Tech. Sergeant Banker, Nathan M United States Air Force

I’ve been in the military for almost 9 years now. My enlistment date is coming up really quick: December 1st 2012. That is when I have to decide to stay in or get out. It’s pretty much the half-way point to the 20 year minimum to retire. If I enlist for a third term, it will most likely be for another 4 years. I’ve served all those year in the 133rd MN Air National Guard as a Structures troop. That means that I’m a carpenter for the Air Force. That’s actually how I started my career as a carpenter, which today is allowing me remodel my home into a place of ministry. I don’t know where I would be without the Guard. I also don’t know what use it is to wonder. Hm…

I’ve deployed twice. Same place both times: Kuwait. After three years away I moved into a dorm room right across the hall from my former living space. The running joke for the first few week among those of us who had been there before was, “I think we were just dreaming and we never actually left this place!” Not much had changed except for the work tempo as all the troops moved out of Iraq and needed a place to stay or transition through. It was a lot of work! I spent 4 months of my life there in 2008 and 6 more months in 2012. On my most recent deployment I got promoted to Technical Sergeant (E-6).

In a lot of ways I feel like Joseph who was blessed at whatever he put his hand to. I know that I’ve served well up until this point. My commander likes me (last I heard anyway), my supervisor likes me, some of the troops under me like me. I’ve gotten numerous awards and recognition for my work ethic and leadership ability. I know I could do well there. Maybe even become Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) if I tried for it (which would be a really great retirement deal!). I am second in command in my flight/shop of 9. That leaves a lot of room for advancement in the future. A few people never even make it to TSgt in their entire 20 years, and I was already there by 8. My heavenly Father’s favor has been on me from the moment I swore in.

Therein lies the struggle. Swearing in? Pledging allegiance? Promising my life to defend a kingdom of this world? Unquestioningly spending myself one Sabbath a month on behalf of my country? Volunteering to be separated from my wife for months at a time? Being trained to kill? Declaring our president as lord (in the very real sense – ruler) of my life? Something isn’t resonating here.

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do not take revenge. Forgive. Love. Killing is okay sometimes?

One of my primary functional theologies is that I can trust God. I can trust him with my finances. I can trust him with my house. I can trust him with my family. And, one of the most helpful, I can trust him to stand for justice on my behalf when I am wronged. But as soon as I take matters into my own hands, I stop trusting His. You just can’t do both. How does that apply to a believer in the military who is going over seas to take revenge, or better yet, a preemptive strike on our enemies? I’m getting sick of all the back-door ways that we are making it seem okay to not live how Jesus lived.

What would it look like to lay myself down on the behalf of other people, even my enemies, and trust that this will somehow change the world and truly end all the violence and evil? Isn’t this what Christ did? He humbled himself and told us that in His kingdom, the greatest are those who submit themselves under others like a servant. His kingdom and the kingdom I am sworn to protect right now do not mix very well. Is it even possible to serve two masters?

If I am a disciple of Jesus, my life should look somewhat like his. He avoided violence and condemned hatred at every turn. I am made in His image. Here is my life.

Final Thoughts

  1. I am not applying this conviction to anyone other than me.
  2. The government does have a role to wield the sword to maintain good order according to Romans 13.
  3. Yeah, Hitler and all that… I don’t have the answers, but I’m aware of the argument.
  4. Non-violence doesn’t necessarily mean non-conflict or non-action. Jesus didn’t kill anyone when he drove the money-changers from the temple.
  5. I believe I earned my right to speak my thoughts publicly by serving America for 9 years in the Air Force.
  6. Please feel free to voice your opposition. I am fully aware that most people in America don’t agree with me on this, including many in my own family. I probably won’t respond unless it is obvious that it is meant to encourage the dialog, not just to tell me I hate America.
  7. Maybe this post was a bad idea. But, my primary objective in writing this blog is to tell you what God is doing and has done in my life. This is definitely something He is in the process of doing.
  8. I remember arguing against this position to a number of people from our old church in an open forum discussion about this topic, so I get it. I’ve been on both sides. As a side note, the forum was held at a local bar and discussed over some brews! I think that’s pretty awesome for a church meeting (even though I don’t drink much anymore).
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About Nathan Banker

Nathan, Michelle and their two sons are occupational ministers in the Twin Cities. They do spiritual mentoring, a form of prayer ministry call Prayer Resolution and help run a small church-like community called Immerse. They dream of changing the world, one person at a time.

