I’ve seen the question come up on Digg more than once: Why do Christians hate soldiers?
The perception undoubtedly comes from the protests at military funerals. Unfortunately, there’s a small fringe group from Kansas that’s giving the perception that Christians hate soldiers.
Phelps and his small band of followers (about 70, and most are related to him by blood or marriage) protest soldiers’ funerals because it gets attention. A decade ago, I found myself at two different Christian events, one in St. Louis and one in Kansas City, protested by the same people. His beef with those two organizations was that they are, in his view, too tolerant of homosexuals.
Although church protests continue, Phelps gets more attention by going to soldiers’ funerals. Nobody paid much attention to him when he protested at Promise Keepers rallies, but inevitably when he shows up at a soldier’s funeral, he ends up on television and in the newspapers. People know who he is now. Prior to the funeral protests, he was just the guy that Promise Keepers knew not to confront for fear of being sued. Phelps was once a highly successful lawyer, and although he is now disbarred, he and several of his followers are very adept with the legal system.
Basically, Phelps’ premise is that God is punishing the United States for tolerating homosexuality, and two unpopular wars in the Middle East and the casualties that go along with them are manifestations of it. Hence the funeral demonstrations.
But Phelps does not speak for Christianity as a whole. Phelps, in fact, thinks very little of mainstream Christianity. And that goes both ways. The Baptists say Phelps isn’t Baptist, and other churches say his organization is not a church, but rather a cult.
I won’t claim to speak for Christianity as a whole either. But I will say I am one, and I’ll tell you what I think of soldiers. My father in law was wounded in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart. I admired him and I miss him. My stepfather is also a Vietnam vet. I worked for a man who attained the rank of Staff Sergeant in the Marines and then Major in the Air Force, and was a Gulf War veteran. I admired him very much, and I remain in contact with his family. My church recently held a benefit for a local Marine who was disabled in Afghanistan. I have two former classmates that I know of, both Christians, who served in Iraq. One is still in the reserves and participates in funerals of fallen soldiers.
I have several other coworkers who are both retired military and Christian. Suffice it to say, they don’t hate soldiers either.
There are some Christian sects whose members generally will not serve in the military, or will only serve as non-combatants. These groups include Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, and Seventh-Day Adventists. They have difficulty reconciling war with Jesus’ command to love your enemies. But you won’t find them protesting at funerals. I’m Lutheran, so I don’t speak for them, but I’m sure members of those particular churches would also say that waving a “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” sign in front of fallen soldiers’ grieving families is something Jesus wouldn’t do. The same Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount to be kind to soldiers, and it’s easier to be kind to a dead soldier than a live one.
So, no. Christians don’t hate soldiers. Fred Phelps hates soldiers. But don’t feel too bad. He hates pretty much everyone.