“I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!” (TWENTY-FIFTH IN A SERIES)
Pastors Answer Frequently-Asked Questions
Whenever a secular group or organization tries to inject a spiritual component into its activities or purpose, there is cause for concern. A secular group is ill-equipped to provide spiritual ministry, leadership, instruction, or worship in a God-pleasing manner.
Secular groups may have members ranging from atheists, to various Christians, to worshipers of false gods. A group with such a blend of gods and beliefs simply cannot properly speak to matters of the soul, God, or His Word.
Invariably, when God and His Word are brought into a secular organization, any spiritual content is diminished to the lowest common denominator among the participants. This usually comes in the form of a nameless god who might include Jesus, could be Allah, a generic Christ-less god, or something entirely different. All of these conflict with what God says: “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8).
In addition, scriptural truth is reduced to the natural religion of man—Law-oriented and built on works. The result is a sense of religious spirituality and morality that doesn’t proclaim Christ, and therefore, does not offer any genuine spiritual benefit. The Gospel of Christ alone is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).
The American Legion is this sort of organization. It was chartered as a patriotic veterans’ organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. Positive secular and civic efforts on the part of the American Legion include a variety of youth programs and other community programs, providing for veterans’ well-being, and a place of camaraderie for veterans to share in their mutual history.
There are, however, concerns about some of what the American Legion supports and sinful behavior at Legion events. The greatest concerns center on the American Legion’s attempts to be spiritual, although doing so in a God-pleasing manner is beyond its capability.
The Legion states, “The American Legion recognizes the influence of Almighty God in all worthwhile endeavors.” It further states, “It is the aim and objective of [the Legion’s For God and Country program] to bring God to the foreground in American life.”
The natural recognition of an almighty god, the knowledge that this higher being must be involved for anything to succeed, a desire for morality, and a sense of spiritual need is what prompts the American Legion to have a chaplaincy program that conducts prayers, rites, and other religious services.
However, because the American Legion is not able to administer the Gospel faithfully for reasons presented above, the Legion’s efforts result in a generic and nameless view of God that affirms all faiths as equal and can involve its members in a universalistic view of God, and in unionistic worship.
When the American Legion focuses on the earthly, it has done some good things; but its desire to also delve into the spiritual is what prompts great concern.
As Christians in the world but not of the world, we engage in ongoing evaluation and prayerful decisions regarding our involvement with the world. It is important that we not try to establish a list of approved and disapproved associations, but it is also important that we use God’s Word and its truth in evaluation and faithful application in our walk with Christ. Because of the concerns surrounding the American Legion, pastors in our fellowship seek to give patient and evangelical guidance to any in our congregations who are members of The American Legion, with the goal of leading them out.
Your pastor is ready to discuss these matters with you and provide guidance in evaluating earthly associations as you mutually grow and serve one another.
Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.