Chaplains are Not Missionaries

Chap Bap. . .(this
Chap Bap. . .(this “Chaplain” proudly baptized “a Jew and a Catholic” in Iraq)*

This is becoming a regular “ministry” for me. . .explaining to preachers, missionaries and their champions that the role of a Chaplain is NOT to preach and convert their flock in their own “missionfield” to grow the “kingdom of God.”

Here’s one comment I left on a blog touting the “heroic” service of a Marine Chaplain who was known as “John the Baptist” for dunking soldiers (making Christians) in wartime.

“I have great respect for those who assist our men and women in uniform. Mr. Craven sounds like a good fellow.

As a longtime Chaplain, however, I would only raise the question, “Was he a Missionary all those years, or a Chaplain?” For those who aren’t clear on the role of a Chaplain, it is not to “save souls” but to be present to support anyone, regardless of faith, with compassion. Non-Christians in or out of the military do not pay taxes for missionary work. But then, that should be obvious.”

With the vast majority of tax-funded military chaplains being Christian (and mostly Baptist) while soldiers in uniform represent a broad spectrum of belief and non-belief (that’s America after all), I wonder why more citizens don’t ask these questions.  Do you want your tax dollars paying for a “Chaplain” to baptize more of our service members?  If you do, good for you, but how will you feel when there are more Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan and Humanist Chaplains joining up?  Isn’t that really what America is?

Some things really should be obvious.

Here’s the reality check and it isn’t pretty for a pluralistic, secular nation:

“Across the services, more than 100 different faith groups are represented in the chaplaincy, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Of course, these are small minorities; out of the 2,856 chaplains who were employed by the military as of April, only 40 hailed from any of these faiths. At least 93 percent of chaplains represent Christianity; at least 50 percent are from evangelical denominations.” (The Atlantic)


*The photo of a baptism is taken from the Baptist Press website.  The article quotes an Army “Chaplain.”  If you don’t find this troubling, you’re not paying attention to the fact that the United States Military is NOT the United States Missionfield.  Military service is not the same as Missionary Service.  Listen to this:

After preaching to a gathering of soldiers, this Preacher-in-Uniform was proud to say,

“Twenty-nine soldiers gave their lives to Christ that afternoon.”

“I decided to go into the Army because it’s a calling,” he said. “A lot of people have a misunderstanding about what it means to be a chaplain.”

Taylor said many people think that when he puts on a military uniform, he’s not a Southern Baptist anymore. But he is endorsed by the North American Mission Board.

“I preach Southern Baptist doctrine,” he emphasized. “I let fly that there is only one way to be saved. You can cut me, and I bleed Southern Baptist doctrine.”

“Children carrying American flags came running from the villages,” Taylor said. “At one point, all these kids came running toward me. As an officer, I’m the only one who doesn’t wear rank, but I wear the cross on my helmet. A young Muslim boy pointed at the cross and said, ‘God.’ It struck me that even a Muslim child knows that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Taylor said, a young lieutenant came to him, declaring his Catholic upbringing and desiring to find peace with God.

“He received Christ that night,” the chaplain said. “The next Sunday, I baptized a Jew and a Catholic in a Muslim country in a wooden box we had to build to use as a baptistery.”

“A young Jewish soldier came into my tent and said he wanted to talk about Jesus,” Taylor said. “I used Old Testament Scriptures to show him how he needed a relationship with Jesus, and that night he kneeled down and gave his life to Christ.”

I hope after this sinks in, you will leave a comment.  I would especially like to hear from any Chaplains.

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2 thoughts on “Chaplains are Not Missionaries

  1. It’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around this, especially since a friend of mine in the Navy had linked me an article that the Navy wasn’t going to support pagan and earth-worship belief systems in one of its basic training facilities. Apparently there is a chaplain who serves that mission for supporting recruits who have shamanistic, pagan, and Wicca beliefs (to name a few), but he was told he was no longer needed.

    I really think that this might be an indication that the military is supporting one religion over the others here.

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