News from Europe

UK military “in desperate need of Christians” according to major general

Christian Major General Tim Cross, who was in charge of military operations in Iraq and Kosovo before advising the House of Commons Defence Committee, believes that faith could have a significant impact in army settings.

Major General Cross became a Christian in the army. He was a bomb-disposal officer in Northern Ireland in the 1970s; worked with the UN on peacekeeping in Cyprus in 1981; and served with 1st UK Armoured Division in the Gulf War in 1991 in high-intensity war fighting. He did three tours in the Balkans, including Kosovo, in the mid- to late 1990s on peace-enforcement and humanitarian operations.

Major General Cross stated in an interview: “My first serious exposure to God was in the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem in 1981, as a result of which I became a disciple. I became a local lay minister or lay reader in the 1990s.
We need Christians to bring into the military the essential basics of our faith, and allow that to be applied in the way we lead people, the way we mix and run the military organisation. We need to be prepared to stand up against some pretty brutal people around the world. And I find myself engaging quite a lot of them. There are surprisingly, for many people, a lot of Christians in the military, and a very strong armed forces Christian Union. And a lot of senior people who I served with over the years are very committed Christians. And they’re important because when it comes to the debates about strategy and campaign planning, and how you conduct operations, you know, they have an impact.
I don’t find it difficult to reconcile early Christian teaching that being a disciple is incompatible with serving in the army. Soldiers are more than well aware of evil and sin in a fallen world. War is always evil — but I’ve also watched mass graves being dug out, I’ve been to places where you can smell, taste evil, find out what awful atrocities have taken place. Soldiers ask themselves why people do this to each other.
When the soldiers go to John the Baptist to ask what they should do, he tells them ‘Be content with your pay’ — not ‘Leave the army’. Don’t abuse your power over people. Jesus meets a centurion and heals his servant, and exclaims, ‘I’ve never found faith like this in Israel’. Paul uses soldierly languages and talks about a soldier who saved his life in a shipwreck. Would God have used these people if there was something fundamentally wrong with being a solider? In Luke’s account of the last supper, Jesus tells his disciples, ‘If you haven’t got a sword, sell your tunic and buy one’. They have two, and he allows them to carry them to the garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus doesn’t allow them to use them there. That wasn’t the place to use force.”

The size of the UK army has shrunk to 76,000 soldiers from 79,139. Experts expect this drop to continue in the next couple of years. 


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