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August 30th, 2011
04:23 PM ET

Preparing clergy for war: army chaplains train by the hundred for the combat zone

By Eric Marrapodi and Chris Lawrence, CNN

Fort Jackson, South Carolina (CNN) – The summer sun beats down on camouflaged Kevlar helmets.  Weighed down by heavy body armor, men and women of the cloth are crawling through sand, under barbed wire and learning how to run with soldiers.

Explosions in woods simulate the battlefield as an instructor barks commands.

"You are not following simple instructions!  Cover me while I move!  Got you covered!  Let's go!"

This is the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where the Army trains clergy of all faiths how to survive in combat.

Once many of these chaplains complete this modified basic training they will head to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the explosions and gunfire are not simulated.

U.S. Army chaplain candidates train at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Here at Fort Jackson, on a range in the woods, there is a bevy of broken down cars and trucks to simulate an urban battlefield.

The army says being a chaplain in combat is among the most dangerous jobs because the chaplains move from base to base ministering to soldiers.

"Once you move behind the vehicle, the chaplain, who has no weapon, will stay behind the engine block or the wheel base. That is the safest place for you to be,” the instructor yells to the long line of chaplains who are readying to run this course.

On the battlefield, chaplains look just like any other soldier.

Decked out in camouflage and body armor, the only addition is a two-inch patch signifying their religious affiliation.  Christian clergy wear a cross, Jewish clergy tablets showing the Ten Commandments, and Muslim clergy wear a crescent.

A cross patch signifies a chaplain's religious affiliation.

What they do not have is a weapon.

Chaplains are unarmed at all times.

They travel in combat with a chaplain assistant who carries a weapon and protects the clergy member.

For this drill the chaplains are learning to hold onto the back of their assistant as they run from obstacle to obstacle.

The pairs have to stay low and move through the course two pairs at a time.  The chaplain assistants have to cover the others as they move.

“Cover me while I move!”

“Got you covered!”

Then they run and dive for cover.

Army chaplains must learn to run with soldiers.

"Hold onto him like this and you will not get separated or you will be taken out. You are the target of opportunity.  You stay on him!" The instructor yells when a chaplain is separated from his assistant.

This is about as far away from a suburban pulpit or seminary these clergy can get.

“In school I'm used to sitting at a desk and reading and writing, so it's definitely a little more physical,” 2nd Lt. Adri Bullard said.  She is a Methodist seminarian, pursuing a Master’s in Divinity at the divinity school at Vanderbilt University.

“Being in grad school and trying to get your (degree) takes discipline and the discipline is pretty steady throughout my life right now. Getting up early, staying up late. These big booms, that's the main difference.  You really don't have those going off at seminary or divinity school, hopefully,” she smiles and pauses as explosions punctuate her points.

She is the smallest person on the range and sports the biggest smile.  What she lacks in physical stature, she makes up two-fold in effort and energy.

Bullard is among 200 chaplains and chaplain hopefuls going through various stages of chaplain school at any given time.  In Bullard’s class of chaplain candidates, the group covers a wide range.  “We’ve got two of our students who are actually in their 50s and we have two that are 22,” said Chaplain Maj. Harold Cline, who is an instructor.

Regardless of age, the candidates are put through their paces.

“When you’re working with soldiers, they’re in good shape. That’s part of their business. If you’re going to minister to them and work with them, rub elbows with them, you’ve got to be in good shape as well.”

The U.S. Army employs around 2,900 chaplains.  About half are active duty and the other serve in the reserves.  Eight-hundred chaplains and chaplain assistants are deployed in the war on terror and 300 of them serve in the Middle East and Afghanistan, according to a spokesman.

In order to join the ranks, a member of the clergy also has to meet the ordination requirements of their own faith and be endorsed by them to join the military.

Bullard has at least a year of schooling to go before she can be ordained in her church to serve as a full-time minister and an active duty chaplain.

She said she felt the call to ministry in college, “(I) did some of that in a congregational setting, yet felt like there was something else I needed to be doing, maybe taking it to another level in another setting.  Military chaplaincy seemed to fit that.”

Even in training she sees a parallel between her spiritual calling and the military.

“You're helping to meet the most basic needs a person has to live and thrive and flourish.  I'm going to look for everyone around me and make sure they're drinking water. I'll go get them water if they need it.  And that's scriptural,” she said, referring to a passage in the gospels where Jesus talks about giving water to the thirsty.

“So I think it's pretty easy to do ministry out here in the beating South Carolina sun.”

The task at hand

In the Army, each combat unit is able to have a chaplain with them if the commanding officer wants one. They report to that commanding officer and are paid by the military for their services.

The chaplaincy corps had to grow in a hurry as combat operations increased in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, said Chaplain Carlton Birch, the spokesman for the chaplain corps.

“Our country is becoming more pluralist,” Birch said.  “We’ve had our first Buddhist chaplain, now we have our first Hindu chaplain. Our chaplain corps has had to adapt.”

It’s a long way from the start of the chaplaincy corps on July 29, 1775, under George Washington.

Today army chaplains minister to soldiers of all faiths regardless of their own.  They hold services in remote areas, connect a soldier of another faith with a chaplain of their own, and conduct ceremonies to send a fallen soldier home.

“They are the listening ear, they are there in times of crisis and turmoil for the soldiers,” Birch said.  “The value we hold dear is to meet a person at their time of need.”

The danger of their job was brought home for many here last summer when Chaplain Dale Goetz was killed when an improvised explosive device struck the vehicle he was riding in Afghanistan.

