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Are You Battle-Ready for the Army of the Lord?

February 23, 2018

A disturbing report came from the Pentagon in 2014 that speaks to the overall condition of our country. Here is a summary:

Nearly 71 percent of the 34 million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. do not qualify for military service for reasons related to health, physical appearance, and educational background, according to the Pentagon.

Obesity is the most common reason for being turned away, but others are disqualified because they lack a high school diploma/GED, are convicted felons, or are taking prescription drugs for ADHD. From a cosmetic standpoint, ear gauges and certain tattoos. While some requirements can be waived, others cannot.

The upshot is that only 1 percent of young people are both “eligible and inclined to have conversation with” the military about possible service, according to the Defense Department. The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly (Sources: Time and the Wall Street Journal).

There are of course many standards by which to judge the health of a nation, but military readiness is surely one of them. As Rome declined something similar happened. The Roman Army was increasingly staffed by mercenaries, many of whom were barbarians or slaves. Roman citizens lost interest in defending their land, but they also lost their fitness for such duty through luxurious living, weight gain, alcoholism, and sexually transmitted diseases.

What of us as a nation? Obesity among the young has increased dramatically since I was a boy. Young people today engage in less physical activity than the youth of my time, who watched much less television and did have not computers or video games to fill their time. We rode bikes, played pick-up football, and built tree forts. In those days, fewer than 1 in 20 kids was obese. Today, it is about 1 in 6. It also seems to me that there is something different about the food we eat today. I ate a lot throughout my 30s without gaining a pound; so did most people my age (I am in my late 50s). Something seems to have changed in the way food is prepared; I suspect a lot more sugar is being used.

As for the other problems of no high school diploma, prescription drugs for ADHD, felonies, and tattoos, this speaks to the decline of family life and the overwhelming influence of social media and those little blue screens that engross so many of us.

Of course I am a priest, not a sociologist, nutritionist, or doctor; but nothing in this report bodes well for us. On a spiritual level, it also speaks to our difficulty in accepting and being ready for sacrifice. Indeed, there is more than a physical war to be fought; there is also a spiritual one. Scripture speaks of this:

  • Join me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim 2:3).
  • But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called (1 Tim 6:12).
  • Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable (1 Cor 9:25).
  • If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor 14:8)
  • Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Eph 6:13-16).

Thus, even as we mourn the loss of battle-readiness in our nation, we also need to lament the lack of readiness for spiritual combat. Too few of us can bother ourselves to fast, even for an hour before Holy Communion. We find it difficult to get to Mass on Holy Days, to spend time each day in prayer, or to give up something on Fridays. Even the smallest sufferings can cause us to become discouraged and depressed.

Simply criticizing ourselves may not be the answer. Rather, calling on God to assist us in getting ourselves “back into shape” may be better. Pick just one or two things to work on, for example spending more time in prayer or offering a sacrifice (e.g., abstinence) on all Fridays of the year. Once these have been accomplished, try to add others. “Fast” from foolish shopping; restrict your portion sizes. Small, consistent steps may get us further than self-reproach and pursuing unrealistically ambitious resolutions.

Too many of us are out of shape for battle! Lent is a time to do some spiritual pushups and to take up the fuller armor of God.

 

Comments (12)

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  1. Nathan M says:

    Thank you for this post Monsignor. It is a worrysome state of affairs.

    I am of the opinion that the spiritual and physical fitness go somewhat hand-in-hand. Many people complain that prayer makes them tired. I think this is symptomatic of a physical tiredness (increasingly due to over-use of their phones in the evening hours) rather than of the prayer itself being tiring. Abstaining from meat on Fridays is another practice which has both a physical and spiritual significance. Without the self-discipline to address one, the other will suffer, too.

    By the way, I think when you mentioned how the youth rode bikes, there is a typo; it reads “road bikes”.

  2. PJ says:

    Welfare, government food cards and other free handouts. All one has to do is grocery shop and see what is in carts. Taxpayers are paying for everything so one can chose evil vs. good and self over God.

    • Chris says:

      Having needed a “government hand out” as a young married couple with an unexpected newborn, we were hardly seeking evil. Rather, we were avoiding the all too often societal solution of abortion. In the years after I finished my degree and became quite financially successful I spent years giving back to the hungry and paying more taxes than many make in a year. There’s no doubt that people abuse the system, however I would be more concerned about your monitoring what others have in their shopping carts and not leaving the judgement up to God. You just never know the story of others or what is in their hearts. I am quite confident that the Lord doesn’t need our help in sorting all of that out.

  3. I spent the morning talking with my husband about your article. Both of us are veterans, having served in the 60’s and 70’s. There was a draft in place at that time, and there was a good cross section of recruits. The two of us are saddened, but not shocked about that Pentagon report. This problem of getting good workers is everywhere, the trades, restaurants, police and firefighters, even many professions.

    The reasons for this are complex. We need to begin to systematically solve this problem. One of many things that needs to be done is to stop spoiling children, both at home and in schools. How to motivate parents and teachs, I don’t know.

  4. alle says:

    Thank you for your insight on this disturbing trend that we confront each day
    in the Therapeutic world: Complacency = Catabolism of our tri-part being… 🙁

    I truly believe we need to start teaching our children the difference between want vs need.
    Isn’t this the first test we failed in The Garden?

