We – lets be honest eh?

General

The thing that gets me about politics – yes, I have political opinions and for all my “I’m above all that” attitude I like to believe about myself, I continually get sucked into the muddy slog that is politics in this country – the thing that gets to me is the spin. I know, I know – it’s all spin right?

Of course it is, I know it, and it still gets to me.

I’m fine with a party or viewpoint understanding and expressing the world as they see it. We all do it! I do it! It starts to bother me when a person is doing that and not understanding that they are doing it. When they get all puritan about their particular belief as though they don’t do the very same thing.

It gets to me when, to defend the viewpoint, we tend to not acknowledge when our viewpoint is just another expression of the opposite one.

Like when liberals, in defense of good and effective government, don’t admit that there are parts of are government that are, in fact, way to big, too inefficient, and needs to get smaller.

And conservatives, who, in defending the idea that we have too much government imply that they are these independent folks that don’t ever take anything from government!!

Of course we do. We ALL take from government.We ALL use government subsidies. I really enjoyed this clip on “Here and Now” about that very idea. It is right and proper to talk about how much and how efficiently our government spends our money – lets just be real about it.

To paraphrase my CPE Supervisor – lets stop talking about “them out there” (who clearly are evil, greedy, socialist, bleeding heart whatever, them who are not us) and start talking about We. We who benefit from our government. We who all pay taxes is so many ways. We who are responsible to hold our representative accountable for how they govern. We who would rather do just about anything then get informed. We who are the problem and believe that “them out there” are the problem.

We need to fix this. All of us. Honestly.

Two views on the repeal of DADT

Army, Chaplaincy

In the wake of the study that highlighted that the repeal of DADT has had no real impact on the military, I thought I’d share a couple of articles from chaplain’s groups (both sides of the debate) that express how they feel about it.

My own thought is: does the loss of the preferential treatment of my faith (Christianity) equate to the loss of my own religious freedom?

My answer is of course: no. It is true that America is a traditionally Protestant Christian nation and thus most of it’s chaplains are, military chapels are based on Christian churches etc. etc. However, as we become more religiously diverse (as reflecting the diversity of the nation as a whole), it only highlights how great our system is when those from other faith groups and expressions can express as we do.

Is religious support fair? Is it just? Are the ideas, rituals, tenets of your faith still able to be expressed? These are the questions we need to ask.

First, a response from the conservative “Chaplain’s Alliance:”

“This list of problems and incidents that have arisen mere months after this administration imposed its will on the armed forces is disturbing to say the least, and we know it is only the beginning,” said Crews. “Compounding the outrage, service members are not free to speak out about these matters. This ensures that distrust in the ranks will increase and morale will decrease as the number of silenced victims grows.”

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty said it has worked with members of Congress to enact legislation to protect freedom of conscience for chaplains and those they serve. The proposal has passed the House of Representatives but is awaiting action in the Senate.

The second from a progressive chaplains’ group run by the UCC:

Will religious conservatives in the military no longer be able to practice their religion? Will their chaplains have to refrain from preaching against homosexuality (their term, not mine)? Not at all. Chaplains have always had the right to preach according to the tenets of the religious bodies that endorse them — and they still will. Will anti-gay chaplains be forced to conduct same-sex weddings in military chapels? Of course not. They will continue to conduct rites and sacraments as allowed by their religious bodies. And the same principle applies to conducting religious education and pastoral counseling. The one thing that every chaplain is required to do, regardless of their religious perspectives, is care for everyone. If these chaplains can’t minister to gay and lesbian service members themselves, they are obligated to refer them to another chaplain who can.
So where is the threat to religious freedom? And where could their right to free speech be limited? It will no longer be acceptable to speak about fellow gay and lesbian service members in demeaning ways in the workplace and other public settings. The fact that this has ever been acceptable by anyone anywhere, but especially by chaplains, is regrettable. And chaplains from the religious groups who are now demanding protection from discrimination have been some of the worst offenders. They, and others who agree with them, may continue to think and believe what they want, but outside of those areas where their religious speech is protected, they may now have to keep their bigotry to themselves.
I agree that religious freedom is a precious right that we must hold inviolate. It is a right that all service members serve to defend, and which all should be able to enjoy. By all, I mean those who are religiously liberal as well as those who are conservative, and by those who are gay as well as straight. Are ADF and the religious groups they represent as willing to defend the same rights and protections for others they claim for themselves? Are they as willing to acknowledge the right of chaplains from gay-friendly denominations to perform gay weddings in military chapels? And are they as willing to speak up for those who suffer discrimination because they are gay? If not, their pleas for special protection from discrimination for themselves are self-serving and unworthy of consideration.

