Saturday, May 6, 2017

Loyalty and Duty in Politics, the Military and Religion

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

President Trump has proclaimed May 1 as Loyalty Day.  The proclamation states, “The United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality and justice,” and goes on to praise service members and veterans who “…pledge to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Loyalty to God and country is a fundamental American value, but coming from Donald Trump it seems ironic, if not insincere.  Trump’s obsessive concern for his own interests at the expense of others has been a hallmark of his business and entertainment career.  It was evident in his reality TV show, The Apprentice, where Trump relished telling contestants, “You’re fired.” 

Trump’s supreme confidence in himself and disdain for criticism has also been evident in his politics.  At the Republican convention Trump proclaimed that “I alone can fix it [the system].  Since then he has demanded obsequious loyalty from Republicans and shamelessly berated and threatened all who have questioned his policies—including federal judges. 

During the campaign Trump was compared to fascist demagogues like Mussolini and Hitler, who, like Trump, exploited public fears and hatred to gain personal power that put them beyond the reach of public accountability.  It’s truly amazing that so many people in the U.S. ignored Trump’s obnoxious, deceitful and bullying characteristics and elected him president.

Trump has stated his political objectives in terms of his personal happiness.  He has said he will be unhappy if North Korea conducts any further nuclear tests, and commended its leader as a smart cookie for eliminating his opposition.  Trump has also commended other international strongmen, like Russia’s Putin, Egypt’s El Sissi, Tukey’s Erdogan, and the Philippine’s Duterte.

Trump’s outlandish and erratic foreign policy has undermined U.S. national security by poisoning the domestic politics of important allies.  Public opinion in Mexico and South Korea has turned against the U.S. and threatened decades of foreign policy successes in those nations.

Trump avoided military service, but if he had served he would have learned the meaning of loyalty and duty in protecting and defending the Constitution, and might better understand the paradox of an authoritarian military in a libertarian democracy.  Those in the military must sacrifice their personal freedom and risk their lives to defend the freedom of all Americans.

Loyalty is the first of seven Army values: Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.  Those altruistic values stand in stark contrast to the self-centered values of Donald Trump and his supporters and should be required of all politicians, with the president and commander-in-chief of America’s military forces at the top of the list.
Those Army values are grounded in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including those of other races, religions and political preferences.  That love command is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and all of them serve in the U.S. military, where no religion is given preference over others.         

The military has been a harbinger of social change in America.  It has provided a model for civilian society to eliminate the evils of racial discrimination, and it can do the same for religious discrimination.  The military prohibits religious proselytizing, such as the banner at the Air Force Academy in 2005 that urged football players to play for “Team Jesus Christ.”

President Trump was elected by Christians, who represent over 70% of Americans. They, more so than Trump, need to understand the meaning of loyalty and duty to God and country.  In an increasingly pluralistic world democracy requires a politics of reconciliation; but those Christians who supported Donald Trump created more division than reconciliation.

Concepts of loyalty and duty reflect a nation’s values and its standards of legitimacy.  If Americans ignore their loyalty and duty to God and country and support divisive demagogues like Trump, they do so at their peril.  The ideals of freedom, equality and justice require leaders who respect others and promote the altruistic values of selfless service and integrity.

It will take a political and religious revival—or a revolution—to restore altruistic values in America.  Since most Americans are Christians that revival must begin in the church.  Loyalty and duty to God and country require that the altruistic teachings of Jesus take precedence over exclusivist beliefs that promote religious and political division rather than reconciliation. 

Notes and commentary on related topics:

On the paradox of an authoritarian military in a libertarian democracy, see chapter 5, Military Legitimacy: Might and Right in the New Millennium, pp 88-89, posted as a Resource at

On Army values, see; on their relationship to military legitimacy and leadership, see chapter 5, Military Legitimacy: Might and Right in the New Millennium, at

On prohibited proselytizing at the Air force Academy in 2005 that was acknowledged by its superintendent, LTG Rosa (now retired), see  LTG Rosa is now president of The Citadel.

