For God and Queen and Country – Are contemporary worldviews consistent with service in the Australian Army?

“While we are grateful to all the brave men and officers for the events of the past few days, we should, above all, be very grateful to Almighty God who gives us victory.” 

Abraham Lincoln

The Australian Army’s Land Warfare Publication – Personnel 1-1-1 (LWP (Pers) 1-1-1) on “Chaplaincy” reinforces the importance of developing a soldier’s faith – particularly with respect to an operational environment and details the specific areas in which military chaplains might be expected to exercise pastoral care, namely;

  1. decision-making;
  2. personal integrity and responsibility;
  3. family issues;
  4. personal morality;
  5. the moral dimensions of decisions and actions in combat;
  6. grief, injury, illness and death;
  7. CIMHS and battle fatigue; and
  8. host nation religions and their impact on operations.

These areas of pastoral care and influence clearly speak to a specific individual’s worldview when we apply a definition which would suggest that a worldview will result in a “heartfelt commitment” (Sire – The Universe Next Door (2000)) in the application of ethics and moral values in the soldier.

When the idiom of “For God and Queen (King) and Country” was popularised, the prevailing worldview in the Australian Army would’ve been broadly reflective of society’s predominantly Christian Theistic worldview. While there have been many books and articles written about a pacifistic response to war by Christians (one example being, MacGregor’s “The New Testament Basis of Pacifism”) – a basis for Judeo-Christian participation in warfare can be found in Old Testament scripture (Deuteronomy, chapter 20) and is supported by well developed theological themes attributed to St Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century AD.

Aquinas proposed that the moral legitimacy of war could be tested against the following criteria (as reproduced in “Between Pacifism and Jihad” by J. Daryl Charles):

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or the community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain.
  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.
  3. There must be serious prospects of success.
  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

If we look at the worldview presuppositions which support the “tests” listed above, we see that we make an initial assumption that it must be empirically possible to assess that an aggressor is “evil” (or at the very least, poised to inflict lasting, grave and certain damage). We must follow such an assessment with a hierarchy of controls and we must have a means of quantifying our own morals/ethics if we are not to introduce “graver” evil.

A Christian Theist, could quite conceivably summarise the application of these “tests” as identifying a Creator (and creation event), followed by a distinctive appearance of sin (the fall) and a desire to return society to a pre-fallen condition (redemption). This “Creation-Fall-Redemption” model for the assessment of worldview is fully articulated in Wolter’s “Creation Regained”; and in a sense, the application of military force might be seen by Christian combatants as an attempt to bring about “created order” in a localised (or finite) time and space.

Supporting such a view is an underlying narrative; namely the Bible. The importance of a supporting narrative cannot be over-emphasised as it is the existence of mythical tradition which generates consistency, conformity and significant heartfelt commitment in adherents of a given worldview.

Now that we have a sense of the Army’s historical, prevailing worldview (and its influence on ethical decision making) – we can now examine the potential impact of contemporary worldviews on the Australian Army.

It has already been revealed that a Christian Theist is likely to have an understanding of moral absolutes as detailed in his/her underlying narrative. This presupposition that we can discern good from evil will also generally apply to other Monotheistic worldviews. However, the same cannot be said of Pantheistic Monism (including the New Age Movement – NAM), Naturalism and Postmodernism” as these worldviews are either dismissive of the existence of evil (sin) or reliant upon a relative (or experiential) sense of good and evil.

Whilst it is appreciated that such individuals will live in our pluralistic society and will (for the most part) not necessarily espouse views that are hugely “radical” – the fact remains that their ethics/morals are substantially self-determined and subject to the emotional state of the individual. Where this becomes problematic in a military context is that a decision to use force may be reduced to a vengeance-based response or an undertaking to intervene in another state’s affairs based on emotive stimuli, rather than a grave and imminent threat. Such a response is clearly inconsistent with our understanding of “Just War” and the legitimacy tests proposed by Aquinas.

We should also note that contemporary worldviews affect our Army “in barracks” as well as on operations. If we baseline our ethics using a non-theistic worldview it is extremely difficult to objectively define tolerance and standards. In Fritz Ridenour’s “So What’s the Difference?” he claims that the new tolerance is:

 “…tolerant of everyone except those who say there are objective moral absolutes”.

Such a relative view of tolerance has already been shown by the RegimentalSergeant Major – Army (RSM-A) in “Army – The Soldiers’ Newspaper” (Ed. 1301 – March 28, 2013) when he spoke of ADF participation in Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras; suggesting that acceptance of the participants’ lifestyles was a sign of “maturity” for Army and its members. It appears that diversity (regardless of the appropriateness of one’s worldview) may be the new measure of tolerance in the Australian Army?

Likewise, this same edition of the Soldiers’ Newspaper contained a liftout entitled “The Women of Army”. The liftout featured stories and editorial comment highlighting gender equality. An astute reader may say “what’s the harm in this?” and my response would be “There’s absolutely none”; but what is important to note is that we see a presupposition which potentially challenges a Theistic worldview, in that, a belief in a Creator-God and a creation event will often lead to the conclusion that men and women were created “equal – but different” and that acceptance of creational difference need not be misogynistic nor discriminatory.

The forgoing paragraphs identify (in broad detail) the nature of a Christian Theistic worldview when applied to a military environment. Certain hallmarks of a Christian worldview might be easily expressed in the adage “for God and Queen and Country” and are entirely consistent with a framework for modern, unconventional “just war”. It is critical that in shaping the composition of the Australian Army that we remain mindful of whether or not contemporary worldviews will be compatible with (or at worst – erode) our ability to make ethical decisions when it comes to shaping, deploying and utilising military force.

 

This essay was written by a colleague who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has independently studied theology and for obvious reasons believes in discretion.

This essay highlights in a very logical, thought-provoking and unemotional way that Christianity is not just a ‘nice’ sideshow for Defence. It is essential if our nation is to make ethical decisions about the use of force.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of eight children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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2 Comments

  1. Brilliant essay A+! This is becoming more and more relevant in today’s armed services. Rather than strengthening and maintaining the historical moral and ethical stances, the Services of today seem to have a policy of relaxing those under the guise of “maturing”, “growing up” and “progressing”. It appears the Army of today wants to go down the path of lessening morals and ethics, and as it does, it will be seen as less and less professional. This is obvious when you see the hypocrisy of the Chief or Army’s selective and subjective views of “tolerance”. The rhetoric of the CoA saying that those with a objective view, like Bernard’s and others who have strong moral and ethical views, which were previously embraced as highly desirable by the Army, are now considered repugnant, and the new “all inclusive” views of moral degenerates are the new norm. One has to question the motives of the CoA to wonder if this social engineering experiment is deliberate, and maybe it is, if the desire is to fight unjust wars.

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  2. It’s noteworthy that even the Prince of Peace himself did not decry the existence of a military force (Luke 3 v. 14& 15). His concern was that soldiers honour their calling – “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation;” – clearly an ethical issue within the Roman army. Undoubtedly today, Jesus would also stand by his original creation of ‘male and female’ and his creative purpose for the unity of husband and wife.(Mark 10 v. 6-8) The modern army’s tacit approval of deviant sexual behaviour is an aberration of the Service’s ethics and cannot be expected to promote or maintain a strong and reliant force.

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