National Security By Joe Boyles: ChaplainsDec 20th, 2011 | By Staff | Category: Editorials
In my 31 year military career, I had the opportunity to use many chapel programs for religious services. Chapels were all that was available during my three overseas assignments and some of the bases here in the US are so remote that chapels are more accessible. After all, when it is a 40 mile drive one-way to town (Edwards AFB in California’s Mojave Desert), the base chapel was more than a little convenient.
Most of the time, I didn’t have access to an Episcopal service, so most of the services I attended were non-denominational Protestant. The chaplain could be a Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. Regardless, the building blocks of the service – hymns, scripture, creeds, etc. – were universal.
Military chaplains do a lot more than just conduct a service or two on Sunday. They have a full work week like any religious professional – weddings, funerals, counseling, industrial ministry, education, etc.
When I was an Air Force Academy cadet (1966-70), chapel was mandatory – if I was on campus for the weekend (which was usually the case), I went to chapel on Sunday morning. The Cadet Chapel is an imposing and architecturally unique structure. Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and everyone else have their own chapels within the same structure. If you ever visit there, please stop in; you can’t miss it.
I fear that before long, the chaplaincy will fall under attack by anti-religious zealots using the doctrine of “separation of church and state” as their bludgeon. Where our government and courts will draw a line in the sand and refuse to further retreat is unknown. The plain fact is that our foundation of faith is slowly being chipped away. When will the rights of people of faith be recognized and protected?
Any student of the Constitution will tell you that “separation of church and state” is not worded anywhere in the document. Instead, this is a judicial interpretation taken from a letter by our third president, Thomas Jefferson, to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists.
The actual phrase in the first amendment to the Constitution comes in two parts: 1) Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, 2) or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. It seems to me that in enforcing the first clause, which ensures that we will not be a theocracy, that the rights of the individual are trampled in the second clause. In fact, we see numerous examples where free exercise is denied.
Imagine an atheist group in Wisconsin suing a community in Texas for displaying a Nativity scene on the public square! Will they sue Madison County next? What business is it of theirs? In a dramatic show of support, more than five thousand Christians and their supporters rallied this weekend to back the officials who allowed the display. But does the community have the money to fight the legal challenge that surely follows?
What usually happens in this situation is that the organization (local government, school district, etc.) folds because they simply don’t have the money in their tight budget to afford such a challenge. Who then is the loser and how long and dearly will we pay.
Back to the display of the Nativity; I think there is an underlying theme that makes this season so special to so many people. Hope is a wonderful thing. It can help elect someone to high office, but more often than not, that type of hope is a façade. The Nativity representing the birth of a Savior for all mankind is true, everlasting hope. It gives us something to look forward to that is larger than life itself. No one can rob us of that inspiration. “For unto us, a child is born…”