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Jesus was an airborne Ranger

Book examines Christianity and the military to find common ground

John McDougall writes that Jesus “lead the way” much like Army Rangers to today. Courtesy photo

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A curious visitor dropped in on his local church to hear a Sunday sermon.  Later, a friend asked him how it had gone.  The visitor's reply:  "A preacher is a mild-mannered man, standing up in front of mild-mannered men, telling them they gotta be more mild-mannered."  

A preacher like that could never inspire a soldier to better performance of his duty.  Then again, John McDougall is no such preacher. He's a U.S. Army Chaplain who is going about the business of dovetailing Christianity with the aggressive life of a Ranger.  With the publication of his new book, Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger, the mission is a complete success.

To accept the hardships and the expectations of their country, Rangers need maximum honor, courage and toughness.  If a Ranger is to gain any inspiration from a "higher power" - one greater than himself - he needs for his object of worship to be "tougher" than he is.  McDougall proves, systematically, that Jesus was just that.  The Jesus of Nazareth that is described in Airborne Ranger is not too gentle to confront evil.  Nor is this Jesus so tolerant that he refuses to correct injustice.  

McDougall wrote Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger while deployed in Afghanistan with a Ranger battalion.  He shows that Jesus exemplifies the life, mission and mindset of an Army Ranger.  A fine writer, as well as a fine warrior, McDougall's prose is clean, easy to read and compelling.  Chapter One, "The Great Raid," bounces two interesting quotes off each other.  "I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy," reads the fifth stanza of the Ranger Creed.  McDougall catches his reader in a crossfire:  "The Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost," Luke 19:10.  

As with most chapters in Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger, he serves up a rucksack-full of military and biblical examples of his "Jesus conducted a raid from above" theme.  He lays out a historical military operation, the raid-and-rescue of American POW's in Bataan. Examples from McDougall's own training is added to the mix.  After that, he goes into the broad "theology of infiltration."  He then applies his "dropped into battle" idea to the "war zones" of life that you and I face.  This isn't your aunt's Sunday-potluck sermon.

In the hands of a lesser author, this whole approach could come off as forced or artificial.  However, when McDougall addresses the issue of Christ "behind enemy lines" he is a man who has a feel and taste for what the experience is like.  After each chapter, we're left with a bit of a feeling that Joshua has exhorted us before a raid on the Promised Land.

In some Renaissance portraits of Jesus' face, you could shave the beard and moustache and - no disrespect intended - be left wondering whether the portrait had been of a man or a woman.  Often His eyes are painted in a melancholy, pleading or resigned mood.  McDougall argues that the real Jesus Christ had a balanced set of attitudes - gentle and compassionate, of course, but "that's not the whole story," he wrote to The Ranger.  "We need the Warrior Christ to reveal a more complete analogy.  We've only been listening to the treble.  We need to turn up the bass to appreciate who Christ really is."

Soldiers cannot relate to a "feminized" version of Jesus.  No soldier is going to pattern his life after a weakling.  But, McDougall argues, this effete Jesus was never the One described in the Bible.  If "courage" is defined as "willingness to face pain and fear," what type of courage do we assign to the Crucifixion?  Christ's famous Seven Sayings On the Cross amounted to "deathbed declarations," each one of which called His people to action.  Man, behold thy mother (and take care of her).  Today you will be with Me in Paradise (since you have accepted My blood).  Father, forgive; they know not what they do.  

The Ranger asked McDougall about his favorite example of Christ's personal strength and character.  "I think that my favorite example (aside perhaps from the cross itself) was his conduct in the Garden of Gethsemane.  When the crowd of soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he didn't run and hide, deceive and squirm, or stand and fight.  Instead, he boldly confronted his attackers and asked them what they wanted.  Twice, he willingly gives up his identity and then volunteers to go with them as long as his men would be released (John 18:8).  His courage in the face of death and his complete concern for his men is Medal-of-Honor worthy!  A lesser man would've pleaded for his own life, but Jesus bartered his life for his men.  ‘The Son of Man ... came to give his life as a ransom for many.' "

Christ's focus and intensity were even greater than that demanded of U.S. Army Rangers.

"We need to be inspired by His life and bravery so that we, too, will join him in the fight," McDougall insists.  That is in fact what occurred in the first century:  "a few good men" who took limitless inspiration from Christ's own willingness to face pain and fear.  McDougall's book offers to help us "Find our purpose following the Warrior Christ," and if that's your own direction, it will be hard to do much better.

Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger: Find Your Purpose Following the Warrior Christ by John McDougall (Apr. 21, 2015) at amazon.com.

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