Religious ethics and Military Chaplaincy.
Colin Burgess C.D.C
Chaplains in the military have always played an important role in promoting the morale and well being of a nations soldiers.
A biblical example of chaplains in the military can be found in 1 Samuel. It was Samuels duty to offer the pre-war sacrifice in chapter 13 prior to Israel going to fight the Philistines. Saul in this case was rebuked by Samuel when he could wait no longer for Samuel to show up, and he took the duty upon himself.
Here is a demonstration of two offices, both clergy and the nations ruler, and how they are supposed to work together even though the procedure was not followed properly.
Ethics, or "moral philosophy", could be defined as ideas of "right and wrong" that govern our choices.
In some cases ethics stem from our background or prejudices. For instance if I have gotten away with lying my whole life, and suffered no punishment for it, my ethics would not have been formed around the idea that lying is a problem. However being one who does not want to be stolen from, I have formed a personal ethic which many share, that since I don't want to be stolen from, perhaps I should not steal from others.
Some people and cultures introduce a new set of ethics to their system through their politics, or through their theology. So now not only are these ethics personal, they are now corporate making all men and women equal under one set of rules.
The 10 commandments in Exodus 20:13 says "You shall not murder.", everyone whether slave or free, man or woman, rich or poor is held accountable to this standard of not taking another person's life.
Homosexuality is currently a hotly debated issue. The Bible, both Jewish and Christian, and the Quran have rules against this. However there are people who do not subject themselves to the standards of Christendom or Islam. This is the best scenario where not every individual shares the same ethics. Since this is a case where another person's decision does not affect anyone outside of the homosexual relationship(s)
(with of course the exception of rape or underage encounter) it is in sharp contrast to the ethics we share as a society of not murdering, or stealing. Therefore I as a Christian no matter my opinions or views cannot impose my standard of right and wrong in this case, after all what goodness is actually found in forced goodness?
What position does this put the Christian Padre in if a member of the CF is violating this standard of Biblical ethics? I have to say no position at all. The person who is contravening the said ethical standard has perhaps not chosen to subject themselves to these rules. Unless the party confides in the Padre nothing can be said of the act in question. This choice they have made does not affect their duties.
With this being said it is crucial for the Padre to fully realise his or her role in the CF and to not interfere with the day to day operations required of a military. The exception being if an outside party has expressed concern for another members well being, and even this must be addressed with absolute confidence and the members best interest kept in mind. Knowing where the grey areas exist, and when to act as a uniformed chaplain vs. a non-uniformed chaplain is like knowing not to mix apples and oranges. So in other words, the professional must be kept separate from the personal in some cases.
``The chaplain's job is not to be a unit's cheerleader but to be
its conscience. Chaplains should be prepared to deliver ethical
training and provide ethical advice when asked. Paragraph 8 of this
chapter refers to the chaplain's need to exercise a ministry of prophecy
in assisting the unit to attain the highest ethical standard``
- Chapter 2.45 of the CF Chaplaincy manual.
Military Chaplaincy. The role of a Padre is not to make the troops "feel better" to make them better for war, but unfortunately war is a reality. Where there is war or peacekeeping there are people, and where there are people different beliefs come into play. Whether it be in a nursing home, or in a battlefield these people no matter where they are need their spiritual needs tended to.
In the case of a military people are away from their homes for long periods of time, and their families are also sharing in their own types of stress while a member is deployed.
Without specifying the belief system this creates a need for a padre overseas with the troops, as well as at home with their families.
Sometimes this need could be for someone to talk to about being away from home, or to provide comfort in the last moments of life. In other cases where disputes exist among groups the padre may need to mediate, or provide a way for people to solve their differences to promote a better workplace.
For instance a Private who has no authority may be having work related issues with a supervisor. Whether the supervisor is out of line or not a padre is someone who can step in as an impartial party to see what can be done about the situation, or refer the members to a dispute resolution counselor.
