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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Patriotism

Jesus Says, “No, America, You Won’t Be Great Again.”

For what it’s worth, I’m not now nor have I ever been anti-American (as even close friends have been accused of behaving). I LOVE my country and and very glad that I live here, serve here (though my opinions do not reflect the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any government agency), and raise my family here. For all our faults (and we can point to quite a few), there are places in the world that are FAR worse off. So I’m not here to bash America. I’m here to talk about Christians who have jumped on the “Make America Great Again” bandwagon.

You see, the expression implies that America WAS great but somehow lost its greatness. It now needs to regain what we once had. So I want to know what it is we’ve lost and what we need to get back. My friend Harry said it very well when he responded:

I believe the more specific definition is “great for who(m)”? In a land of such diversity greatness is defined by any individual group to suit their own needs and desires. It’s a dandy catchphrase but is it also a balance scale. Does “greatness” for some come at a sacrifice to others?

I think that’s a big part of the problem. Going back to greatness for one group doesn’t look so hot for another group. It’s a matter of perspective, depending on which side of history you fall. But my BIGGEST problem comes from Christians who eagerly (sometimes humble-732566_1920overwhelmingly so) desire to be part of the “Make America Great Again” movement. I expect such behavior from non-Christians. But Christians are supposed to approach issues like this from a different perspective. Jesus addressed greatness several times.

He said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

and:

And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35)

I’m not talking about pursuing excellence. If we follow the Apostle’s advice and do everything we do as doing it unto God, we’re going to pursue excellence. But the idea of greatness runs contrary to the idea of humility. Greatness is a comparative quality – it’s being set apart from the norm or average. It’s saying, “I’m more special than ________.”

GreatI fail to grasp how a commitment to Jesus, one who epitomized service to others, allows us a Christians to say, “We desire to be better than everyone else!”

I recognize that it’s impossible to lump everyone who says, “Make America Great Again” into a single group. But my observation is that the slogan, and many who promote it, embrace an “us vs. them” mentality that is at odds with the Gospel of Jesus.

Real humility doesn’t say, “I desire to be great!” Real humility says, “What can I do for you?”

So be patriotic. Pursue excellence in all you do. There’s nothing wrong with that! But be humble. Embrace serving others. Reject the pursuit of greatness as a goal. Let greatness be the result of a life of serving others and seeking to build others up. Remember Jesus’s words I mentioned earlier:

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”

Dear America, You Left the Christian Nation Behind

flag-1192625_1920A few days ago a friend of mine posted a video of British Prime Minister David Cameron. In the video, Minister Cameron was giving his annual Easter message from 2015 and made repeated references to Great Britain being a Christian country.

And American conservatives are going NUTS for it. I’ve seen comments from people telling the PM to “stick it to Obama” and thanking him for “having the guts to say what Obama would never say.”

Watch the video:

Here’s the thing that conservative American Christians needs to understand about this video and, the bigger issue at hand, our own history: AMERICA IS NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION! In fact, we left the Christian nation behind because our founding fathers didn’t want us to be a Christian nation.

There is still an official Church of England. There is no Church of America (not officially, anyway). One of the ideas of settling in America was that there would be nobody to force our form and manner of worship – we can worship how we choose. We were part of a Christian nation and we left it behind to pursue something else.

It is inappropriate to our history and our Constitution to try to force a national faith on America now. Don’t misunderstand me – I believe that the Christian faith IS the only way to God. I do not believe that we can force the country into a mold from which it never came.

America can’t “get back” to anything because it never started out that way. It started out apart from a national faith. This ALSO means we cannot misappropriate the biblical promises to Israel and claim them as applying to the United States of America. They are not ours to claim. We are not God’s chosen people. If we humble ourselves and pray then God will not heal America and restore it to its pre-Cold War greatness.

That is NOT biblical. We can serve the one, true God from any nation on earth. We can serve the one, true God no matter which party is in office. My God is bigger than partisan politics and international borders.

If you can’t get down with that, perhaps your god is to small…

Dear Christian, How Can You Be in the Military?!

Let me begin with a disclaimer:

I do not represent the United States government or the Chaplain Corps. I speak for myself. My thoughts and opinions are just that – my own. 😉

Now that we got that outta the way, here we go!

