Fighter Pilot: Fighting for Rights and Freedom
While his book focuses more on fighter pilot subculture, this post will address being a Christian fighter pilot in the broader cultural context.
Fighter pilots live in the shadow of controversy and work in a world of tension:
- They strive for peace by waging war.
- Sometimes they must take life in order to save life.
- Valiant acts in the air are sometimes followed by debauchery on the ground.
- High public standards and expectations can be eclipsed by shameful private acts.
The dichotomy between noble ideals and base human instincts is not unique to fighter pilots.
But I haven’t mentioned the controversy yet. The controversy today involves the “C” word:
The controversy is Christianity.
There is an ongoing information war between powers desiring to route public expression of the Christian faith under the guise of defending religious liberty, and those fighting to defend the rights of service members to live out their Christian faith.
Secret meetings, media misinformation, and disturbing acts censoring Christian religious expression have some Christian service members doubting the security of their religious liberties.
(for a list of recent attacks against Christian liberties, click HERE)
I am not surprised.
I make attempts to stay apprised of public affairs relating to religious liberty in the military, and sometimes it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Some activist groups want to fight for your religious freedom, as long as you:
- practice a religion that is non-exclusive
- don’t wish to share your faith with others
- believe in a post-modern subjective nature of truth
But the truth is:
- All religions are exclusive, including the religions of secular humanism and atheism (despite claims to the contrary).
- Any faith worth keeping is a faith worth sharing.
- Truth is real and objective.
Attacks on Christian leaders are launched with the charge that they are attempting to indoctrinate a captive audience. Christian military leaders must walk a tight rope when praying or throwing out a J-bomb.
(click HERE to learn about the “J” word).
We would all do best to review the extensive history of prayer in our nation’s military. “Endowed By Their Creator”: A Collection of Historic American Military Prayers from 1774-Present.
“I did more praying that afternoon out there than I ever did in my life”¹
–Marine fighter ace Joe Foss after ditching his F4F Wildcat in the waters near Guadalcanal.
Here is the good news. Although Christian religious liberty is under attack, the defenses are holding strong.
Here are some things to consider if you are a Christian wondering what you can and can’t do in the military. Under the Establishment Clause, the government cannot:
- establish a state religion
- promote one religion or faith group over another
- endorse a religious way of life over a secular one.
You must make sure your words and actions cannot be attributed as “official expressions” that might violate the establishment clause. Specifically, you should:
“Confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting and supporting others whose viewpoint differs from your own.”
The Free Exercise Clause
The Free Exercise clause:
- protects your right to hold and exercise religious beliefs.
- places no limitations on voluntary peer-to-peer discussions
- allows discussions not imposed based on rank or position
- requires discussion to be reasonably free from the appearance of coercion
What does this all mean? It means that you can’t preach a sermon during a mandatory meeting.
But if a junior service member seeks you out and initiates a faith-based discussion, you are not forced to remain silent.
- Evangelism = OK
- Proselytism = NOT OK
Good luck discerning where the lines blur.
Can anyone help me bring these lines into focus?
¹ Colonel Joe Foss, Joe Foss – Flying Marine, (Pickle Partners Publishing, 2013), Kindle edition, loc. 1324.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.