MA: Hendrickson, 1994; reprint, Wipf and Stock, 2005), 116 (93-116).

4Hedrick, The Wisdom of Jesus. Between the Sages of Israel and the Apostles of the Church (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2014), 87-88.

5The Criterion of Coherence states: “material from the earliest stratum of the Jesus tradition may be original, provided it coheres with material established as original by means of the criterion of dissimilarity.” For a short discussion of the criteria for determining authenticity see Hedrick, When History and Faith Collide. Studying Jesus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999; reprint, Wipf and Stock, 2013), 135-52 (143-44).