A couple months ago a friend asked me about my chosen profession as a military chaplain

LT Chris Linzey, CHC, USN
LT Chris Linzey, CHC, USN

(I’ve spent 5 years in the Army Reserve and am now an Active Duty Navy Chaplain). The questions went like this:

How can you carry out Christ’s commands to love our enemies, to not resist evil, to overcome evil with good, to not kill – now that you’ve taken an oath to the military and abide by its laws? What are you counseling the service men and women?

This post isn’t going to get into the ins and outs of Just War Theory. I’ve written about it elsewhere (as have MANY others who understand it a lot better than I do).

But I do want to address the idea that Christians should not be in the military because we are called by God to be set apart.

1) From a biblical perspective, all of the instructions in the New Testament about loving enemies, overcoming evil with good, etc. are not instructions to officials about the best way to run a government. They are instructions about how we ought to conduct ourselves in our personal relationships. Remember that in the Old Testament the God who commands, “Thou shall not kill” is the same God that allows capital punishment for certain crimes. There is a difference between our personal ethics and our corporate ethics – and this difference isn’t a bad thing. It’s what allows us to pursue peace and healthy relationships while still being a society that deals in justice and punishment.

2) Coming to faith has never meant resigning from military service. Even in the Bible, Soldiers were not condemned for their military service or told to quit. In fact, the Bible tells us about Soldiers coming to faith.

John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…. “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance….” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He answered them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” (Luke 3:3-14)

If being a Soldier in the Roman army were wrong, why are Soldiers not condemned? Rather, they are told to be satisfied with their wages. That means they’re staying in the service!

3) Finally, as a Chaplain, it’s not my job to fight. The two purposes of military Chaplains are a) to spiritually care for service members and b) to advise Command about ethics, moral, and spirituality. In that sense, John the Baptist was the first Chaplain beginning in the New Testament era! He spiritually cared for Soldiers and helped them move in a godly direction.soldiers-praying

I’m not making a case for or against any particular war or military action. We will be debating the morality of military action until the end of time. My only point is that there is nothing intrinsically immoral or ungodly about Christians serving in the military.

In the military we are taught to obey ALL lawful orders. Should the time come when the military gives Christians orders that are unlawful or conflict with personal morality and ethics, Service Members are free to disobey the orders – just know that you will have to face the consequences of that decision 😉

At the end of the day I believe the Chaplain Corps makes the military a better place. We get to speak to issues of ethics and morality. We get to help Service Members pursue spiritual health. And, since the Bible clearly has no problem with God-followers serving in the military, I will not feel guilty about wearing the cloth of my nation.

I proudly serve my God while I proudly serve in my country’s armed forces.

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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

America Ain’t the Promised Land but it’s the Land I Love: Why I Serve

Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A lot of Christians seem to believe that America is the new Promised Land – that somehow the blessings and promises God gave Israel that are recorded in the Old Testament somehow have carried over to us. It’s not true, but I’ve run into that line of thinking a lot.

Israel was called as God’s people group – called to represent God to the world. Part of that calling was the promise of land and blessing. That promise is not for us because we are not part of Old Testament Israel. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, a good Jew, declares that being part of God’s people is no longer about ethnicity but about faith.

I bring this up because many people in the United States seem to confuse faith and patriotism, as though they are interchangeable. If one is a patriot one must be a good Christian. If one is a Christian one must be a good patriot. Our military men and women almost take on demi-god like status on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July. On these special weekends many churches seem to forget what our real object of worship is supposed to be. Jesus gets put on the back burner for the American flag, patriotic songs, and pomp and circumstance (not all churches, I know, but some do).

In the Old Testament there was a mix between the nation and faith. In fact, when Joshua led the Army around Jericho the priests led the way!

The Lord said to Joshua, “Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its fighting men over to you. March around the city with all the men of warm circling the city one time. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s horn trumpets in front of the arc. But on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the trumpets… (Joshua 6:2-4)

Chaplains lead the way!

But that’s not who God’s people are any more. We’re not a nation looking to take the land God has given us. We are a people of faith in Jesus. That faith is what brings us into community, not land or birthright. What I do as a Soldier is not because God has called America to be His nation. This is not His nation (any more than England, Russia, New Zealand, etc.), and the whole “If my people will turn…” is not a promise to Americans.

So why do I serve?

I have long felt a call to service and to ministry. I had considered the police department. I had considered being a military pilot. The idea of serving the community and/or country greatly appeals to me – to be part of something much bigger than myself, to contribute to the general welfare. But that would not allow me to carry out my calling to minister to people. But being in ministry wouldn’t allow me to fulfill my calling to serve.

