Military officers frequently made reference to linkage between their profession and the ministry. One Army colonel, when asked about the gratifications of military life, said: “It is not too different from priesthood or ministry in serving a cause.” In a letter a retired naval captain wrote to his son, which was widely distributed, the analogy is spelled out in detail:
The naval profession is much like the ministry. You dedicate your life to a purpose. You wear the garb of an organized profession. Your life is governed by rules laid down by the organizations. You renounce your pursuit of wealth. In a large measure you surrender your citizenship; renounce politics; work for the highest good of the organization. In the final analysis, your aims and object are quite as moral as any minister’s because you are not seeking your own good, but the ultimate good of your country. You train the men under you to be good and useful citizens, and, like the minister, what you say must conform to the rules of the organization.
It has not been unusual for a young man to have made a decision as to whether he would enter the ministry or the military. In the United States, and more often in Europe, sons of clergy have frequently taken up a military career. Conversely, officers who resigned from the military have found in the clergy an expression of their desire to “do service and perform in the name of a great cause.”
These ancient archetypes: the hunter and the shaman, the warrior and the priest, have been at the heart of human society since before civilization or recorded history. Only motherhood is arguably an older "profession." In an earlier post I suggested that there was potentially a great deal that clergy could learn about their vocation by studying the leadership experiences of commissioned military officers. So it's interesting to discover that this scrutiny has occurred in the other direction as well, and that military commanders are looking to religious and spiritual leaders in order to better understand the challenges facing them when leading soldiers in combat.
And at some point this will probably be worthy of a much longer post. But for now I just observe that Schaller's book is about 25 years old now, and Janowitz's more than 50. A lot of things have changed in both the military and the ministry in that time. Yet with such ancient archetypes, the fundamentals endure, and continue to be illuminating. What do other folks see here? Is this really a worthy line of inquiry leading to profound insight? Or am I just way off base here, without a lot of foundation or support?