A little over a week ago Newsweek released an article discussing “the growing controversy over military chaplains using the armed forces to spread the Word.” I have heard that chaplaincy in the military has been forced to take on a more postmodern, pluralistic flavor (though I confess that I know little about military chaplains). Gone are the days when the chaplaincy’s sole convictions are Christian.
The U.S. military Central Command has established a rule called General Order Number One that forbids active-duty troops from “trying to convert people to any religion.” In spite of this rule, the military has encountered a growing “problem” among their chaplains. Some Christian chaplains have continued to be involved in evangelization through Bible initiatives. “The effort is an example of what critics call a growing culture of militarized Christianity in the armed forces.”
It should come to no one’s surprise that Christian ministers serving as chaplains would seek to share the truth of the gospel in the hopes that many would believe and be saved. If the gospel is true and Jesus is the Savior of humanity, doesn’t it make logical sense that people convinced by such things would naturally want to share this news? The impact and influence of the gospel in such desperate situations such as war and conflict should not be underestimated. What hope can a soldier, caught in the line of fire, have unless he believes in Jesus as deliverer from pain, suffering, conflict, and death?
On the flip side, some people would say that the mixing of religion and government via the military can be a dangerous thing. I see the implications of an amicable union to be detrimental to the church more than the government. State sponsored Christianity does not have a good track record. However, Kathryn Joyce also points to the negative aspects of Christian influence on public policy and military actions. The melding of both worlds raises the potential for holy war in the name of God’s will.
That leads me to my question for the week: How should Christian faith and secular government interact with one another? What type of relationship should they have?