This is what Sir Richard officially said, in full: 'In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal, and I think there is very much an obligation on ...a Christian leader to include a spiritual dimension into his people's preparations for operations, and the general conduct of their lives. Qualities and core values are fine as a universally acceptable moral baseline for leadership, but the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to another level.'
In no small part I agree with the General. One of the reports we’ve heard again and again in light of the extensive use of military Reservists in Iraq is that they didn’t really expect they’d ever face combat. They hadn’t really considered that dying in combat was one possible consequence of enlisting, made more likely by recent changes in the military to shift many important combat support responsibilities to the Reserves. Perhaps there’s no way to really prepare them. I can only imagine that officers did their best to call Reservists to take this seriously.
On the other hand, Sir Richard seems to have a rather specific, and specifically Christian, understanding about which troops should be informed. I don’t question the stability of his own beliefs in this instance. I question how respectful it is of the troops under his command who may not share his understanding of Life, the Universe, and Everything. I can well imagine how such a statement would be received if it had come from in that form from an American military officer.
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.