Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White

Over the weekend reports began circulating that Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White was going to be charged with discharging a personal weapon at the US Navy Operations Center in Chattanooga. He fired the weapon at Muhammad Abdulazeez who was attacking the base and had already killed some military personnel. These reports began with Allen West, who received the information and began to sound a loud call to action to defend the Lt. Cmdr.

Since then there have been comments by the navy on social media stating that no charges have been filed, and that the investigation as to what happened is still ongoing. If they have formulated any official reply I could not find it in an internet search this morning.

While their assertion that no charges have been filed provides some degree of assurance, I believe that it also leaves some room that as the investigation progresses this action could still be taken. It’s hard to digest, that this is even a possibility. Think about it, the action of defending your fellow soldiers, running toward the gunfire instead of away from it, actions which would have resulted in commendations or at the very least the satisfaction of having done your duty – these same actions could result in charges because you are on US soil and are deemed illegal here.

It comes down to a decision years ago, which greatly restricts when military personnel would carry weapons. I believe soldiers can be trained, and in fact, are trained to handle their weapons responsibly. Undoubtedly some individuals would go against their training, but I do not believe that would be as big of a problem as that created by disarming our defenders.

Disarming our military men on US bases sends two unacceptable messages. First that our military is untrustworthy and second that they are now defenseless and easy targets.

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Chaplaincy and the Bible

I started a career in ministry 20-some-odd years ago. At the time, I considered a number of opportunities within the bigger arena of ministry.

It is possible to be a missionary, a pastor, a musician (I knew that one was out), an educator, or a number of other options, but one thing I did not consider was being a chaplain. The reason why I moved away from chaplaincy was the knowledge that in this form of ministry one is expected to minister to people with a generic identity. If the person was of a different theological perspective or ecclesiastical tradition than you, then play the role to meet their needs.

I don’t disparage the ministers who take on this task. Nor do I believe it a grievous wrong of them to behave differently than their core identity to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of others. But I also know I do not do ‘generic’ well. When a person asks me for my perspective, they get my perspective rather than an answer measured by what they need to hear.

I will strive to make that answer Biblical. I will try to be led by God. But ultimately I know that answer will come out of my personal relationship with God. Anything else would leave me feeling dishonest.

Chaplains recognize this tension, and know how to balance these two different concerns.

Recently I heard about a chaplain, a hero among chaplains, who was being chastised because he was asked what the Bible said on a topic and he answered. His answer was not so much an opinion, but a review of what the specific statements of Scripture on the topic in question. The Bible is not politically correct. He is being disciplined for accurately answering a question on what the Bible said. Or to put that another way, the Navy has decided that some parts of the Bible are not acceptable for use by their chaplains.

So we must have turned a corner, a horrible corner. The military is now officially censoring the parts of the Bible they do not like. Since that is the case, how long will it be before the government at large begins telling churches what parts of the Bible are no longer acceptable?

Fiscal Priorities

Oliver North coined or quoted a phrase he called the spies credo, “Just because I am paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out to get me.” While I don’t know much about spy games, or for that matter anything military, I prefer for to have people protecting our country thinking this way. We don’t know what the future holds, but we should choose to be prepared for big and little threats.

Recently the news has talked about policy changes that will decrease the amount of military and military spending to levels similar to World War Two. I have to wonder why we take such actions. It appears to be cost saving actions, which would make perfect sense in light of the fact we have made a habit of spending money we don’t have.

But this action also reflects priorities. We have prioritized overhauling the healthcare system over national defense. Meanwhile the cost of healthcare reform, both federally and individually is crippling us financially. This will guarantee we are not fiscally fit enough to defend ourselves when conflict escalates. I suppose we are supposed to be happier being healthy while subservient to other countries? Well, if this is how it is supposed to work, we had better make ObamaCare a lot more functional.

The Cowardly New World

There is a lot of concern over whether or not Russia is about to seize additional territories from among the former Russian territories. My expectation is, of course they will. When I answer this so directly I am not claiming to know the future, I am simply observing the pattern of the past.

When a country ramps up its patriotic and nationalistic rhetoric internally, they are on a path to act on those emotions. Putin gave a speech recently about the restoration of the former glory of the Soviet Union in which members of the audience were brought to tears over perceived wrongs done do them when those nations seceded.

Nations led primarily under the leadership of one ideologue, will take greater risks when attempting to secure or expand national interests. Putin is the national hero in Russia. He has carefully crafted his image as a strong leader, a man’s man, and the people look for his leadership either by direct mandate or more subtle orchestration.

Hostile forces, if not opposed with equal or superior strength, tend to keep going until they meet such a resistance. The US response to what has happened in Crimea has been to state there will be severe circumstances, but everyone is quick to say, “No boots on the ground.” This is really all Putin needs to hear. In addition, we really haven’t tried the economic sanctions which would be most painful to them, energy related sanctions, because they would also affect us.

Many of the former Russian states have large numbers of Russian sympathizers. Once these groups are riled up by the rhetoric of Russian nationalism, they likely will act in their regions to seek reunification. When efforts are met with resistance, or especially violence, Putin will go in to protect the Russians in that region. Then hold a referendum, started and controlled by the sympathizers, which of course will result in favor of reunification. This is exactly how it happened in Crimea. Putin didn’t have to start the problem, he only had to be ready to take full advantage of the problem.

The United States has made it clear military options are off the table. No one else will have the gumption to stand up without the US. Whatever financial or other resource consequences we put on them, they will see as less significant than returning the USSR to its former glory. They also have reason to believe we will treat these other consequences in a similar way, namely we will lose heart to continue once it begins to affect the American public.

Without the courage to stop Russia early on, we will have to contend later with whatever it is we allow them to become.