two single-engine aircraft flying toward the horizon against the backdrop of a sunset

God Chose the Strongest Women

Work­ing with the pub­lic, I see a lot of stu­pid shirts. Shirts with dec­la­ra­tions of apa­thy and demo­ti­va­tion. Shirts with reli­gious mes­sages that com­plete­ly butch­er the mes­sage of the reli­gion used. Shirts with pro­fan­i­ty for pro­fan­i­ty’s sake. Non­sen­si­cal pink t‑shirts on men that say, “Don’t laugh; it’s your girl­friend’s shirt,” as if that actu­al­ly makes any damn sense.

And then there is the shirt I saw the oth­er day while at work, a shirt design which I had­n’t ever noticed before but which seems at least decent­ly com­mon after search­ing around for it online:

God found some of the strongest women and made them veterans.

Click to buy this shirt, if for some rea­son you don’t see how insane it is.

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this except by say­ing that what this shirt says is dis­turb­ing to me. Let me count the ways.

  1. God does­n’t make vet­er­ans. God does­n’t make vet­er­ans. God does­n’t make vet­er­ans. What makes vet­er­ans? Gov­ern­ments. Whether for noble or igno­ble pur­pos­es, sol­diers are draft­ed or oth­er­wise hired by the gov­ern­ments of the world to car­ry out the wills of their com­man­ders. Vet­er­ans are “made” when these armed forces are fin­ished with a per­son. The impli­ca­tion of the shirt is that either the gov­ern­ment is God or that gov­ern­ment is the agent of God in choos­ing who will serve.
  2. Vet­er­ans are not a dis­tinct­ly Amer­i­can thing. There are vet­er­ans of armies which have stood against Amer­i­ca’s; did God also choose “the strongest” men and women to become vet­er­ans there­in as well? If there is a God, and he’s pick­ing the sol­diers in each nation, does that mean when Amer­i­ca los­es wars (which is a thing that hap­pens, Amer­i­can excep­tion­al­ism be damned), does that mean God chose stronger sol­diers in those oth­er coun­tries? And if so, does that speak to God’s favor of those coun­tries, such as North Viet­nam, over oth­ers, such as the Unit­ed States?
  3. God does­n’t choose the “strongest.” Let’s make the fair assump­tion that this shirt is refer­ring to the God of the Bible (or at least the more broad­ly defined God of Chris­tian­i­ty); nowhere in this tra­di­tion is pref­er­ence giv­en to the “strongest.” Rather, it is said that the meek shall inher­it the earth, while when it came time to choose mil­i­tary heroes, it was the likes of the puny David who with­stood the mighty Goliath.

The idea behind the shirt seems to be find­ing a sense of pride in being a vet­er­an, and in so doing wrap­ping it up in a reli­gious veneer. How­ev­er, the result is a church which reflects a non­sen­si­cal reli­gious ide­al, while rais­ing oth­er ques­tions, such as “Why are the strongest women allowed to become vet­er­ans? Why not pro­mote them, allow­ing the coun­try to con­tin­ue to ben­e­fit from them?” Why not, “God choos­es the strongest women to make gen­er­als and admirals?”

I also won­der if the shirt would be any­where near­ly as pop­u­lar if it said instead, “The state choose…” It would cer­tain­ly be tech­ni­cal­ly more accu­rate; how­ev­er, I have a sus­pi­cion that many of those who would glam­or­ize and idol­ize mil­i­tary ser­vice would not be too hap­py with that phras­ing. The reli­gious veneer avoids that, though it does twist the idea of God to some point of tak­ing his name in vain, idol­a­try, or bear­ing false wit­ness about God.

The shirt is stu­pid, per­haps objec­tive­ly so, but of course, stu­pid fash­ion choic­es exist on all sides of the aisle. I’d much rather wear pop cul­ture screen tees than risk turn­ing my dis­be­lief into a reli­gious thing by embla­zon­ing the “A” athe­ist sym­bol or sim­i­lar everywhere.

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Rick Beckman