Military Chaplains: Guns and Faith

August 31st, 2011, bySean Nixon

Around the globe, U.S. military chaplains provide an immeasurable service to the men and women in uniform. Whether in military barracks or out on the battlefield, these religious men and women are looked to for inspiration and relief when times get tough. But, due to current military policies, enemies of the U.S. may see military chaplains as something else: easy targets.

A recent CNN report explains how chaplains in the U.S. military do not carry any weapons on them at any time, including times of battle. Enemies in wartime seldom show a great deal of restraint when it comes to targeting those in combat. And, while the sentiment of peace is a hallmark found in many of the faiths represented in the military, I think the policy could be dangerous for those serving as chaplains.

I can totally understand a chaplain’s decision not to carry a weapon. It’s not the type of image that most people think of when they think of a man or woman of God. But, if for some reason that chaplain did decide that they wanted to protect themselves, they should be given a firearm to do so. Yet, the only other distinguishing characteristic of a military chaplain uniform is a patch indicating the chaplain’s religious affiliation. What chaplains do receive, however, is an assistant who is armed and charged with the responsibility of looking after the chaplain’s safety.

Even with a chaplain’s assistant, I don’t think our enemies would hesitate to shoot someone on the battlefield simply because they are unarmed and have a patch on their uniforms. It would be one thing to say chaplains are safe on a base somewhere, ministering to the needs of others; but, it’s something totally different when you put them in harm’s way with no real way of protecting themselves.

I don’t think this policy sends the right message to our enemies or service personnel. The U.S. military should have another look at this policy and determine if changes, in fact, need to be made.

Share your thoughts.

Has the U.S. military made the right decision when it comes to chaplains and weapons?  Should chaplains at least be given the right to choose whether or not they carry a firearm?

  • Dan Slaby

    As an athiest, I’ve often commented that God, Guns and Gold are the axis of evil in America. God, because those who believe in God have a divine permission to pursue their political self-interest for privilege, Guns because it is the method that provides the power to excercise their effort (Chrisitans talk about prayer, but prayer is not as effective as a gun), and Gold because it is the reward (blessing from God) promised to those who submit to religious authority. For those Christians who have a progressive and pacifist inclination, this trioka would seem horrible for there also is another side of compassion in the history of Chrisitanity. The dilema of gun toting chaplains reminds me of the event where a church guard shot and killed an estranged member who was coming with shotguns – she stated the Holy Spirit had guided her to kill him. I find this incredible, since it demonstrates the impotence of spiritual beliefs to overcome evil in this world. Wars engaged under the nation or God is something that we all need to avoid, but given a person who serves in the military to minister to his fellow soldiers doesn’t have time to reason or evangelize in the heat of battle. The old adage of shoot first and pray later may be more practical given the situation. However, the military should ask each individual about their preference as a matter of conscience, even when it has an obligation to provide its soldiers with the resources for self-defense.

  • robert

    By not carrying weapons chaplains are afforded noncombatant status under the Geneva Convention. The concern isn’t so much about image, but protecting that status. On this issue, CH (COL) Moore notes that “According to FM 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, chaplains come under Category IV of the Geneva Convention. If captured, we’re supposed to be treated as detainees. That way, we can be allowed to minister to the spiritual needs of prisoners of war”

  • Matthew

    Dan,
    How wrong you are. You say God, Guns, and Gold are the root of evil in America. Hmmm? By saying you are an atheist, I can allow myself to logically conclude that you are a moral relativist. Thus, you believe that morals are relative, or subjective, to certain cultures or locations. Moral Relativism then leads to the ideological idea that just because there are two differing opinions, no one is right. Which again leads to the moral relativist endorsing the sociopathic mindset. This is the only option you have left when you remove a source of absolute morality, God. Second, Guns. Guns kill no one. People kill people. Fallen human nature corrupts the soul and causes humans to have sociopathic mind sets to some degree. My friend, humans are the most creative creatures on the planet. You take away guns, and we will find another way to carry out the duty of guns. Third, Gold. God promises wealth. Wealth as in wisdom and spiritual treasures. It is apparent you think of God like Joel Osteen and prosperity gospel teachers, these people are heretical liars. For the love of money is the root of all evil. Christians are told to give up everything to follow Christ, not to embrace worldly possessions. Sure, God can bless us with wealth, but only as a consequence of wisdom. I hope you see the truth my dear brother.
    God Bless,
    Matthew

Last modified: August 31, 2011 at 8:38 pm