Military Chaplains Sharing Faith

Military history, dating back to ancient times, includes the element of seeking spiritual guidance and strength.  Armies have typically sought the favor of God or gods, being sure to have among their ranks spiritual advisors to consult on all spiritual matters affecting not only the outcome of battles, but the well-being of the troops.  When human beings know that death in battle is not just a vague possibility, but a statistical likelihood, they want to be spiritually prepared.  From my own personal experience, I know the axiom to be true: “There are no atheists in foxholes”.

That said, it was with some sense of irony that on the National Day of Prayer I read Gina Miller’s article, “Sick ‘Leader,’ Ailing Nation and Day of Prayer” http://www.americanclarion.com/19836/2013/05/02/sick-leader-ailing-nation-and-day-of-prayer/.  Typically, those who are aware of the National Day of Prayer are either devout believers who hear about it at church, or opportunistic politicians looking for ways to attract religious voters.  The irony is that while the Liar-in-Chief used the National Day of Prayer to blather on about religious freedom, his government had already moved to take away that religious freedom from our own military personnel.

In her article, Gina Miller quoted from Breitbart.com http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/05/01/Breaking-Pentagon-Confirms-Will-Court-Martial-Soldiers-Who-Share-Christian-Faith

…the military will make it a crime–possibly resulting in imprisonment–for those in uniform to share their faith. This would include chaplains—military officers who are ordained clergymen of their faith (mostly Christian pastors or priests, or Jewish rabbis)–whose duty since the founding of the U.S. military under George Washington is to teach their faith and minister to the spiritual needs of troops who come to them for counsel, instruction, or comfort.

Wait a minute!  So now, under Obama (OWHNI), freedom of religion does not apply to American citizens in the military?  If a chaplain can’t share his faith, he serves no purpose at all!  It’s as if sane, intelligent, responsible adults now suddenly find themselves in Alice’s Wonderland dream.  Are we all supposed to either bow to the will of an incomparably powerful Queen of Hearts or face hearing the dreaded, “Off with your head!”?

One of the cornerstones of American society is our freedom of religion — a right given to us by the God of the Bible (according to the Declaration of Independence), because he created us with a free will.  Historically nurtured by Christian tolerance, America’s freedom of religion is supposed to be protected by the U.S. Constitution.  That is, the FREE EXERCISE of religion is not to be abridged by federal law.

The Congress, which makes federal laws, is specifically prohibited in the constitution from making any law which restricts the FREE EXERCISE of religion.  Constitutionally, neither the Executive nor the Judicial branches of the federal government have the power to make laws.

As a side note, this freedom of religion was intended to apply to BIBLICAL religions.  The writers of the Bill of Rights did not have in mind religions of the East.  See the video, “The First Amendment does NOT give Islamists the right to build mosques, proselytize, and institute sharia here!” at http://publiushuldah.wordpress.com/

No part of the federal government nor the military hierarchy has the legal or moral right to deny members of the military their God-given freedom of religion.  Nevertheless, that’s exactly what the federal government is doing — legal or not.  This isn’t the America I grew up in.  This isn’t the American military I proudly served in.

This nation has a proud and sacred history, of which the military has played an important part.  I recently saw a video that confirms this.  It’s about 19 U.S. Marines who died in combat in the Pacific theater in 1942, whose bodies were finally returned to the U.S. in 1999.  Get your tissues ready: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=C6f_FvZpm3g

"Polar Bear" Memorial Chapel, LZ West  4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Brigade -- 1969  Photograph by Michael D. Day

“Polar Bear” Memorial Chapel, LZ West 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 196th LIB  1969  Photograph by Michael D. Day

My experience in the U.S. Army infantry was from 1967 to 1969.  I wasn’t a Christian back then, but I went to Christian religious services because I believed in God and it seemed important to me to consider what would happen if I were to die.  During the same period of history that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, a typical Christian worship service on any U.S. military base would include a presentation of the gospel — just the same as it would in any civilian church.  Even though I wasn’t yet a believer, I expected that a Christian chaplain would be able to share his faith.  That’s what drew me, and that’s what I came to hear.

When I was in Vietnam, the chaplains would fly out to where we were in the field.  I remember there were three chaplains: a Catholic priest, a protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi.  Attendance to their services was voluntary.  They would simply make the announcement, and if you wanted to attend a service, you could.  If not, you were free to do whatever you wanted.  Some guys went, some didn’t.  I remember afterward, somebody would always question me about the service.  What did the chaplain say?  What was it all about?  Invariably, they would then share their own beliefs with me.

In combat, men seem to have more respect for the spiritual beliefs of their buddies than in civilian life — probably because in combat, death is a daily reality.  There’s nothing abstract about it.  I found that most men wanted to believe in something, but they just weren’t sure what.  I was sort of that way myself.  One of my buddies wore a cross, a Star of David, and symbols of several other religions — he said it was to “cover all the bases”.

Bottom line, folks in the military need spiritual guidance.  Most of them are young and often have not yet fully formed their foundational beliefs in life.  For that reason, chaplains serve a significant and basic need.  For our government to say that the sharing of one’s faith in the military is an offense is outrageous and insane, to say the least.

My chaplain in Vietnam was the Protestant one.  He always had a smile and a listening ear.  Whenever we returned to the base camp, he always welcomed us in his bunker.  Unlike the bunkers we manned, his had an electric fan, soda on ice, and a tape player with tapes of music from “the world”, back home.  I especially remember listening to an album of Lou Rawls and sipping soda in cool comfort and safety — easing into a peaceful frame of mind I hadn’t known for a long, long time.

After returning to civilian life, my chaplain continued to serve the LORD as a church pastor.  At 75, he now is involved in a prison ministry, helping men find their way back from incarceration into productive lives on the “outside”.  Learn more about KAIROS Prison Ministry International, Inc. at http://kpmifoundation.org/

My chaplain wasn’t just an Army officer.  He was an American citizen whose FREEDOM AND DUTY were to model, counsel, preach and teach his faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No one — I repeat, no one has the legal power or authority to say to this American or any other American that while he is in the military he has no right to the FREE EXERCISE of his religion.

In case you hadn’t noticed, tyranny has arrived and is taking charge.  Will we bow to it, or stand up to it like free men?

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About retiredday

I am Michael D. Day, a regular, everyday guy -- retired. I stand for God-given freedom, which means I think for myself. I believe in being civil, because the Bible teaches that we should love our enemies. But I also believe in saying it how I see it, and explaining just why I see it that way, sort of like 2 Timothy 4:2.
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