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.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.