Fighter Pilot Songs

While I have never been in a position where fellow pilots have demanded profanity in my speech (some have even complimented my ability to form a grammatically correct sentence without it), I have been placed in positions where fellow pilots have insisted that I participate in singing fighter pilot songs.  Unfortunately, the decisions surrounding pilot songs are more difficult to make.  The F-16 B-course students were responsible for providing “entertainment” for the instructors at pilot meetings.  This entertainment necessitated a pilot song or two.  In other units, every fighter pilot event ended with stirring renditions of traditional fighter pilot songs.  In each case, there was tremendous pressure to join in on the singing to “support my wingmen” and squadron mates.  Regardless of the strength of tradition in fighter pilot songs, the profanity, vulgarity, and glorification of evil in fighter pilot songs makes them an anathema to the Christian spirit.  Because of their content, I believe that a Christian should not participate in singing them.

The true question is how much he allows himself to be around other pilots who are singing those songs.  Their vulgar lyrics are set to familiar and catchy tunes; what goes in, even if only passively, will invariably attempt to come out.  Read more

Profanity and the Christian Fighter Pilot

One of the more clear-cut vices in the fighter pilot culture is profanity—including the use of God’s name in vain—which is rampant in the fighter pilot community.  Profanity punctuates the hyperbolic bravado of every fighter pilot’s speech.  Some consider it a requisite to being a fighter pilot, much like the Navy cliché of “cursing like a sailor.”  Fighter pilots who do not curse do exist, though they are a rarity.  In several cases I even knew fighter pilots who attended church regularly with their families but still used vulgar language.  The temptation for any fighter pilot to use profanity will be strong, particularly if it was present in his past.  Also, refusing to use profanity is difficult even for a strong Christian for one significant reason:  constant exposure.  Regardless of a Christian’s personal actions, the fighter pilots around him will still use profanity in their language and casual conversation.  The continuous, daily bombardment of profanity leads to the greatest threat to modern Christianity:  Read more

In It, But Not of It

A Christian must have a life ministry and proactive faith to positively influence the world.  There is a subtle underlying presumption to that truth, however:  to effectively influence the world, a Christian has to be in it.  By choosing to become a fighter pilot a Christian has elected to be deeply “in” the world, a choice that results in immense tension, a literal struggle between good and evil.  A Christian in the fighter pilot world faces immeasurable pressure to compromise his convictions to conform, and he confronts the struggle of trying to be an effective Christian witness to the fighter pilots around him.  The Christian fighter pilot’s eternal battle is how to be “in it but not of it”—to be different without necessarily being separate.  God has called the Christian to be salt in the world, and his salt needs to be in the meal that is the fighter pilot community.  Christians cannot separate themselves so far that their salt isn’t even in the same restaurant.  Nowhere in the Bible does God command Christians to segregate themselves from sinners—quite the contrary:  Read more

Christian Fighter Pilot Living

In a very basic sense, the Christian in the fighter pilot world lives a “ministry of presence.”  Living among those to whom a Christian hopes to minister opens a door that the TV evangelist, street corner Bible thumper, and pulpit preacher will never have.  Few fighter pilots would give those people the time of day—they’ll simply change the channel, cross the street, or watch football on Sunday.  The Christian fighter pilot, on the other hand, they know and work with.  When a Christian fighter pilot lives a wise and successful professional life, they will respect and trust him.  If he lives a Christ-centered life, they will see Jesus in him.  That is the essence of a Christian fighter pilot’s ministry of presence.

Importantly, though, just as being a Christian in a foreign land does not inherently make a man a missionary, simply being a Christian in an unChristian fighter pilot world does not mean he’s a ministering pilot. Read more

Sharing the Gospel

Whether a Christian fighter pilot assumes the leadership role of a Bible study or simply gets the opportunity to witness to a non-Christian, it is crucial that he know how to communicate his faith.  How does a pilot share the gospel with those around him?  There is no simple, distinct answer to that question.  There is no formulaic response that will enable a Christian to take a checklist, approach a fellow pilot, and convert them by ticking off the boxes. 

There are two “canned” answers I can provide.  Read more

Starting a Bible Study

If a pilot arrives at a location (either a new assignment or temporary duty) and doesn’t find an active Bible study, he should consider starting one on his own.  Often Christian fighter pilots who see such a need choose to start a fellowship under the auspices of a national organization such as OCF, the Navigators, Cadence, or any of a host of others.  An important note for those pilots is that outside religious organizations that operate on base must do so “under the umbrella of [the] senior chaplain’s program. (AF Message)”  This is normally not a problem since most organizations that minister to the military encourage an active relationship with the local chaplaincy.  Given the current climate for a proactive Christian in the military, though, (see Religion and Military Policy), it is important for a Christian fighter pilot to make sure that he is in compliance with the appropriate procedures. 

There are many resources that can guide a Christian in starting a group Bible study (See Links).  Many publishers create not only the text of the study, but also teacher’s notebooks with schedules and guided discussion questions.  Read more

Marking Time, or Making the Most of It

Finding a church and Bible study to attend are the most important first steps a Christian fighter pilot can take when he arrives at a new base.  Once he finds a church and study to call home he needs to do more than merely count time.  In the military it’s very easy to think, “If I can just survive this assignment, at my next base I’ll…,” “Once I get back from this TDY I’ll…,” “After this remote I’ll…,” or, more famously, “When I retire and have a paycheck and free time I’ll…”  Instead of making the most of the opportunities the Christian has now, he treads water while waiting for the time he’ll really be able to do what is important.  In short, he’s wasting time.  He should be utilizing what he has to make the most of the time he is given.  Once he has found a church and Bible study, merely attending is one way in which he can count time, content with the status quo.  Instead, he should contribute to the body of Christ by participating in the congregation and study.  Participation in the local church’s activities builds fellowship and relationships, which gives a Christian a network of friends on whom to depend.  Interactive participation in a Bible study—including leading when the opportunity presents itself—builds knowledge, confidence, and abilities; one day when a Christian arrives at a base with no Bible study, those tools will give him the ability to start and lead his own Bible study.

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The “Base X” Syndrome

It’s important for a Christian fighter pilot to have an open and positive attitude towards the fellowships he may find at a new location.  When departing a base with a large, well-run fellowship and moving to a place that only has a small group it is tempting to despondently remember how good it “used to be.”  Even though Academy cadets eagerly await graduation, I have seen some bemoan their departure because they fear their new base won’t have a fellowship like the one they were leaving.  Even though remote tours contain some of the harshest spiritual, emotional, and physical conditions I have known, I have seen airmen lament their departure from Korea for fear they’d be unable to duplicate the unique and intimate fellowship they’d experienced there.

Throughout the rest of the Air Force, this is known as the “Base X” syndrome.  Read more

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