Questions on Military Chaplain Education

I been thinking lately about how the Army educates chaplains. It starts with the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course (CHBOLC), which is designed to both introduce chaplains to the military and help them adapt their civilian skills and experience to the military. Later, chaplains attend the Chaplain Captain Career Course (C4). Majors do Intermediate Level…

Arabian Nights

Three years ago I was writing poetry in the Kuwait desert … Arabian Nights A half moon joins scattered stars In a gray sky brightened by dancing lights Of growling Blackhawks While whining generators chase shadows Into the corners of concrete bunkers and barriers Surrounding boxes, “little boxes, Little boxes made of ticky-tacky” And the…

Is Drone Warfare Moral?

In 2012 The International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic of NYU School of Law issued a report, Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan.  See a short video synopsis here. A number of people have written on the topic…

President Obama Goes to Hiroshima

President Obama will be the first president to visit Hiroshima.  The White House insists he will not apologize. I think he should read this August 1945 editorial, and ask for all to reflect on it: This is the ultimate in violence. What consequences will flow from this dis- covery nobody can guess. Of one thing…

Chesterton on War

Provocative quote by G. K. Chesterton: “It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers,…

America in Prophecy

Sermon preached at Spring Creek Seventh-day Adventist Church on May 7, 2016. This morning I turn to a familiar Adventist topic, the role of the United States of America in Bible Prophecy. It is important that we review this from time to time, so that we can be clear in our thinking. So that as…

Reformation + 500

Next year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s “95 Theses,” the traditional starting point of the Protestant Reformation. Lutherans and Catholics and others are preparing for an ecumenical celebration, rooted in the supposed “consensus” on justification achieved in 1997 with the publication of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” signed by the Lutheran…

A Chaplain Who Spoke Up

Chris Antal resigned his commission a couple of weeks ago as a chaplain in the US Army Reserve.  He posted his letter of resignation on the webpage of the Unitarian-Universalist Church he pastors. April 12, 2016 … Dear Mr. President: I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army. I resign…

A Spotlight on Memories

I started this post two months ago, after watching the movie, “Spotlight.” I wrote some, but then stopped.  The movie brought back a flood of old emotions, because its story intersects with mine in a couple of places.  I tell the story of my journey of faith here, and so won’t now repeat everything.  For purposes…

22 Vets a Day. True/False? Does It Matter?

Twenty-two.  That’s the number you’ll often see associated with veterans who suicide–twenty-two per day. I’ve seen a couple of reactions to it.  Some think it means that service members are coming back from deployments messed up and killing themselves in extremely high numbers.  Others dismiss the number, say it gives us a bad name; they point out that…

Whither Chaplaincy?

Note:  This reflection is a personal response to things I’ve recently read and conversations I’ve participated in. And I’ve made some revisions in response to some of the comments I’ve received. Chaplaincy is ministry.  It is ministry in a specialized setting: hospital, military, college, prison, etc. But it is ministry. It is pastoral. I find…

Goodbye, again.

Garrison Keillor has been saying goodbye as long as I have been listening to him.  I think I first heard him in the summer of 1986.  I was a seminarian, and went out to preach one weekend at one church in a multi-church district in western Pennsylvania.  The district pastor was a friend and classmate,…

Faith or Fear?

(An Epiphany sermon–Note, there are references to some pictures and charts that I haven’t had time to add to this post.  I also want to give links to some stats.) If you drive a few miles southeast of Jerusalem you’ll come across a mountain. It looks like a volcano. But an aerial view shows the…

Allegiance: A Tale for Today

The musical, “Allegiance,” which recently closed on Broadway, is based on the childhood experience of actor George Takei and his family in an internment camp during World War II. I haven’t seen the play, but I recently listened to the album. While set in the 1940s, the themes are echoed in the hate-filled shouting match…

Four Chaplains

Thirty years ago next month I raised my hand, took the oath of office, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Chaplain Candidate, in the US Army Reserve. That summer, as a student in the Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth, NJ, I first heard the story of the four chaplains: George Fox, Alexander Goode,…

The God of Abraham

In a recent post, I began to respond to David French‘s claim that Christians and Muslims must worship different gods, since the Christian God is a Trinity and the Muslim God is not. I argued that if he is correct, then it would be necessary to argue that Jews and Christians worship different gods, too.…

Christmas Reflections

(An article I first wrote about 1994) Introduction: Revelation 12:1-6 We begin with a strange, yet powerful image. We see a woman, ripe with child–a symbol of new life and of hope. And as the moment draws near, we see her writhing in pain, her legs spread in anticipation; and crouching before her, gnashing its…

Christians, Jews, and Muslims–Children of Abraham

David French, writing in National Review, argues that Christians and Muslims worship different gods.  He basically argues that the true God is known only through Christ, and only as Trinity.  Ergo, anyone who does not believe the Trinity or accept Jesus as God must worship a different god. By this logic, Jews must also worship a different…

Healing After War

I’m a U.S. Army chaplain, serving in the Texas Army National Guard.  I was first commissioned as a Chaplain Candidate while in seminary back in March of 1986.  That fall, I did Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  I was twenty-four, and I was the chaplain for neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, and…

Jeremiah’s Lessons for Veterans

(Remarks presented at Adult Sabbath School, Vallejo Drive Adventist Church) Jeremiah’s story goes from outcry and lament to anger and finally to hope. That’s the journey of many veterans. Let’s start with his lament. It echoes for me in the stories of my soldiers and vets. Soldiers love to complain. And if they complain to…

On Writing about Sex

The liberal independent publication, Spectrum, published by the “Association of Adventist Forums,” writes a lot about sexual diversity.  In a recent article, they celebrate a pastor’s wife’s “asexuality.”  This publication has long pushed for acceptance of homosexuality. The only kind of sex Spectrum doesn’t celebrate is the baby-making heterosexual variety. It does not appear to accept that there might be…

The Pope and Annulments

So the news is that the pope wants to make changes in the system for annulments.  The Roman Catholic Church is debating what it means. The rest of the Christian world can’t understand why Rome has the system.  It is one of the human additions to Christianity that the papacy added–tribunals and judges, investigations and…

The Pope’s Visit

Some folks said they wanted to talk to me about the pope’s visit at some point.  Other friends are showing a strange fascination with it.  A few think it is a sure sign of the end of time. Well, I’m not too worried.  He’s a famous person, and a religious leader, and people listen to…

“Jesus or Religion”?

Jesus or religion–it’s assumed by so many today that the two are very different.  It’s popular to emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus as in opposition to religion.   It’s as if religion is this external stuff,  objective, cold, dry, and Jesus is warmth and life.  Well, that’s hardly a critique unique to today’s postmodernism.…

The Last of the Jedi

There are days when I feel I am one of the last of the Jedi, as a military chaplain.  America is dying; it is being corrupted from within, and twisted, like Rome of old.  Passions are inflamed by demagogues, and the masses are kept blissfully ignorant through bread and circuses. We chaplains once had moral…

Pastors and Chaplains

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He’s written an article, “Ten Signs a Pastor is Becoming a Chaplain.” I think…

Is Marriage a Religious Doctrine?

Since when is marriage, defined as a union of man and wife, a religious dogma, such that recognition of it is imposition of a religious belief? That’s the argument that some people are making in the wake of Kim Davis’ act of civil disobedience.  They argue that her stance represents an “establishment”of Christianity, and that the…

Thoreau and the “Higher Law”

“I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it. Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but…