On the politics of loving our neighbors as love ourselves, see

On the need for a revolution in religion and politics to make the greatest commandment a priority of faith and politics, see


  1. I may be "depolrable" for asking, but tell me about your military service. Or public service if you are a CO. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comment. The issue of loyalty in government service--whether to one's superior or to the Constitution and the rule of law--keeps coming up, most recently with Comey. My military background is as a JAG and civil affairs officer working primarily in special operations forces, both active and reserve. You might want to take a look at my book, "Military Legitimacy: Might and Right in the New Millennium" (Frank Cass, 1996) and a more recent article in "Special Warfare" (Jan-Mar 2013), "Back to the Future: Human Rights and Legitimacy in the Training and Advisory Mission," both of which are posted in Resources at this website.

  2. Thanks, I'll take a look at your book. But I truly believe you're giving Trump too much credit for the short time he has been at the helm. I was also in the military, the Marine Corps, and spent 28 years as a child abuse investigator in New York. I am recently retired. I understand loyalty, commitment, "esprit de corps, et al. But what I am perplexed about is your assumption that Christians must foment change you deem as necessary. After observing Donald Trump for the last 37 years, we are well aware of his antics. And we also could not believe he actually became President. Believe me when I say, that on a bet, NO ONE would think he could have anyone outside of the tri-state area vote for him. We were wrong. But most people I know, were not as affected as the elite seemed to be. Trump was always on the outside of his own world. He was never liked by the media, or the people of his class. But for the rest of us, the working class folks, he remained an accessible NYC curiosity. To your claim as to WHY people voted for him, he seemed affable and approachable. Unlike Obama who had an air of elitism and a narcissistic fashion, Trump was like a "regular guy". Yes he was crude and crass and a playboy. But he entertained, and though that is not a criteria to get elected President on, people were tired of the same politicians who over-promised and minimally delivered. Blame it on the fast and furious society we live in or sheer laziness, but the Empire, though tarnished in many people's eyes, won't fall. Many people saw the people who surrounded Obama as the type who would look down on them. So there was a disconnect which led to discontent. People felt disrespected and ignored. This seemed validated by Obama's statement "You didn't build that" and Hillary's "Deplorable" comments.

    I'm not sure what your background is, sir, where you were educated, or what type of people you surround yourself with. I'm a working class person, raised in a traditional and conservative family, but with a sense of giving back to the community. They were involved in the civil rights movement since the 1940's, active in the church and local politics. Our family values are common, by most standards, but we children were taught to be respectful of others, and we, as adults, pass that along. Relinquish any temptation to cheat, steal or otherwise gain at the expense of anothers dignity. That diminishes you as a person. Loyalty to family and friends, and respect for people in general is paramount. Knowledge of your community, government and financial ability is expected. Above all, a belief in God and a healthy outlook on life was embedded in us as well. So when we see the way people have acted and continue to react to the President, it's different because we don't know people like that. Maybe because of our history and struggle and the expectation that whatever was given to us, could be easily taken away. So strive for independence and self-preservation, no matter what or who you are surrounded by.

    I can honestly say I've seen the worst in people, by nature of my job. In no other job can you see the cruelty that an adult can lay upon a child. In war, we are taught to defend ourselves, and death can be expected. We go to war and kill. There is an enemy to be vanquished. You do not hate him for who he is, but what he represents. Likewise, he is taught that as well. But when a child is abused or killed, through neglect or willful intent, the world is condemned. Unless you've carried a dying child, or the body of a beaten child-so beaten you can hear her bones grind together- you can't imagine what it takes from your soul, and how you feel about the world. You somehow keep it in perspective that not all the world knows how you feel, because of what you see. Life still goes on, even on the dark side.

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  4. I understand your article is concerned with a specific topic, and I'm meandering and I apologize for that. But my point was that there are millions of us who are trying to get through this period of disillusionment that some of our fellow Americans are feeling. We all want resolution, but we also want to understand what the alternative to Trump is and who is that alternative. God, yes. Faith is always good. The military, great. Again, people have a new respect for the military. Certainly more so than when I was in 45 years ago. Politics is a bit trickier, because that is in the most divisive topics area. So I am really wondering who your article is aimed at ? With no insult intended, it comes off as a bit condescending and elitist. As a Christian I was always taught to find the good in everyone, as we are all God's creation. We are told that through-out our lives, we are constantly being made aware of God's presence, and it is only when we awaken do we truly see His glory. At that time our life is changed forever. But no one can compel another if that person chooses not to "see the light". I was awakened when I worked as a CPS. Am I a perfect Christian ? No. But I am always open to change. And we also learn to pray for those who need guidance and strength.