So for me the Chaplaincy was a perfect fit. I get to exercise both aspects of my calling: to minister to people and to serve the nation. Not because this is God’s nation, but because I believe in the ideals of a democratic republic – because I affirm with Winston Churchill:

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

On this Veterans Day I want to say “Thank you!” to everyone who has served or currently serves in any element of the U.S. Armed Forces, Active, Reserve, and Guard. This country is what it is because of men and women like you.

And, while this nation is not blessed because of our special relationship to God, I think it’s a pretty great place – and I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

Happy Veterans Day! God bless!

veterans-day

Related Posts:
Patriotism Vs. Faith
The Decline of Christianity in the U.S. Army

The Rebellious American Spirit

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case there was any doubt in your mind, yes – Americans have a rebellious spirit. You can see this most evidently in political diatribes on social media. We love to stick it to each other. We rail against the horrible policies of our opponents and those of differing agendas and parties.

In extreme cases, I’ve seen people call for Soldiers to openly rise up and seize the White House and remove the President from power. In less extreme cases, I’ve seen people call all sorts of horrible names and level all sorts of wicked accusations against politicians with whom the accusers disagree. It seems that there is no such thing as civil discourse any more.

What really saddens me is how quickly Christians jump on board with this kind of behavior. It’s as though we are giving in to our basest nature and forgetting the Godly nature that is supposed to now guide us. We justify our behavior and our language in all sorts of ways – trying to find an excuse for why we’re calling Senator So-and-So a poo-poo head or linking the President to Hitler. It goes on and on.

The simple fact is this – I don’t see any cause in the Bible for treating people like this. The Apostle Paul seems pretty straightforward:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.

Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

Of course, Paul’s “governing authorities” were not the duly elected officials of our era. We’re talking about the Emperor and his governors. You know…the ones who put Christians to death. And still Paul calls us to surrender our rebellious spirit to God and to subject ourselves to the authorities. If God is really in control of this world, then even the authorities we despise are part of his plan.

Politically minded Christians are the worst, because we tend to justify our behavior with the God-card – trying to mix our politics and faith. Missiologist Ed Stetzer recently wrote: When you mix politics and religion you get politics.

Even when we disagree with the policies and decisions of the elected officials, let us make sure that we are not embracing a sinful rebellious spirit but can submit; Republican, Democrat, Independent, whomever.

No matter what happens in the country, this world is not our home. Our ultimate allegiance is not to the flag but to our God. Eventually you will get jerked around by government and organizations – it’s the nature of the beast (yes, pun intended). But take it with a measure of grace and know that God’s got bigger plans than American health care, or gay marriage, ____________ (insert the issue of your choosing).

No matter what happens God is still God.

Related Posts:
Patriotism Vs. Faith
Why The American War For Independence Was Unbiblical
Why You Need to Leave the President Alone

Reflections on 9/11: Can We Find a Way Forward?

we will not fear, though the earth should change
we will not fear, though the earth should change

September 11 is a strange time for Americans. It’s a day where we lump together a bunch of emotions and attitudes into one big kettle: loss, grief, sorrow, anger, self-righteousness, racism, vengeance, patriotism…and that just to name a few.

It was an event that shook America to its core. It’s one of those events where everyone remembers where he was and what he was doing when it happened. It was an event that forever altered reality.

On the anniversary of that day I want to reflect on some issues.

First: This is a time to remember those we lost. Nearly 3000 people died. The ripple effects of those lives is huge. It is appropriate to think of those people, to mourn our loss at their untimely passing. I was once asked if it was selfish to grieve over the loss of a loved one. I wouldn’t call it selfish – I would call it human. We build bonds and attachments with people. It is normal to feel pain at having people taken away. But yes, grief focuses on personal loss and not on the final destination of the other.

Second: This is a time to turn to God. In the midst of that tragedy God provided comfort that no one else could. The psalmist writes:

God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide? No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.

When the earth spins out of control,
     we are sure and fearless.
When mountains crumble and waters run wild,
     we are sure and fearless.
Even in the heavy winds and huge waves, or as the mountains shake,
     we are sure and fearless.

Trouble is on the horizon for the outside nations, not long until kingdoms will fall;
    God’s voice thunders and the earth shakes.
You know the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies, surrounds us and protects us;
    the True God of Jacob is our shelter, close to His heart.

