Thursday, December 9, 2010

My View of Military Chaplains

One of my friends is a participant in a blog where the discussion of late has been on the chaplaincy.  I wrote the following to this friend.  I thought that the readers of Lutheran Colportage might find these ideas to be of interest.

First of all, if you don't mind my saying so, you do not have to apologize for your lack of education.  You are very well educated and you express your thoughts very well.  No more apologizing, ----.  You are a theologian.

Secondly, the chaplains vary from personality to personality.  I worked for two Southern Baptists when I was at Fort Benning.  I gained a very healthy respect for these officers and for their denomination.

I had very good experiences with LC-MS chaplains at Fort Campbell and Fort Benning.  The head chaplain at Fort Benning was a Missouri Synod officer and he arranged with the Catholic Chief of Chaplains for me to get a very good job in Viet-Nam.   

In Viet-Nam I worked for an ELCA guy.  Very nice guy.  I have communicated with him.

I only worked for one Catholic.  He was a bad officer and a bad man.  He mistreated the enlisted men and stole money from unsuspecting civilians.  

Third, I remember a 1990 Concordia St. Paul gathering where I was with my Dad at a 60th anniversary reunion.  I remember one of the old men of the class of 1930 explaining to me that he was a chaplain in a medical unit in Europe in 1945.  His job was to minister to those men who had been wounded in combat and were very close to death.  This man was in the right place to add comfort to those who were about to die.

Fourth, the military chaplaincy has some very definite secular benefits.  It is important for a military unit to reflect, as much as possible, the values of the larger society, i.e. the society that sends men into the military.   The military has butchers, bakers, finance officers, mail clerks, mechanics, carpenters, recreation facilities, and it might as well have churches, too.

Fifth, the quality of chaplains, and officers, and enlisted men, varies greatly.  There are lousy company clerks and poorly motivated cooks.  So, too, some chaplains don't do their work very well.  I seem to recall my brother, a retired Air Force officer, telling me once about the need to visit an Air Force family that suffered a loss.  My brother, as I recall, said that a chaplain who was with him on the call,  was a wimp and couldn't face up to the challenge of telling the family about their loss.

Sixth, there are Two Kingdoms that Lutherans are a part of.  When I was a soldier I was in the control of the U.S. Army while I was also a member of the UNA SANCTA ECCLESIA.  I did all that I could for those good Southern Baptists but I never participated in their worship services. I am not an altar-call kind of guy. I went to Missouri Synod church services at Fort Benning on Tuesday night where I received sustenance for my soul.

Seventh, I feel that the whole issue of fellowship and unionism is too widely applied for my liking.  I have never felt bound by what many in the ELS feel are the determinative factors on the issue.  As I have traveled through life I have been motivated to seek out the Word. 

As I posted in my Lutheran Colportage blog yesterday, Article VII of the AC is the determinative factor.    Strict descriptions of what is proper and what is improper often fail the test of distinguishing between the letter and the spirit.

So, that's what I think.

Don't apologize, ----.  You know more about theology than many of those morons on ----- -------.

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