    You lived for 99 years. On the day before you turned 100, you were felled by a stroke. One day before you died, Jesus appeared before you. You confessed your sins and you asked forgiveness for your sins. Everyday of your life you lived well, and did the most hedonistic things imaginable. The greatest day in your 99 years and 364 days was on the 365th when you were forgiven for your sins. You learned to love yourself. You could never love anyone, unless you learned to love yourself first. But you never learned to love. People condemned you your whole life for lack of love, so you retreated into doing things only for yourself, sometimes at the expense of others. You further alienated yourself from others. Then you realized you'd led a wasted, unloved and unhappy life. The most pain you feel in life is not learning to love and not being loved. But it was never too late to ask forgiveness, and you did. For the first time in your life, you now know what love is. And that was between you and the Lord.

    1 John 1:9
    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    Good luck, sir, and I wish you the best. God bless.

  5. Thanks so much for your comments. I would like to meet you and thank you personally for all you have done in your life. We have much in common and must be about the same age. I retired from the military in 2002 after 25 years of service in the active and reserve Army SOF. I was stationed in Okinawa in 1968-1970 and had many Marine Corps friends there. I now live in S.C. and like you I was shocked that Trump was elected president, and that so many of my friends and neighbors voted for a man who was obviously unsuited to hold public office. I'm sorry if my writing sounds condescending. I have held public office (Columbia, S.C. City Council from 1978-1986); I am a retired attorney (50 years), a retired Army officer and a retired United Methodist pastor. That may explain my perspective--one that has little room for sympathy for those who claim to be Christian and voted for Trump. Like you, I struggle to follow the teachings of Jesus and believe that his teachings should be applied to our politics. I am encouraged to hear that you and your friends feel the same way. Keep the faith and keep up your good works.
    Blessings and Peace.

  6. Thank you for your kind words and I would also like to extend my hand across this electronic medium to a brother veteran. You have had an extraordinary career, and you are a man of substance, no doubt. You have certainly used the gift that God has bestowed upon you, and that is truly admirable. I also appreciate that you have the Southern graciousness that my grandfather had, that is increasingly being lost in a crass world . He was also from Columbia, born and raised, before he journeyed north to marry. I was stationed in Cherry Point MCAS, N.C. during the '70's and to this day have missed the South and its manners. My wife, Judy, has never been further than Virginia, and as I become used to being "retired", our planes to include an extensive touring of the South. Some cracklin', cornbread and a nice cool beer on a summer night is just a bit of heaven I wouldn't mind !

    I have become increasingly concerned about our society settling for what I consider the lowest common denomination of social order. I think of the strides the were made post-World War Two, in having an American populace that finally understood what was needed to make our Nation live up to its potential. Many good people of all faiths and races died to bring a message of hope and faith. Though we've made tragic mistakes, we were truly blessed by God to be given a chance to correct those mistakes for "a more perfect Union". I still believe that we are the beacon of the world, but we must instill, now, a hope in this generation that is looking elsewhere for countenance and purpose. We have failed them, and we have failed the many veterans who lie in graves across this Nation if we choose to continue our faithless course. This Nation cannot survive if we decide immorality, corruption, disregard for the weakest among us, ignorance and hate is a natural course for building a social structure. Our politicians forget that they are answerable to the people, and often our "spiritual" leaders offer a remedy of hope that has no substance.

    I'm often reminded of what happened to the Roman Empire as it grew fat and lazy and depended on the military service, labor and servitude of foreigners. I pray that we do not go down that road. But the further we stray from the grace of God, we can be assured of a hard journey. As Christians, we need to heed what was told to us about the world in John 16-17:

    "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever. "

    I guess it will take a bit more work this time around to reach the world, but the Lord never promised that being a messenger of His word to the masses would be easy.
    God bless you and yours.

  7. Amen! You are a man of my own heart. Let's hope and pray that the transforming power of God's love will redeem this flawed nation of ours.
    God Bless you and your family.