Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Military chaplains told to shy from Jesus

It's too bad the military needs to be part of the culture war in the middle of the war on terror.

This story is discouraging.

"I am a Navy chaplain being fired because I pray in Jesus' name," said Navy Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who will be holding 6 p.m. prayer vigils daily in Lafayette Park.

The hunger strike is intended to persuade President Bush to issue an executive order allowing military chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions. The American Center for Law and Justice has gathered 173,000 signatures on a petition seeking an executive order.

Seventy-three members of Congress have joined the request, saying in an Oct. 25 letter to the president, "In all branches of the military, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Christian chaplains to use the name of Jesus when praying."


Hammertime said...

As a chaplain-in-training (sort of) and one who has several chaplain friends, I am simultaneously unsurprised and dismissive. It has become rather vouge for unsuccessful evangelical chaplains to claim they are not getting promoted because they are too evangelical. Often they just aren't that good.

On the other hand, every chaplain knows walking in that their job is to support, not proselytize. The military avoidance of praying in Jesus' name is not new. The USMA Cadet prayer used to end with "In the name of the Great Friend and Master of All, Amen." It changed in the '60's to add "Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen".

The Bible does not require us to pray in the name of Christ in the manner we do - that is a cultural phenomenon. We serve the military better by staying in and evangelizing those who are open to it than by saying "Jesus" at the end of a prayer to a unit.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

Ending a prayer with the words “in Jesus name” has always seemed silly to me. However, the way a prayer is ended does not seem to be the main issue, nor is the competency of the Chaplain the issue. The story makes the issue sound like the name “Jesus” is being singled out as forbidden.

A good Chaplain needs to always be aware of his or her audience and situation. Surely there are times when invoking the name of Jesus would be inappropriate. However, there are also many times when invoking the name of Jesus would be completely appropriate for a Chaplain who is a Christian in a military of mostly Christians. A rule that forbids the use of the word “Jesus” is a rule of intolerance that seems to be unconstitutional to me.

Is it your intention to apply to be a Chaplain after seminary? That would be outstanding. From what I know about you, I think it would be your calling.

Hammertime said...

Yes, as best as I am able, I understand that active duty chaplaincy is my call. The military is short on chaplains, and what's more, by my own experience, they are very short on good chaplains.

The two key personality traits a chaplain needs to have to be effective are a heart for soldiers and the ability to weave through the various personalities that may obstruct ministry. In my opinion, the type of person who makes a good pastor makes a good chaplain. Too mnay chaplains I have gotten to know would be crappy pastors, and are crappy chaplains.

I don't know that I'll be great, but I've seen enough wrong to know that not to do. Ten years of active duty service aren't likely to hurt my ability to relate either.

All those years I thought I was going to be a general or a politician. It turns out that the Lord has something far more valuable planned for me!