19 responses to “Tech. Sergeant Banker, Nathan M United States Air Force”

  1. Brenda says :

    For what it’s worth, the whole “two masters” thing has always made me a little uncomfortable when it comes to the military. I have friends and family who have been or are in the military, and I’m grateful for the sacrifices others make for my freedom and safety. I just personally couldn’t do it. Thanks for your service, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • nathanbanker says :

      Thanks Brenda. In 2 Tim Paul says that a good soldier of Christ cannot get involved in civilian affairs, because they he won’t be able to please his master. What does that really look like? How much do we “get involved” with the patterns (Romans 12) and ways of the world when we are called to live a radically unique and new way?

      I appreciate the extended thanks for my service, but I would ask that you also honor our Kingdom’s “deployed” soldiers who are overseas. Yes, missionaries. If only the church would honor those people like the world honors me as a military member. Tragic don’t you think?

  2. Bryan McWhite says :

    Man, I resonate with your thoughts, your leanings, your uncertainties and your tentative conclusions. Well said, bro. And the next time Fusion does a “Theology at the Pub” at Claddagh, you gotta come!

  3. stoneministriesworldwide says :

    Not sure what your concern is relating to your position serving in the United States Military or even if it is an issue. I do however understand your position on non-violence and being Christ like, but also believe that Christ puts people on this earth to protect others. Some are made for it, others are not. If you are fighting doubt, then I would say put yourself in a position that your spirit finds peace. As far as serving two masters, I would say you are not. There is only one master (God) who is Jesus Christ.

    Romans 13:4-5

    4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

    The oath taken is one given by God and no other. The President is not Lord of our country he is voted in and out of office, God cannot be. Your allegiance to your country is important for the wellbeing of our country and none other. Your oath is under God and no other. You raised a concern dealing with “killing being ok sometimes.”

    In war there are casualties on both sides and I have had my share here and abroad. You have a purpose to fulfill within your position as do I. Like I stated before, some are made for it and some are not. If you do not feel comfortable with the possibility of taking a human life then I would say do not sign-up again in December and move forward in your life to serve Christ in another position that your spirit feels at rest.

    I took an oath to take a life to save a life. Would someone find that wrong? Maybe, but I don’t. I am at peace with it. Yes, shooting someone is difficult, but not as difficult as seeing someone (child) shot in the head, because I didn’t act.

    For the last 19 years I have served my Country (Mosul, Iraq) and State (Texas). Within that time I have taken positions (SERT, Sniper) that are intended to cause harm and inflict pain to gain compliance from the lawless predators that lurk in our society and to protect the innocent so they can sleep with peace. God surely has a chosen few, rather it be healing, prophecy, inspirational or protectors.

    Just as a healer preaches of God’s miracles, so too can a protector. The primary purpose is to spread his word to those who have not yet heard it, to save the unsaved. Do I pray for my enemies? you bet I do.

    Is my job difficult? No, not really, because Christ is at the focal point of my life and my position. I am there because of him. It doesn’t matter if I was cleaning a bathroom or heading an assault on a known terrorist site. As long as Jesus Christ is in control, my spirit has peace. I have looked through your site and have not been able to find your denomination. I am non-denominational Christian and believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior. I believe you do not need to go to man for answers nor forgiveness, but rather, seek the guidance of Christ and earnestly repent of your sins. Keep fighting the good fight my brother and rebuke the torments and deception of the devil.

