Athens Now on several occasions has sounded the alarm with respect to the erosion of the religious freedoms of our soldiers at bases all over the country. The great irony is that we have been put in the position to do all we can to protect them while they are in the business of potentially laying down their lives in order to protect our 1st Amendment guaranteed rights.
There was the Army Chaplain, Joseph Lawhorn who was issued a reprimand because, in a suicide prevention class that he was conducting to protect our soldiers, he dared tell how Scripture helped him through some dark times in his own life. The caliber of the reprimand stopped his career from advancing. A sailor asked Chaplain Wes Modder about same-sex marriage, and because he gave his answer based on Scripture, Modder was nearly kicked out of the Navy. Air Force Academy cadets who had scriptures written on the white boards outside their rooms were forced to take them down because they might “offend” someone passing by. Another Air Force Sergeant by the name of Phillip Monk wouldn’t affirm same-sex marriage, and was threatened with the ruination of his career by his commanding officer. Bibles have been removed from the drawers of nightstands in R and R hotel rooms because someone might open the drawer, see them, and again, be offended. The list goes on.
However, in South Korea, the exact opposite is occurring in a most public manner. Just a few weeks ago, roughly 5,000 Korean troops were publically baptized by immersion as a profession of their faith in an event sanctioned by the South Korean military command. It was the largest mass baptism event in Korean history. There were 40 local churches involved, 22 American leaders as well as Korean chaplains on hand, and it was held in Yeonmu-kwan Auditorium, located at the Korean Army Training Center. The baptismal garments worn by the Korean soldiers had red crosses right in the middle of their chests, and it did not appear that any Buddhists or anyone else were “offended.” If they were, they were thankfully ignored.
By contrast, when Iraqi interpreters became Christians and were baptized in one of Saddam’s swimming pools. We and they knew that to make a public declaration of their faith could mean their death, just as it was with the early church. I am forever grateful that the Iraqis I had the privilege of leading to the Lord made it to the US and are safe, at least for now. With ISIS now in all 50 states, they are just as vulnerable as we are, perhaps more so.
The Korean military is not finished with publically meeting the spiritual needs of their soldiers, however. Because there is such a profound spiritual awakening occurring amongst their soldiers, the Korean Army has plans to build a chapel that will be called the Yeonmu-dae Church. It will be the largest military chapel anywhere in the world.
In reading about the scope of this event, I think what touched me the most was the coverage in a secular Korean paper called the Korea Herald. Because there were religious leaders invited from America to participate in the event, the Herald made the following statement on August 17th: “The event was also a way of thanking the U.S. military personnel for their past sacrifices in the once war-torn country.”
What a concept. Thanking the U.S. for its sacrifices by allowing Korean soldiers the public opportunity to experience the time honored symbol of new life: baptism. May we insist upon the same level of freedom, whether public or private, for our own protectors.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner