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American Sniper: The Faith of a Sheepdog

Much is being made of the life of Chris Kyle, some positive and some negative, after the release of American Sniper. Both the book and the movie provide a glimpse of the man’s faith and his philosophy of life. In one of the early scenes in the movie after Chris has defended his younger brother from a schoolyard bully, his father describes sheep, wolves and sheepdogs and tells Chris that he has found his purpose. He may have wandered from that purpose for a while, but after he enlisted in the U.S. Navy his life can’t be defined as anything but a sheepdog.

Chris described his faith this way, “I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one – not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus and the Bible.”  His view of his final judgment was, “When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But…when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”  

Chris was also thoughtful about his priorities and sought an ordered life (more about an ordered life here, here and here), saying, “I was raised with, and still believe in, the Christian faith. If I had to order my priorities, they would be God, Country, Family. There might be some debate on where those last two fall – these days I’ve come around to believing that Family may, under some circumstances, outrank Country. But it’s a close race.”

Most of the debate on the ranking of family and country came from Chris’s wife, Taya, who wrote in the book, “I’ve always believed that your responsibility is to God, family and country – in that order. He disagreed – he put country ahead of family.”

I agree with Taya, and after reading or seeing American Sniper you will find that Chris probably came to agree with her too.

As for Judgment Day. Chris reached his sooner than expected when he was murdered in 2013. I believe the confidence he had in his his salvation through Jesus was rock solid and there is nothing in the book or the movie that suggests that anything he did in the line of duty would be judged as sin. As Chaplain Brad Green put it, “God has placed you in this job for a reason. Every day you deal with situations and that the public can not imagine. He has given you a special grace and mercy to deal with the evil we are forced to confront in this world. There are not many that could handle that kind of power.” 

Chris Kyle did his best to handle it. The movie and the book powerfully show his struggle. I highly recommend both.

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