By Reverend Don Davis
In 1973, as a deacon of the First Southern Baptist Church in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, I served a number of families, the majority of whom were military. All the armed services were represented with some civilian families. Although our pastor was not in the military, most of his ministry was with the military. So our church was run like a military organization. It is no coincidence that the exterior of the church building was painted pink, the same color as the Tripler Military Hospital.
Deacons never knew what they would be asked to do. A good example is that at 6 a.m. the wife of one of the sailors, Blanche, called me to ask me to sit with her during the court-martial proceedings for her husband. I had learned that Carl had been removed from his duties on his submarine, but I never imagined that I would be asked to attend a General Court Martial, the highest judicial body in the military.
Carl was not a member of our church, and although I don’t recall him attending, except perhaps for one of the children’s programs, Blanche and the older children had become members. After recovering from the shock of the request, I knew I had to go support Blanche. In my Air Force uniform, I met Blanche at Naval Station Pearl Harbor and sat with her throughout the proceedings.
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It didn’t take long for the court to determine that this was a clear case of insubordination. Carl had refused to clear the ship’s deck contrary to his commanding officer’s orders. Carl’s only defense was that the order was stupid since the crew had always been able to stay on deck as the sub approached port. The crew took Carl’s side that the captain’s actions were inconsistent and his behavior had been questionable throughout the cruise. None of this made any difference. Carl’s sentence was a one tier pay cut, he was stripped of his dolphins (diver status), which cost him money, and an immediate transfer to an aircraft carrier based in the Philippines .
I wonder how many people have been insubordinate when God called us to do something and suffered the consequences. The Old Testament prophet Jonah is probably the worst case of insubordination in the Bible. God wanted Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh of their destruction if they did not turn to him. Those who have read the story know not only that Jonah did not go to Nineveh, but that he intentionally went in the opposite direction. Although the prophet was not brought to justice, indication was received from God that he had not followed his lead. First, there was a big storm and Jonah was determined to cause it. Consequently, he was thrown overboard, but was saved by being swallowed by a whale or a large fish. While inside the fish, he confessed his evil deeds. God made the fish vomit on dry land. Although Jonah was not happy that God had saved the people of Nineveh, he went to warn their leaders of the impending doom as God had commanded.
My friend, Carl, made a terrible mistake for any military man, but after the incident he changed. He ended his career in the Navy doing something different from his passion (diving) but retired in good standing. Later, he became a Christian and serves God in his church. I haven’t seen Carl in years, but today I know he would say, God was with him and carried him through the bad times to prepare for his job.