(Psalm 46:1-3, 6-7)

The earth definitely changed on 9/11. And this song, written thousands of years ago, is still as appropriate today as it ever was. We who believe have a reason for peace – even in the middle of chaos. We who believe have a Power greater than any other power on which we can depend. When the world is falling down around us we turn to Him and find hope. We find comfort. We find peace.

Third: This is NOT a time to embrace hatred and racism. Over the last 15 years I’ve seen many Americans speak and behave as though 9/11 gives us freedom to hate, belittle, or discriminate against people of Middle Eastern descent. Let it not be so. It is wrong direct our anger towards Middle Eastern people. Over the years since 9/11 I’ve heard many derogatory comments about Arabs. Racism in any form is NEVER okay. It really doesn’t matter what you feel the other ethnic group has done – no group is so monolithic that you can fault all for the actions of a few. Would you lump Arab Christians into your hatred? It’s just stupid. Let’s fault the bad guys and not lump others in simply because of their ethnic group. It’s poor logic. It’s the logic that looks at the Charles Manson “family” and hypothesize that all white people are cult-following murderers. So let’s drop the racist element from 9/11, huh? No more “Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out” attitudes.

Fourth: As difficult as it might be, for our own sake we need to practice forgiveness. We forgive others because we are people who have been forgiven. Jesus himself taught us to pray:

“And forgive us our debts, as also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

Forgiveness does not seek vengeance. We do need to seek justice for wrongs. One of the roles of government is to hold people accountable for wrong doing. But as individuals we can let go of the idea of vengeance and move forward in forgiveness. Because let’s be honest…a lot of our mentality (not just from politicians and military leaders but from civilians as well) regarding the “war on terror” has been about vengeance, not simply justice. It’s not our place to avenge.

Let’s be people of justice.

Let’s be people of peace.

Let’s be people of forgiveness.

It’s the only real way forward.

Related Posts:
~ Patriotism Vs. Faith
~ Learning How to Forgive
~ Spread the Love: Making 9/11 a Day of Forgiveness

Losing Religious Freedom

Providing Spiritual Care to ALL Soldiers...
Military Chaplains – Providing Spiritual Care to ALL Soldiers…

***As always, I speak for myself. I represent no government or military organization.***

This morning I woke up to this disturbing news article about a Chaplain’s Assistant facing reprimand for voicing her personal beliefs on her personal Facebook page. Please note that the Chaplain’s Assistant posted her personal beliefs on her personal Facebook page. She was not utilizing government time or equipment to push her faith on someone else. She stated her opinion regarding biblical values. Her Commander threatened her with a reduction in rank and pay if she did not remove the post.

I will be perfectly upfront and admit that the only thing I know about the incident is what was reported in the story. You know as much (if not more) than I do. If the story is true then we are looking at an incredible injustice. So please let me climb up on my soapbox for a few minutes.

There are two sides to this ugly coin:

First, to those who push an agenda of equality and rights and social justice, to those who reported the Chaplain’s Assistant for creating a “hostile and antagonistic work environment” I say this: freedom and equality is a two-way street. You cannot cry out for the freedom to live and speak as you choose and then silence those who disagree with you. It seems as though any vocalizing of disagreement with you is considered hateful and hostile. Is it not possible to disagree without being hateful and hostile?

You have become the oppressor when you try to silence your opposition. If you really believed in the freedom you claim you desire then, as much as you have the ability to live and speak the way you please, those who dissent have that same ability to live and speak as they please. As Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, notes: “Just because a person wears a uniform does not mean they give up their religious liberties and their ability to speak about matters of faith.”

Freedom is a two-way street.

Second, to those who would side with the Chaplain’s Assistant, I have a word for you from the New Testament book of 1 Peter 3:14-18 ~

“Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

Honestly, I’m tired of militant Evangelicals demanding this and that, screaming about injustice and trying to force our way on society. From my reading, the Bible is pretty clear that the world ultimately is not on our side. We belong to God. We do not belong to this world. Peter’s church suffered a lot of persecution at the hand of unbelievers. We should not be surprised when this world turns against us.

Let’s face it, Western Christianity has lived a charmed life for the last 1700 years. We’ve become so comfortable that we’ve forgotten that we’re temporary residents here – we don’t belong here permanently. Peter’s words ring true today just as they ever did: take it all with gentleness and respect. We become pushy when we feel we’re owed something. Instead, we ought to accept it as a natural result of a broken world.