  5. Mike says:

    , to be honest I don’t really care if the Nations Ready for War. There’s not much worth saving in the nation. My wife and I have spoken about this and sometimes we think you’d be better off if there was no United States. It’s decadent, sinful, I’m trying to make a living here is no longer possible or at least going extremely difficult for those of us on the low end of things. At some point something better comes along or something worse but those on the low end it doesn’t change anything.

  6. Christianity was spread and grew out of an organized movement just as are all the various morally corrupt social engineering restructuring movements of the present that have gained a foothold in our society. The Church leadership has become a flower power of armchair warriors leading nothing other than passive attempts to stay relevant by pushing placeboes like inclusiveness. No one is organizing againts the problems in our society for fear of backlash from ACLU and the organized movements that are attacking the Catholic Christian faith. Abortion, the decline of the family structure, church attendance, murder, mass shootings, immorality and obesity are symptoms of a sick society. Where are the Church doctors who will organize a movement to combat and irradicate the disease rather than ease the effects of the symptoms. History has proven that sometimes an epidemic will just have to run it’s course.

  7. Richard Connell says:

    Insightful quote and good spiritual review.

    Here is a another indication of the difficulties facing this nation (the USA):

    Federal Debt Held by the Public as Percent of Gross Domestic Product: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FYGFGDQ188S

    It is a graph, and a startling one at that.

    “Federal Debt Held by the Public as Percent of Gross Domestic Product (FYGFGDQ188S) was first constructed by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in October 2012.”

  8. John says:

    I graduated in the mid 60’s from a large Los Angeles high school. First, none of my friends were overweight. They were all mostly surfers and I can’t remember even one surfer at any surf spot that would fit this category. In a graduating class 600 maybe 25 were overweight.

    Maybe the military is being too picky. I was drafted into the army in ’68 and they were taking every male they could get their hands on. In basic our platoon of all draftees did better on our training scores than the other 3 or 4 that were enlistees.

  9. Doug says:

    A good set of comparisons. Your set of scriptures was apposite as well. Of course Paul’s point was that a Christian’s weapons are not physical [2Cor 10:4], but just getting through the workday with enough spare energy for spiritual pursuits requires a measure of physical fitness.
    It’s true that a decent Body Mass Index, to name one standard, isn’t found often in the Western world; Paul said also that “physical training is good enough” but, he adds, “the usefulness of religion [only] is unlimited”. 1Tim 4:8 NJB.
    What does give me pause is your emphasis on military readiness in the U.S. Abraham recognized Yahweh as “Judge of the whole world”; Isaiah likewise called him “the God of the whole world”. Gen 18:25; Isa 54:5. Twice in the last century the “Christian” nations of the world have gone at each other hammer and tongs over national issues; the greatest bloodshed in history. Their weapons were certainly not spiritual, although both sides often called on – the God of the whole earth!
    When the God of Dan 2:44 and Rev 16 comes calling, what lives should we be found to be living? “Holy and saintly” ones, or those of Caesar’s common soldiers? 2Pet 3:11.

    • Chris says:

      While I agree with your overall point of “God is the God of the whole world”, I think you are missing the point of the article. The United States, even with its vast number of faults throughout its history, is the greatest nation-state for good the world has ever seen. While many point to its failures, no nation has ever done more for others with no possibility of recompense. The world without the US is a far bleaker place than it is now. But, the US has been good because the US was good. Contrary to modern politicians we were a Christian nation. Christianity guided our decisions and our policy. If our society dies (which it inevitably will) is this actually a good thing for the rest of the world? My answer would be, no.

      As for your comments about “Christian” nations warring with each other (I assume you mean WWII and the Cold War), Nazi Germany and the USSR can hardly be called “Christian”. While they were at one time Christian and most of their peoples may have been Christian, their governments certainly were not Christian. Russia, China, and Nazi Germany were the 3 greatest regimes to murder over 100 million combined. None were Christian.

      Man will always be flawed. We should not look to a nation-state or secular government for salvation. But to say we (or anyone) would actually be better off if the US weren’t around anymore is folly. We do have a lot that needs fixing though. God help us.

      • Doug says:

        An interesting comment.
        You may not know that Czarist Russia was considered part of Christendom by the Church, although the events of 1054 put longlasting friction the two. That same Russia was a major factor in WWI, fighting against Germany, whose Lutheran and Catholic population would argue strenuously with your opinion. You would have got the same argument from their sons, who fought the same “Christian” nations just twenty years afterward. England is officially an Anglican country. The population of the US likewise considers itself mostly Christian. All these fought each other to the death in two World Wars.
        In any case, there’s a much larger picture to see, one that, as I pointed out, is truly worldwide. Please read the passages I suggested, at Dan 2:44 and Rev 16. Am I mistaken, or do they point to the extinction of all of man’s attempts to govern himself?
        And Yahweh has always purposed for the earth to be ruled by him. We’re even told to pray for that outcome: Mt 6:9,10. “… on earth, as in heaven …”, right? Adam rejected God’s headship, but that did not cause God to alter his purpose. If it had, wouldn’t Adam and Satan prove to be stronger than their creator?
        Most of us have a fondness for the place of our birth, but does that mean its gpvernment is better than God’s?