Like many others, you may have decided not to comply with the vaccine mandate, or your employer is bearing down on you, and you have not decided. You’re thinking about how you would make a living, care for your family, and how the government could arbitrarily defy your constitutional rights. I know the feeling because I was there…over twenty years ago. Except it wasn’t over a vaccine, but over a prayer. It wasn’t called being “canceled,” but being “blacklisted.” Twenty years later, I am still here. Perhaps reading my story will give you encouragement for the road ahead.
In 1998, I was in the U.S. Army and had been serving as an analyst/interrogator with a focus on Iraq. I spoke Arabic fluently and was tasked to debrief an Iraqi defector. He was anxious about his status in the U.S. and the fate of his family back home, so, with his permission, I prayed for him — not only for his sake but to calm him down so we could finish the debrief. He had already asked whether I was a Christian and was very vocal about his Christian practice, so there was little risk of alienating him. After the prayer, he calmed down, and I collected a significant amount of information.
Even though my prayer fell under routine rapport-building, officers at the intelligence agency in Washington, D.C., where the debrief took place, and my superior at my local command treated my prayer as a national security threat. My superior ensured that my follow-on assignment to an agency position was canceled.
I fought this decision since it set a precedent that Christians can be excluded and discriminated against on the whim of a superior. The Department of Defense (DoD) directive on religious accommodation requires the command to explain how my prayer “adversely affects mission accomplishment, including military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline.” I asked the DoD to explain how this was the case. Instead of applying the directive to my case, they came up with pretexts to punish me for daring to defend myself, similar to how the DoD is punishing those now who request a religious exemption from taking the vaccine.
After the chaplain was ignored, the inspector general waffled, and the Equal Employment Opportunity was subverted, I contacted my then–U.S. representative, Charles Canady. The Army/agency changed their story multiple times along the way, ending with a letter from the director of the agency stating that my actions “could have resulted in the loss of a valuable intelligence source.” That my actions enhanced rapport and led to additional information was irrelevant. I was left with the decision to put either my faith or career first. In August of 2000, I separated from the Army, with nearly seventeen years of service.
So, at 39, with a wife and four children, I was on my own. Although I was not on my own. In 1983, I joined the Army after being called by God. I was inspired by Psalm 138:2: “He [God] has magnified His word above all His name.” If the Creator of the universe will submit to His own Word, to His own Laws, then it followed that good government would also submit to a constitution, with no arbitrary rulers above the law. Our God-inspired constitutional freedoms and rule of law should be protected and were worth putting my life in harm’s way to defend. My military service was my ministry. Staying in after this discrimination would have made me just a mercenary.
After some contract work for the U.S. government in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, I established an Arabic-English translation practice, thanks to the training I had received while in the military.
My business is now in its twentieth year. It hasn’t been without its battle scars. My wife went through the roller coaster of years of appeals, and the financial uncertainty of starting over was traumatizing. We had to use our home as security to finance business start-up costs. Sometimes my wife’s family helped us out, and we had the prayers of family and friends.
There was also joy — the joy of having stood strong for our Lord when challenged; the joy of setting an example for our children; and the joy of seeing God come through for us, one way or another. We just kept going and lived day to day, promise by promise. After twenty years, we looked back over our shoulders and said, “Wow! By the grace of God, He brought us through!”
As you face this decision, your life will have different details, but the lack of an income applies to all. Jehovah has a different economic system from the world’s system. Consider Psalm 41:
Blessed is he that considered the poor: The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth; and thou will not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou wilt make his bed in his sickness.
This verse says that if you consider the poor, God will deliver you in time of trouble. We are living in a time of trouble. A verse like this can be difficult to take in. We all want everything explained to us. God does not say how he will deliver you; how it happens will be different every time.
Recently, law enforcement and firefighters in Seattle were terminated and responded by feeding the poor. God is much bigger than the U.S. government. He has his ways of taking care of you. You never know where your support can come from, so don’t let pride frustrate God’s ways to provide for you. Traumas can heal, and debts can be repaid. Standing up for what you believe in is eternal.
Bill Tierney is an ATA-certified Arabic-English translator. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Bill Tierney | Columnist
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