As much as possible I believe those of us in a democratic republic need to keep working towards real equality. That means that everyone gets a voice, even if we disagree with each other. Disagreement isn’t hate – it’s just disagreement. At the same time, don’t forget that we’re just passing through. Things will get worse for Christianity as the years progress (I think history bears this out). It doesn’t matter. Even when we suffer, don’t fear. Don’t be frightened. We still serve Jesus, and that’s our end – eternity with him.

The situation in this news piece really gets under my skin (as a Christian and as an Army Reserve Chaplain). If it is true (as I said, I only know what is reported in the story), I think the Commander was out of line and wrong to reprimand and threaten the Airman. I am disheartened to think that religious freedom is taking a backseat to a pseudo-tolerance (tolerance when you agree with me, I’ll silence you if you disagree with me). But still, Jesus reigns over all. One day all the wrongs of this world will be made right. Until then we persevere with grace, dignity, gentleness, and respect – no matter what comes our way.

Amen, Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

The Decline of Christianity in the U.S. Armed Forces

Right on Target
Right on Target

Let’s start off with the basic disclaimers: I speak for myself. I do not speak for the U.S military. I do not speak for the government. Heck, I don’t even speak for the Chaplain Corps – there is a lot of division among Chaplains as to this topic. So I only speak for myself and my perspective. Got it? Okay. Now, let’s move on.

As a former Chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve and now a Chaplain in the Navy, one of the topics I am asked about most often pertains to the decline of Christianity in the military. “Are you allowed to pray in Jesus’ name?” “Will you really get punished if you share your faith with another Soldier?” Questions like these are normal from those not familiar with the Chaplain Corps. Every time there is an issue between Atheists and Christians in the military certain conservative news outlets really hype the story and only serve to make things worse.

Case in point: a story came out last week about a Chaplain who writes a regular article for his base’s website. It’s called the “Chaplain’s Corner.” It seems that a recent article he wrote was titled: “No Atheists in Foxholes.” It was an historic look at the origin of this famous expression and the role of faith in WWII. But it seems some Atheists were offended by the piece and demanded it be removed. So the Commander yielded and removed the Chaplain’s article. Now conservative news outlets are stirring the pot and hard-core Evangelicals are upset. How can the military censor religious expression?

Believe it or not, things are going great in the Chaplain Corps. There is not decline of Christianity in the Army. My Commanders are actually very supportive of the Unit Ministry Team and the Chaplain’s role. We’re not being censored, and we’re not being persecuted. Much of the problem lies in a misunderstanding of the role of military Chaplain.

My role is dual-natured. On one hand I am a military pastor. I preach. I pray in Jesus’ name. I serve communion. I perform weddings and funerals. Basically, everything I do as a civilian pastor I can do as an army Chaplain. On the other hand I am a staff officer. I serve and represent the Commander. There are some times and places where I will need to wear my staff officer hat and other times when I wear my pastor hat. The key is to discern which is which.

For my services or Bible studies I have free reign to be authentically me as a Christian pastor. For staff events where I represent the Commander I put my role as staff officer first and serve the Commander and the Soldiers without pushing my personal faith. The Commander was within norms to remove the Chaplain’s article from the base website. A senior Chaplain I know recently commented:

It is common in the military for the chaplain to have a regular spot in the commander’s newsletter or website. I have done this for the past 22 years. However, we have to keep in mind whose newsletter or whose website it is. It is not the chaplain’s. It is the commander’s. Therefore, it is the commander’s message that must be contained in all parts of it, even The Chaplain’s Corner. To take this particular message off the website is not religious censorship because this was not a religious forum. When I write a piece for the commander’s newsletter or website, I typically write about relationships, family support, or morale. I’ll talk about leadership or teamwork. Sometimes I’ll suggest that our Soldiers pursue spirituality and if they want they may come talk with the chaplain about that or any other topic they have in mind. But the commander’s newsletter or website should always be generic.

As a Chaplain, then, it really comes down to understanding where you are and the role you play. At one point in the bible, Jesus sends his disciples out into the world and tells them to be shrewd as snakes but innocent as doves. The Old Testament tells us that there is a time and season for everything.

We are not being shrewd when we push our religion on everyone. There is a time and a place to be forward with our faith. There is a time and a place to fill our other roles. Contrary to what gets hyped by conservative media, it is still okay to talk about faith in the military. But there is a time and place to do it well. We do disservice to our faith when we believe we have to use our faith combatively to confront people.