    Sincerely your brother in Christ,
    Jay Wong
    Stone Ministries Worldwide
    http://www.stoneministriesworldwide.com

    • nathanbanker says :

      Thanks for the contribution to the conversation. Obviously, you stance is valid and has a large following within the church. It is good to hear from both sides.

      Ever read the book Myth of a Christian Nation? You may hate it, but it definitely stimulates the mind on these types of topics and, as a side note, does an EXCELLENT job clarifying what the kingdom of God looks like. I also plan on reading Jesus for President soon.

      I go to a non-denominational charismatic church called Substance.

      Blessings,
      Nate

      • stoneministriesworldwide says :

        I’ll have to get that book. I am pretty open-minded when it comes to books. Have you ever read the book, World Religions? Great book, but scary.

        Thanks again,
        Jay Wong
        Stone Ministries Worldwide
        http://www.stoneministriesworldwide.com

        • nathanbanker says :

          I don’t know if I’ve read that book, but read a book called “Jesus among other gods” or something like that when I was younger. It was informative and good to know more about other religions. Why is it scary?

          • stoneministriesworldwide says :

            Scary in terms that people are blinded.

            • nathanbanker says :

              Hungry people eat. People are hungry for an encounter with the living God. We don’t need to be scared, we need to live in such a way that they see that what we have is what they have been hungry for all along.

              • stoneministriesworldwide says :

                You are absolutely right, but I think you have taken my reply too literally. Something “scary” and being scared are two different things. I guess I should have said, “eye opening”. Yes, hungry people do indeed eat, but I am not after the man whom can simply feed himself daily, but rather, the man whom is starving and cannot eat. The man whom eats the gristle from the bone and makes soup from marrow.

                • nathanbanker says :

                  Sorry if I misunderstood. This talk of a desperately hungry attitude is very thought provoking. Thoughts like: “Feast on Him.” “There’s always enough in the Kingdom, so invite anyone.” “Don’t be content with a taste of His goodness, gorge yourself.” “True fasting looks more like having a feast and inviting the poor to eat your food (Is. 58)”… Good stuff. Father, satisfy us with your presence and goodness. Let us never tire of feasting on you.

  4. Kurt says :

    “But as soon as I take matters into my own hands, I stop trusting His” a great reminder of how to live! Great posting and praying for you in the decisions a head of you, know of your gift for serving others. Grandpa Kurt

  5. Russ says :

    Beautiful insight and great questions. Thanks for revealing your wrestling with life matters.

    • nathanbanker says :

      Thanks Russ. Were you there that day we debated this issue at Calvary with Pastor Jeff? Interesting how I was on the complete other side of things back then. Also interesting how I am pulled toward the side of non-violence as I grow in intimacy with Christ. Blessings.

  6. tim kocon says :

    Nathan,
    Love to talk about this stuff .Protect and serve the innocent.You make valid points and implementing them is the trick. You have alot on your plate. Thanks for the update.
    Tim Kocon

    • nathanbanker says :

      Thanks Tim! My biggest concern is serving the “least of these” like Christ did. We definitely cannot stand by and do nothing while the people around us are hurting and being hurt. My question is, what does the Kingdom of God really look like? My concern is that we often don’t live the Kingdom of God, but rather just a religious version of the kingdom of the world. Jesus’ way doesn’t always make sense on the surface. Like when he says, “Love you enemies.” Not a very effective plan or eradicating and stopping evil… unless it has the power to change our enemy’s hearts instead of altering their behavior. Thanks for the feedback and thoughts. Blessings,

      Nate

  7. Zachary Wormwood says :

    Nate,

    Maybe its even strange I am reading your blog some Sunday night from the other side of the world (I am now living in a land of KimChi and quiet mornings.) But this is what you get for being so honest on the internet.

    I just started reading your blog tonight. Your honesty is disarming but leaves nothing to abhor. Just wanted to say i have been encouraged.

    Thanks Nate.

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