Converting the Heathens

There are Jewish organisations, including the JCCs of North America and HUC, offering scholarships to American rabbinical students who wish to become military chaplains. The US Army’s chaplain recruitment webpage states,

“Army Chaplains are expected to observe the distinctive doctrines of their faith while also honoring the right of others to observe their own faith. The Army is a pluralistic environment. “

Honouring the right of others to observe their own faith. That seems key to me. Both for the individuals in the armed forces, and the citizens on the countries they invade. If chaplains from different faiths are expected to work side by side, and serve that “pluralistic environment” of different faith soldiers, how can the following be permitted?

U.S. Soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan’s predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show.Military chaplains stationed in the U.S. air base at Bagram were also filmed with Bibles printed in the country’s main Pashto and Dari languages.

In one recorded sermon, Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, the chief of the U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling Soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility “to be witnesses for him”.

“The special forces guys — they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down,” he says.

“Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.” [read more.]

Unacceptable. The army’s mandate is not to convert, not to be missionaries, not to proselytise. If a military chaplain of a different faith were to encourage soldiers to act on a similar mission (say, convert everyone to Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism), this would be a giant story, with the majority of Americans angrily protesting. But converting to Christianity? No one makes a stir.

Okay, okay, not “no one.” “Some of the Soldiers” were reprimanded, and the army confiscated some of the Bibles that had been printed in Pashto and Dari (Afghanistan’s main languages). We know that this is bad for US diplomacy, it’s unconstitutional, and the Army doesn’t allow it… So why isn’t it being fully investigated? Why aren’t all of the soldiers being reprimanded? How come this was allowed to happen in Iraq as well? And why does hasn’t that chaplain been reprimanded?

One Response to “Converting the Heathens”

  1. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been working on these issues… support them.

    chillul Who? · May 6th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik