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 authority; we stood “for God and country.” We were the moral voice of the military, and expected to guide our soldiers. We haven’t given mandatory lectures on morality for decades, and compulsory chapel attendance even at service academies was history long before I put on the uniform. But today, a chaplain who speaks up on moral issues may be locked away in solitary, as happened to CH (CPT) James Yee at Guantanamo; or he may be declared unfit for duty, as happened to Chaplain Wes Modder (recently exonerated by the Navy).
I do not think American democracy will exist beyond my lifetime. Each time I lay to rest a WW2 vet, a voice of witness to the struggle against the tyrannies of the past is silenced.
I do not know what shape the future tyranny will hold. It may go the path of those who want to change basic moral codes, and who celebrate godlessness and lawlessness. Or it could be a reaction to that, and take the form of a power that wants to enforce fundamentalist religion. It may be the child of the French Revolution or of Calvin’s Geneva. Whichever form it will take, its coming will be greeted by the masses with cheers. As Amidala said in the Star Wars series, “So this is how liberty dies–with thunderous applause.”
In the meantime, we can’t be silent. We have to speak for both freedom and faith. We have to be true to God and to the idea of America. We have to tell the stories of how tyranny arose in the past, in Paris of 1789, in Germany of 1933, in Boston of 1630. We have to listen to the stories of the World War 2 vets who sacrificed so much in the defense of liberty, and tell their story when their voice is silenced. We have to take up their torch, and when confronted with the powers of evil, let its light shine in our words and in our actions. Only so may the crisis be averted.