Spiritual fitness important to Air Force life
By Chap. (Lt. Col.) Dennis Saucier, 366th Fighter Wing Chapel
/ Published August 25, 2009
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- When America's founding fathers met together to lay out the foundation of their new nation, there was considerable attention given to preserving the rights of individual citizens from any unnecessary encroachment by the government. These were embodied in the Bill of Rights, and first among these individual rights was the freedom of belief. The Constitution's authors set boundaries around the government's role in religion, free speech - including a free press - and the right to public assembly. They knew the bedrock of a free society lies in the ability of citizens to develop their own religious, moral and political beliefs in order to engage in public debate on issues vital to the nation's well-being.
Religious and moral beliefs are equally important among military members for establishing good order and discipline as well as equipping warriors to meet the rigorous demands and sacrifices of combat. Gen. George Patton was clear when he said, "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory." History is full of examples where faith and commitment to a noble cause as well as a sincere trust in the providence of God enabled men and women to achieve success in the face of impossible odds.
The Air Force has long understood that spiritual fitness is one of the four critical conditions for a balanced, healthy life. Spirituality is often defined as belief in principles and realities which lie beyond the basic appetites of individual wants and needs. When talking about spiritual fitness, we are not automatically talking about religious beliefs and practices. But for the majority of people, spirituality is formed in the course of their participation in their places of worship. Spiritual maturity is the ability of individuals to expand their grasp of reality beyond their own gratification in order to appreciate the needs and contributions of others.
There is a popular view today that wants to separate spirituality from what is often negatively viewed as "organized religion." Many believe that what is important is to express one's own spiritual beliefs without being held accountable by any system of rules, rituals or regulations connected with outdated, irrelevant institutions. Unfortunately, this is a limited and unhealthy view of spiritual development. It over emphasizes individuality while missing the richness of shared experiences arising out of living in community where spirituality is allowed to grow and refine itself through relationships including the worshipful relationship with God.
Spirituality is about living; how we live; how we relate to others; what we know to be good, truthful and just for ourselves and - equally important - in our relationship with others. Spiritual values have often fueled America's crowning historical periods. The Declaration of Independence claimed that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Individuals are not obligated to surrender their dignity and worth to the whims of nobility as was commonly thought in Europe. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation amidst the devastating Civil War refuted the notion of slavery as an acceptable social and economic practice.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. confronted the nation with racial injustice in his role as a Baptist preacher reminding Americans to live up to the creed we profess that all are created equal regardless of race. His "I Have A Dream" speech revealed that Americans could never fully realize the blessings of liberty as long as any one group of people were excluded from their divinely appointed human rights. These important national events were motivated by spiritual and moral imperatives.
Spirituality does not just happen. Such an important human quality requires a context where spiritual knowledge can learn, stretch, develop and finally express itself in action. God has always intended it this way as sacred history records in various religious writings. There is no better way to achieve a strong spiritual foundation than to participate in church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. Discover how you can become a more balanced, contented person with strong, healthy relationship through the ministries of the Liberty Chapel.