The trust between a member, and his/her family can only be obtained over time. This involves confidentiality with the exception of "when there is a reasonable chance that the
counseled may pose a threat to others or to themselves, when there is
indication of the abuse of minors, and when ordered by a court of law."
- CF Chaplaincy manual. (Chapter 2.11) The chaplain must advise the person seeking counsel what the limits are on the confidentiality. "The chaplain is part of the unit leadership team. Chaplains work with other officers, senior
non-commissioned members, and the commanding officer to solve problems at the lowest level. A chaplain has the unique ability to discover personnel problems and help solve
them at the appropriate level of the chain of command. By being
proactive, the chaplain assists in building unit morale."
- CF Chaplaincy manual (Chapter 2.27)
The job of a chaplain is very unique because they have privileged access to all members, and have no commanding authority. This allows for a special trust as long as the member allows for it.
The chaplains who work the closest to the troops are typically the ones who the troops will trust the most such as the Rev. P.M. O'Leary, VD, of the royal Canadian Regiment.
"When the troops were under fire he was everywhere: encouraging this one and praying for that one." - CF Chaplaincy manual. Another role of a padre could be to liaise between the military and civillian groups. For instance it could be the duty of a padre to learn the customs of another country before a military moves into it so as to not offend anyone unnecessarily by means jokes or inappropriate t-shirts. - "As a staff officer the chaplain functions as a specialist advisor
and has direct access to the commander. The chaplain is responsible
to the commander for planning and implementing religious support
programs and ministry activities within the commander's area of
responsibility. The chaplain advises the commander and other staff on
matters of spirituality, ethics, morale, and religious accommodation."
Also refer to Chapter 2.34 CF Chaplaincy manual. The chaplain is supposed to familiarize themselves with other religions whether the beliefs are shared or not. This is not only to avoid escalating a situation but to also interact with their peers and to work alongside with them.
Working with other beliefs.
Any unit in the CF is built on teamwork, and the chaplaincy is no exception. No matter what religion all CF chaplains share a common goal, and that is the well being of the troops.
The CF Chaplaincy manual chapter 2.24 puts it well, "…this is a multi-faith profession.". While not sharing the beliefs of other chaplains a dependency exists in which different faiths rely on each other to achieve the goal in mind, much like the infantry depends on the work provided by the artillery and the combat engineers. Personal beliefs and duty.
It is not the duty of the padre to convert people to his/her belief system, since the troops as a whole are not his/her "flock" in the way members of a church congregation are, since they voluntarily attend the said spiritual community, it is the duty of the padre to pray for their well being. To do otherwise would be spiritual malpractice. It is however the duty of a Christian (padre or not) to be "feasting" upon the word of God in accordance with Deuteronomy 6:6 - "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be upon your heart." and 1 Peter 3:15 - " …being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."
A pastor must be available to the people trusting them, either through pastors or elders underneath them.
"Every soldier has the right to see a chaplain at any time. This is a fundamental right that chaplains must ensure is respected at every level of the chain of command. The leadership of a unit must be reminded of the dividend that is realized when soldiers know that this
resource (their chaplain) is available at any time.``
- CF Chaplaincy manual (Chapter 2.36.)
I will put Chapter 2.37 into my own words since it is a mandate every padre must clearly understand and not just be regurgitated.
Some people are outright cynical towards religion, so the personification of religion such as a padre would be detestable to them. They may have suffered a loss and they blame God the one whom you represent. You may be the last person they want to talk with. However your prayers will get through to them, and when the person does decide to confide in you be ready with ``gentleness and reverence.``
While living out the beliefs I stand for to the best of my ability, I must also live out to the best of my ability the rules of the military so as to not discredit the beliefs I stand for.
After all what I stand for as a Christian is my first objective, and this can only be done by living out a life of integrity and fitting in with the people I wish to work with.
So many more things are left to be explained in much further detail, much of which I am not qualified to get fully into without taking the Phase training of a military chaplain.
However I hope this essay gives insight into my beliefs; knowledge and the intended application of them both. I look forward to contributing them to serving the well being of the Canadian Forces at home and abroad.
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