“There is an all-out assault on religious liberty in the military right now,” stated retired Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin at the Chaplains Association for Religious Liberty’s (CARL) July 12 Torchbearer Award Reception. The famed former Delta Force commander and his fellow speakers at Washington, DC’s Reserve Officers Association highlighted the damaging disconnect between an increasingly secularized America and its often devout defenders.
The opening remarks of the event’s moderator, Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes, contrasted with the traditional Christian prayer and singing of the National Anthem that preceded the evening’s speakers. He discussed Miley Cyrus’ 2013 “twerk heard around the world,” an “act of public debauchery” that occurred roughly simultaneously with Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s publicly castigated defense of natural man-woman marriage. “That is where we are as a country right now. Right is wrong, wrong is right, it is if our values have been turned upside down.”
Starnes described a “war on the Judeo-Christian values that shaped and flavored the founding documents of our great country.” “Without that Judeo-Christian foundation I believe the country crumbles,” he added. “Proud to call myself a gun-toting, chicken-eating, Bible-clinging son of a Baptist,” he defined himself as a “Duck Dynasty guy living in a Miley Cyrus world and Washington is twerking all of us.”
Air Force Chaplain Major General Dondi E. Costin concurred in his closing benediction that “we live in a world which is increasingly unrecognizable by our grandparents.” Senator James Lankford (R-OK) stated that modern Americans “live in a culture where, for whatever reason, people are becoming afraid of faith.” He referenced the legislative efforts needed to include the United States national motto “In God We Trust” in the Capitol Visitors Center’s design and recent Iowa infringements of religious liberty in the name of LGBT agendas.
Representative John Fleming noted that a “radical Left who wants to substitute government for God” was extending its agenda to the United States military. Service members are “being prosecuted and persecuted for the faith” even as recent proposals for military “atheist chaplains” threatened to take away precious billets from true spiritual counselors. An astonished Fleming observed that such atheists can only grimly say to service personnel on death’s verge that “there is nothing after this.”
The veteran Boykin confirmed Fleming’s concerns with vivid testimony of his Delta Force service from its 1977 founding. Boykin recounted how the unit’s legendary first commander, Colonel Charles Beckwith, a Green Beret who had survived a .50 caliber stomach wound in Vietnam, rejected Boykin’s suggestion for a Delta Force chaplain. Beckwith had argued that he would simply double as chaplain, but then called upon Boykin to lead Delta Force in prayer the night before the April 24, 1980, Iran hostage rescue attempt. He read Isaiah 6:8 to the commandos and recalled that “there was a chance that none of us would come back, but certainly the odds were against us that all of us would come back.”
The mission’s tragic failure costing eight Delta Force deaths emphasized a chaplain’s importance, as unit survivors faced their traumas without proper spiritual support, yet ensuing years brought no remedy. Delta Force participated in operations such as the 1983 Grenada and 1989 Panama liberations, but not until Boykin assumed command in 1992 could he prioritize a chaplaincy. Nonetheless, his men still awaited a chaplain when they fought through the October 3, 1993, Black Hawk Down engagement in Mogadishu, Somalia, that claimed 18 soldiers.
“I don’t care what any of the nonsensical liberals say, I have never seen an atheist in a foxhole,” Boykin stated, confirming an old adage with personal experience. He recalled a recurring tendency for soldiers before combat operations to approach chaplains at their quarters or in mess lines for spiritual reflection. Nonetheless, “we are trying to drive the most essential and most fundamental thing out of our military, and that is the faith component, by the evil that is being brought in to our military.”
Boykin noted in particular that “this LGBT agenda of this administration is making life difficult, not just for chaplains, but for everybody.” His words brought to mind Lieutenant Commander Wes Modder, a United States Navy chaplain who had faced before exoneration disciplinary action for expressing to naval personnel during counseling disapproval of homosexuality. Boykin’s experience indicates that Modder’s removal from service would severely damage morale for the personnel in his care.
Unfortunately, most Americans and their leaders cannot appreciate Boykin’s insight across an ever growing military-civilian gap in a country where less than one percent of the population volunteers for a professional military. According to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, President Barack Obama’s only passionate defense interest was lifting the American military’s ban on open homosexuality. Like Obama, homosexual activist and current Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning has never served in the military, where risks to life and limb give existential faith questions immediacy largely unknown in civilian life.
In such a context Boykin’s old-fashioned, presently unfashionable views give him a “habit of getting in trouble,” but in retirement he remains undaunted. Given his record of canceled military base speaking engagements, he joked about expecting a similar rescindment by higher authorities while recently traveling to a presentation at Fort Bragg, Georgia. Nevertheless, “we have got quit worrying about what someone is going to say about us or what somebody is going to think about us.”
With echoes of the Book of Ezekiel’s watchman, Boykin emphasizes that courage of convictions has consequences for the next world as well as the present. “I do not want to see a man or a woman, go into combat, go into harm’s way, go into danger, that has not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“It’s your fault if they go into harm’s way and they have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he has said to Christian chaplains. Torchbearer Award recipient Representative Randy Forbes accordingly concluded in paraphrase of the Book of Jude: “fight for the faith.”