Meet A Centurion – Matt Moorman
I was baptized on Christmas Day, 1983. I don’t remember it, because I was only six months old, but I know it happened because my grandfather, a retired Navy chaplain, officiated the sacrament, and my mother was there, as was my sister. I have a picture of the four of us from that day–my sister in my mom’s arms, and I in my grandfather’s, who was still in his vestments. That picture illustrates something we affirm in the Presbyterian church: that the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens to us, despite ourselves, and it requires a family of faith to keep the covenant that accompanies the sacrament.
In June of 1995, I stood before the congregation at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church and publicly professed my faith in Jesus Christ, which confirmed something that was already true: I’m a member of the Body of Christ on earth, and I’m responsible to them.
On March 23rd, 2003, in a recruiter’s office I made another profession of faith, that I would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the uniform code of military justice, so help me God.” Instead of an ordained minister, a presiding officer administered the oath, and the family of faith to whom I was responsible was the American people, the President of the United States and the Air Force Reserve. From April to June of the same year my membership in that body was tested and confirmed at Lackland Air Force Base. While my formal membership in the Air Force Reserve ended on March 23rd, 2011 with an honorable discharge, my inclusion in the Body of Christ on this earth goes on forever, amen.
Each Christian in military service must live with complex realities of dual citizenship, and wrestle with the competing demands of these identities, like how to balance the call to defend freedom and justice with the call to not take the life of another human being. I’m convinced that while there are times when the decision is clear, there are many others when there are simply no right answers, when the choice is between sin and sin. These ambiguous choices, far from being particular to Christians in military service, are universal to all Christians everywhere: what should we do when each choice before me will lead someone to harm?
This, to me, is why Centurions Guild matters. Too often the choices made by Christians in military service–and the consequences of those choices–are left unexamined or oversimplified by people churches. Too often conversations in churches about war and military service are relegated to either wholesale condemnation or blanket exaltation, and both of those narratives deny the humanity of military service members and the complex nature of the decisions they’re obliged to make.
As a Christian, and an Air Force veteran, I live in the space between my roles as a bearer of arms and ambassador of peace. Those decisions haunt me, and I must continue to explore the depths of their consequences. Maybe then I’ll understand what Joe Pug meant when he said,
War is older than mankind, but it’s younger than grace.
I was born into a world already at war, but I was baptized into a Kingdom that is a hell of a lot older than that war, and I must live with both those realities.