In the end, the better I do my job as a Chaplain to all Soldiers the better I can do my job as a Christian. What Soldier will even want to be around me if they feel I always use my faith to beat them up? They would dread seeing the Chaplain walk up. But if I love on and care for people no matter what their faith or no-faith background then I have an open door to care for them, to show concern, and to help meet their needs. In the end, I’ve found that people are more receptive to me and my discussion about faith when they know that I will care for them no matter what – without pushing a faith agenda on them.

If you have any questions about faith in the military or the role of a Chaplain, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Why This Soldier Will Never Shoot

At the Rifle Range
At the Rifle Range

I’m a Soldier in the United States Army Reserve. More specifically, I’m a Chaplain (Captain). What a lot of people don’t know about Chaplains is that we are classified as “non-combatants”. That means I’m not a war-fighter. I would be more like a combat-multiplier. I take care of Soldiers so that Soldiers can take care of the Nation.

But my non-combatant status goes beyond warfare. There is a policy from the Chief of Chaplains (the top dog of Chaplains) instructing Chaplains that, as Chaplains, we are not to be firing weapons even in training situations. that was a real bummer for today.

I was at the weapons range with the Battalion Staff. They were qualifying on the rifle and on the sidearm. At one point, the Detachment Commander came over and told me, “Chaplain, if you want to shoot we have the extra ammo and weapon for you” (he did not know about the Chief of Chaplain’s policy). Man, what an offer! I mean, really, who would have known if I had done it? I’m just a junior Chaplain in one Battalion in the whole Army (which has thousands of Chaplains).

But I didn’t shoot. I kindly thanked him and explained the policy and said that I would love to shoot but won’t do it on duty (there is no prohibition from owning or firing weapons for Chaplains when not on duty).

Let me explain why I didn’t shoot:

1) You never know who is watching. These days it seems like everyone has a smartphone with a camera. I can just see someone pulling out a camera to take a picture of the Chaplain “shooting with the troops.” Then the picture would wind up on Facebook and, before you know it, I’m getting a call from a senior Chaplain asking what on earth I was thinking. Aye, carumba.

Once I was walking through Wal-Mart doing some regular grocery shopping when I saw a church member. She was at the end of her aisle picking up a case of beer to put into her cart. I approached her and said hello in a very friendly way. She became flustered and quickly started to explain to me that she was merely buying the beer for her husband and not for herself. She was so embarrassed to be seen by her pastor. You never know when people will see your public behavior!

**SIDE NOTE**

The Bible does not say that buying or drinking alcohol is a sin – just that drunkenness is a sin. I told this dear lady that it didn’t matter to me if she was buying the beer for her husband or herself. It didn’t change what I thought of her or how I would treat her. Back to the topic….

2) Our behavior has consequences that might not be apparent immediately to us. Imagine if I had decided to shoot and some Soldiers who DID know about the policy prohibiting Chaplains from shooting saw me willfully act against the policy. In an instant I would lose credibility as a Chaplain and leader. The one who is supposed to be a spiritual leader breaks rules whenever it pleases him? And when ministers lose credibility it adversely affects our ability to reach people. You might not see how your behavior influences others, but people see what you do. Live in such a way to build credibility – not destroy it.

3) Even if nobody had EVER seen me break policy (which I haven’t, remember), God would have known. I know, I know – it’s almost trite and cliché to say, “God sees you.” But it’s true.

I don’t say that in an attempt to put guilt or fear into people. It is a positive thing. In the Old Testament when Hagar is going through a real rough spot in life she cries out to God asking for deliverance and says, You are the God who sees me.” He sees and he cares. It is a wonderful thing that God sees us and cares for us. But it is a fearful thing because nothing is hidden from him.

There’s a children’s song I learned a long time ago that says, “Be careful little feet where you go. Oh be careful little feet where you go. For the Father up above is looking down with love so be careful little feet where you go.” At some point God will judge the living and the dead and all of our actions will be accounted for. He knows what we do, it doesn’t matter if we take our secrets to the grave.

So I will never shoot a weapon as a Soldier. I’m okay with that. It’s part of being a member of the organization and following orders. I will never willfully disobey lawful orders. It would damage my credibility and my potential to minister to Soldiers.

As Christians let us remember that our behavior matters. People see us. And, even if they don’t, God does. One day we will be held accountable.

How about you? Ever been “caught” doing something when you thought no one was looking?

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