Disclaimer: these are my initial thoughts on the mess going on right now regarding the Chaplaincy. This is an ongoing discussion in the world and more developments may add to my thoughts on the topic. For now, here’s what I think.
Matt took this job knowing he couldn’t “proselytize.” He chooses not to pray “in Jesus’ name” in a mandatory gathering where solders are required to be. If he’s at a prayer breakfast where the soldiers have choice to be there, they know it’s being run by a Protestant Chaplain then he does.
In counseling sessions, he doesn’t usually bring up religion. Usually the other person will bring it up. If they do, and they ask his opinion (they’re THERE for his opinion, after all… they made the appointment for his “counsel”) then he can share what he feels is the spiritual answer to their problem. Otherwise he counsels them as a counselor should, suggesting solutions to their problem, listening to their concerns.
His job as a Chaplain is not to recruit people to the faith. He’s not out sharing the gospel with hundreds of soldiers with the one exception of at a chapel service. He prays in Jesus’ name and shares the gospel freely in the chapel. But not in his office, unless it’s appropriate, and not on the battlefield among soldiers who are forced to listen to him speak.
Okay, so then, what IS Matt’s job? It’s to provide freedom to all his soldiers to practice their own religion. He provides materials for peoples of all faiths to worship in their way. He provides rosaries for his Catholic soldiers, books of Mormon for his Mormon soldiers, and any info needed for a soldier of any faith to practice their own religion. If he doesn’t, or isn’t willing to do this, he is breaking the law.
We look at it this way. Consider the very real possibility that some of our sons join the military: What if they’re in Afghanistan under a Muslim chaplain… we want that chaplain to respect our boys and to get them Bibles or Protestant devotions… not try to convert them to Islam. Or if they’re under a Catholic chaplain, we don’t want that chaplain to attempt to convert them to Catholicism. I could list a few more types of chaplains and what they could try to convert our children to… but I think you get the point. We want whatever chaplains who are over our children (should our boys join the military) to respect their rights to religious freedom and provide for them appropriately. That’s what Matt does for his own soldiers.
So, I think most of what’s flying around on the internet right now is mainly an attempt to stir up emotions. Yes, I’m concerned about some of what I read. But I think most of it is probably bologna.
Snopes.com reports that most of the info going around is circular-citing.
Meaning, one site says something so another site can say, “It’s being said…” when really only one other, sister-site, is saying it. Gives the text credibility, even if it’s very shallow cred. I do know that there are enemies of the Chaplaincy who would love nothing more than for it to disappear, but I believe the Corps is here to stay for a while.
This might be more than that. I simply don’t know. I remember that when some people heard that Matt’s job wasn’t to be a missionary in the Army and his daily job wasn’t to get as many new soldiers to become Christians, they wondered why he was doing this job. It’s a different sort of ministry altogether. Sure, he does want to see as many people turn to Jesus because we believe He’s the only way… but his job is like any other Christian man or woman’s job: fulfill the requirement of the job description, live a Godly life, and touch as many people for Jesus as possible through living a life that is pleasing unto Him. Lots of Christians just expect that Chaplains are out there passing out pamphlets to all new basic trainees and that’s just not how it is.
I pray that most of what is going around is right-wing/left-wing poop throwing. (Basically. That’s what I call it. Finger pointing and poop throwing.) I pray it’s not going to turn ugly… So, that’s that. I will have my eye on the topic. Rest assured. But I am not worried.
Here is a great quote on CH (CPT) Matthew Weathers’ Facebook status, hoping to ease some of the potential polarization of the articles and “discussions” resulting from the articles:
Chaplaincy comes under fire quite regularly from uninformed individuals and groups who have very little concept of what it is a military Chaplain does on a regular day-to-day basis (and certainly is not aware of the Title X statute that guarantees our existence within the community.) We are here to “perform or provide for the free exercise of religion.” Which means that I assisted my buddy Eric to provide all the necessary paperwork, and a chapel to conduct services, as the distinctive faith group leader for Latter Day Saints downrange. And I made sure that Father Madej came up often enough to provide for my Catholic soldiers. And for those of other/no faith systems, I offered non-faith based counseling services (as a Masters-educated therapist). THIS is how most military chaplains conduct themselves, unbeknownst to the very few belligerent Atheists and Agnostics who believe we do differently. The chaplaincy is always facing a new challenge, almost each year, but I firmly believe will not go away. Chaplains are doing great things in the lives of so many people, well-beyond the scope of those within their faith group, that many Atheists and Agnostics who serve our country well, in uniform, will stand alongside and agree that we also prevent the “enforcement” of a specific religion on formation from well-intended commanders, sometimes. This is, however, a great place to begin a discussion of tolerance and dialogue. MY greatest fear is that we are becoming too polarized in the social marketplace, and we will begin to segregate out of fear and lack of understanding, and basic respect for one another as humans. We are all “tired, weary, huddled masses.” Let’s NOT unhuddle. — CH (CPT) Matthew Weathers
As the day has progressed and very heated comments flew regarding the articles online, the Chaplain Corps issued a statement that seems to sound a lot like what I expected to hear. Below is the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps’ statement (found on their Facebook page.):
OCCH has verified that this is the OSD statement in response to recent media and public query. Thank you for your concern and prayers:
“The U.S. Department of Defense has never and will never single out a particular religious group for persecution or prosecution. The Department makes reasonable accommodations for all religions and celebrates the religious diversity of our service members.
Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization). If a service member harasses another member on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, then the commander takes action based on the gravity of the occurrence. Likewise, when religious harassment complaints are reported, commanders take action based on the gravity of the occurrence on a case by case basis.
The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs. The Department does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military services.
We work to ensure that all service members are free to exercise their Constitutional right to practice their religion — in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline; and that do not detract from accomplishing the military mission.”
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In case you aren’t aware of what in the world I’m talking about, here are two articles that, if you take them hook, line, and sinker, will (or should) make the hairs stand out on the back of your neck, no matter what your religious affiliation.