This highlights the reality that Christian’s have always struggled through – how do we work out our understanding of Jesus’ teachings? How do we walk as salt and light? I am convinced that both these groups claim salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ and his salvific work on the cross. Yet they come down hard on both sides of the issue.

Such is the way of families. I just hope it doesn’t ruin the family reunion.

Chaplains and Gay Marriage

Army, Chaplaincy

I read an article this week about a bill being put forward that  would protect chaplains from having to perform marriage ceremonies they deem violate their conscience. A goal I’d be down with – if it needed to be done.

But it does not. Chaplains have always been able to perform or NOT perform marraiges on or off instalations. It has everything to do with their particular faith group, ordination, and endorser.

Army Regulation 165-1 lays it out clearly:  (5) Chaplains, at their discretion, may perform marriage ceremonies for authorized personnel upon request and in accordance with the laws of the State or country where the marriage is to take place. Chaplain participation in marriage preparations and ceremonies is in keeping with individual conscience and distinctive faith requirements. Chaplains may perform marriage ceremonies for DOD military personnel overseas in compliance with all applicable civil law requirements of the host nations, Army regulations, and any other military command directives.

That seems kind of clear to me.

The point I am making here is that this law is unnecessary. I won’t comment on DOMA, that seems to be a political issue and I’m not going to wade in those waters. I will however highlight that chaplains were not nor are not required to perform marriages (or services) outside of their tradition. Given some of the conversations I’ve had recently, I thought I’d point that out.

The role of the chaplain in layman’s terms is to “perform or provide.” By this we mean that we “perform” our particular faith’s rituals, ceremonys, and services while “providing” for the free exercise of religion for everyone else. This looks different for each chaplain but for me, I have generally kept a folder in my office of local major religious groups that I could point Soldiers and family members in their direction and even *gasp* make a coordinating phone call for them in the need arose. Downrange, I bent over backwards to ensure that my Soldiers had access to their particular faith group as they had need. Thats religious freedom. It’s why I get paid. I think sometimes this gets lost in all the posturing around these issues. There are many Soldiers in the Army who do not hold to Christian traditions. They have as much right to worship as any of us do. I’m all for laws that broaden our understanding of religious liberty, I just wonder about the intent of laws that seek to do what is most certainly already done.

As a rule, I believe the Pauline injunction that couples should not be “unequally yoked” – in other words, Christians should marry Christians. This means that I have, in fact, turned down opportunities to marry those who did not fit that criteria. I’ve never been corrected or guided differently in that. It is a part of my faith. However, this does not mean that I was unhelpful. I am fine helping anyone get their needs met in a way that makes sense to them. Incidentally, I also do not marry folks I don’t believe have a fighting chance to make it. (i.e. Soldier shows up in my office with soon to be spouse and wants me to marry them after a week of knowing each other…) Christian marriage is the only kind of marriage I perform and I take the responsibility seriously. That’s my ordination – my performance. My job as federal chaplain requires that I provide for everyone else. I have no issues with it. I do it happily.

As a side, there has been no negative impact of the repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I guess after all that hullabaloo, it just wasn’t a big deal after all. But I’ll save that for another post.

Conflicted Change

General

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.  ~Anatole France

So, Tuesday morning, I took my children to school for the first time. Sophie, my four year old, went right to her class. She sat in her chair nervously looking around the room clearly filled with the excitement of this new thing in her life. Ransom, my three year old, was much more apprehensive about the whole thing. While he was very down with the dinosaurs and the puzzles, he clearly was not ready for mom and dad to leave the room. Mom and dad however, were filled with the conflicting emotions of being excited for the kids to have reached that first big pinnacle of childhood and the grief that they were growing up and out of the home. On the one hand I found myself immensely proud of my children for doing well in school and some latent fear of what impact setting my children out in the world would have on them. As I walked out of the school in the morning, hand in hand with Sara, my thoughts moved toward the reality that it has happened – life will never be what it was yesterday – our children were now under the influence of others. Only time will tell how we do and have done as parents. 

Change often brings conflicting emotions. How do you deal with them? How does one deal with the reality of change and the desire to keep things the same, the comfortable way one has always known? 
I think one of the secret is a constant evaluation of the current situation. Self awareness, family awareness. Is it the best way? Am I hanging on to this way of doing things because I’m comfortable with it or because it really is the best way of doing whatever it is I’m doing? 
 
I can only trust that where we’ve been has strengthened us for where we are going.