“Honor” doesn’t mean what we think


A certain “news” cast recently ridiculed a soldier who had gone missing or AWOL, repeatedly criticizing a friend’s defending him as “honorable.” In this media head’s eyes, a man’s refusal to kill indiscriminately, and subsequent choice to walk away from a life and situation that demanded he do so, can be nothing but dishonorable. Such a viewpoint, expounded by a person purported to be a Christian, calls for some examination.

The definition of honor, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “high moral standards of behavior.” Dictionary.com defines it as “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs or actions.” Oxford American English Dictionary: “adherence to what is right…quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.”

In other words, honor is the choice to follow and do what one knows is right, regardless of the consequences for oneself.

Now of course humans are fallible. I would venture to say that not one person in the history of the world (excepting, of course, Jesus, who was – and is – so much more than human) has been completely honorable in every aspect of life. However, for this newscaster, while vociferously proclaiming “Christianity,” to condemn another for refusing to kill is both disheartening and at odds with the teaching of the one he claims as a Savior. It would be funny if only there weren’t tens of thousands more doing the same.

Some would argue that this soldier gone AWOL had an obligation, a contract to fulfill. He joined the military; he chose this life. But perhaps it is not so black and white.

Military recruiters, by virtue of the position, are salesmen. Their one job is to fill the ranks of their field with as many willing and, they hope, capable young men and women as they can. And they are given many advantages in order to do so. Their offices are often in shopping malls where teenagers meet and hang out. Commercials abound on television, the internet, and the radio, depicting an exciting life of adventure and bravery. The typical recruiter builds on this same platform, talking with the potential recruit about travel, benefits such as college tuition, and choice in training and station. He paints a picture of excitement, prestige, and security, all rolled into an impressively uniformed package.

Recruiters have another advantage. They are given access to students in public – and some private – schools. A ripe captive audience largely anesthetized by video games that glorify the killing of faceless enemies, who miraculously jump back up for more the next time the game is loaded. The reality, when these young students find themselves graduated to active duty combat, is altogether different.

I don’t believe that recruiters are monsters. Of the ones that I have met, I can say that they have been people who care about their families and who want to defend their loved ones from a perceived threat. They believe the words they speak about defending their country, and are respected for following their convictions.

Why, then, is another man who follows his convictions publicly denounced and vilified? Simply because his convictions don’t mesh with public opinion? This man could not silence his conscience and do what he believed to be morally wrong.

Thankfully, neither did Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Jesus.