No one would deny a soldier the right to faith – even if we wanted to. Is there anything wrong with having military chaplains? Not at all. I have a copy of a Navy Hymnal from 1941 – and it seems to me that each solider is better off, is even a better soldier, if they have faith. I doubt that the soldiers committing the degrading behavior at Abu Ghraib Prison were following the dictates of Jesus. But are our soldiers paid by the military to be evangelicals for their respective church?
Check this video and we’ll talk on the other side:
It is against military regulation to proselytize – probably a wise rule – given that our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion, if that is what one chooses.
I support the idea of paid chaplains in our military. Military chaplains, hospital chaplains, and red cross chaplains are not evangelicals. A Chaplain should be able to talk to a soldier, respecting the soldier’s faith, and even use the soldier’s faith to help the soldier through troubled times. It is not the Chaplain’s job to convert anyone to his faith. The Chaplain can believe in evangelism – but should not practice evangelism in his duties as a chaplain.
The Chaplain Preacher in this film was within his bounds. He was preaching in an organized service. None of the soldiers were required to be there – the Chaplain did not have a captive audience. The role of the preacher is different than the role of the chaplain.
It did strike me that the preacher advocated a ‘hunt for men’ – which seemed to cross the line of promoting evangelism in the process of soldiering.
This video is really a great example of the difficulty of enforcing religion. It is hard enough to get a Catholic or a Protestant to switch to the other side – imagine trying to sell Christianity to a bunch of hard core Islamic people. I would not go to a Baptist or Pentecostal church and try to convert them to Catholicism – but hey – that is just me (as Joe Biden would say).
We walk a fine line with Christianity in the military. Faith is important to many folks when times are hard – and times don’t get much harder than a combat zone.