Should we change our country’s motto from “In God We Trust” to “In the Military We Trust”? A 1986 Gallup poll asked a random sample of Americans to rate their levels of confidence in United States institutions. Sixty-three percent of the respondents said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military, compared with only 57 percent who had confidence in the church. For the first time in over a decade, the church failed to rank as our most-trusted institution, raising renewed fears of creeping militarism.

Misplaced institutional confidence is not the only sign of growing militarism. Toy manufacturers report a 600 percent increase in sales of plastic rifles, G. I. Joe action figures, and miniature war vehicles between 1982 and 1986. Applications to West Point, the Air Force Academy, and Annapolis are not only at their highest level ever, but the academies are attracting the very best students, “the cream of the cream of the cream of the crop,” according to Lt. Col. Dan Hancock, head of cadet selection for the air force. Participation in ROTC on college campuses has increased 50 percent since 1975.

Several disquieting factors make this apparent trend toward militarism (a belief that the military is the principal answer to life’s problems) ominous for the church. The rapid growth reflects an intensity usually associated with major social changes. Further, because toys and television are imprinting their violent messages on our youngest children, we must seriously consider them as possible mental time bombs set to explode unpredictably for generations to come. Finally, because the military has supplanted the church as our most-trusted ...

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