He was the first chaplain killed in action since the Vietnam War.

“The danger is sometimes what gives us the credibility to minister to our soldiers.  They know we've been there.  We've been there with them.  We've faced the fear,” Chaplain Capt. Karlyn Maschhoff said.

Maschhoff is a seasoned chaplain with multiple tours to the Middle East under her belt.

She came to Fort Jackson for another component of training – moving from rookie status like Bullard to being a more senior chaplain and helping those new to this unique ministry position.

Before September 11, 2001, she was writing Sunday school material and doing mission work. “I came into the chaplaincy after the events of 9/11. That made a profound impact on me when I saw the need for chaplains,” Maschhoff said.

“It was a combination of patriotism and recognizing the needs of soldiers as they climbed on those planes to go to a place where they would be in harm’s way and I just felt the need to be with them, to go with them. That is what led to me accepting the call.”

During her prior tours in Iraq she has seen the worst of war on the battlefield and on the home front.

“My first deployment was in 2005-2006 and that was a tough period. There was a lot of loss of life, a lot of bloodshed and a lot of uncertainty. But then I also went back later in 2008 for a 15-month deployment and at that time you got to see things improving.  Incidents were happening, but you got to see progress.”

“Losing soldiers is always tough,” she said.  “Watching families struggle through a deployment, yet you come on, you struggle on together.  You get through the tough days together. You continue on. As a chaplain you bring hope for the future and that is our message to our soldiers, that it's a dark day but it's going to get better.”

Heading home the hard way

"In country if you're doing one of these it could be 100, 130 degrees, maybe even hotter," Cline barks as rookie chaplains learn how to send a soldier home the hard way, with a dignified transfer ceremony.

They practice with a flag-draped metal transfer case, identical to the thousands of cases used to send slain soldiers home from war.

Before the transfer case boards the plane for the long flight home, the chaplains say a prayer or hold a brief service.

“She may have moved on from this Earth, but she's still in my heart," a chaplain in training says as he looks over the transfer case.

Six soldiers pick up the case.  They snap their heels together and begin to move.

Chaplain Cline instructs chaplain candidates how to do a dignified transfer for a soldier killed in action.

"You do not want to be the chaplain who is walking too slow in front of an honors team,” Cline said.  “Why? They're carrying the body, they're carrying the transfer case, and even though the case is relatively light, it's got a body in it and it’s full of ice, so they're carrying a lot of weight.  Don't slow them down and don't make them hold that transfer case up while you're doing something ceremonial."

The chaplain candidate puts his hand on the flag, bows his head, and sends the solider off with a prayer.

Today is a drill, but the Army says in as little as two weeks, these trainees could be doing the real ceremony on an airstrip in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Days after our interview, Maschhoff was on a plane back to the Middle East to begin her third tour, fully confident of her mission from her commanders and from on high, “It's challenging and  you know there are tough times ahead, but you're there to do what you've been trained to do. You're there taking care of soldiers and it doesn't get better than that.”

–CNN’s John Person and Jonathan Schaer contributed to this report

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Afghanistan • Belief • Buddhism • Christianity • Content Partner • Hinduism • Iraq • Islam • Middle East • Military • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (818 Responses)
  1. John

    Seem like a waste of space if they aren't in the fight

    August 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • shin

      Add these 3,000 chaplains to the 14% of the Army who are females, and can't be put into combat and you begin to get the picture and why Soldiers are getting burned out doing multiple deployments!!

      August 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  2. James

    Curious? Do the Muslims take their Imams with them to battle? Religious people tend to make excellent killers, why don't we give our Imams..er..I mean Chaplains guns? I just got an great idea....next time instead of going to war, we could let the Imams and Chaplains have a contest. First one to get their God to show up wins. That will likely be the last religious war ever fought, as they all wait, and wait, and wait...during that time the rest of us can live in peace.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      James .... that would seriously be awesome. Excellent post. Or better yet, lets get the politicians who promote or support wars to go over and fight them.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  3. tao

    Ridiculous. "Thou Shalt Not Kill, Love Thy Neighbor, but if you're going to go out and murder little brown children, give me a call brother!"

    August 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Jesus

      Remember what Jesus said about gathering up all those who don't believe and burn 'em. Hey. these mideast ventures are the 21st century CRUSADES. If you don't buy the Jesus myth and you speak a different language and worship some other Gawd, you're a prime target for getting the wrath of America's $700 BILLION defense budget-more than the defense budgets COMBINED of every other country on the planet! The Chaplains are the cheerleaders for the command structure. They're there to tell the low brow troop that God is on our side, not their side.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  4. Psi

    Appreciated the spotlight. My brother David is lieutenant commander Chaplain with Navy in Afghanistan and has served 4 tours between there and Iraq. His role not only covers what is mentioned but is also strategic in terms of ensuring sanity of the Core and helping all deal with the consequences/realities of war, regardless of one's agnosticism, atheism, or other theism. Together with the force's counselor/psychologist, the Chaplain plays a key role in keeping up the morale of the unit.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      Hey thanks for the info and the insight. I'm one of the first to admit that I don't know all the details as to why the USA is still in a war over there other than suspecting it's due to BIG WAR BUSINE$$. I still find Christians to be total hypocrites and this article greatly supports this view. The Jesus Character, from all I've studied on him, would NEVER approve of this.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • shin_

      And for that service we hand over about 20,000,000 million dollars a year in tax subsidised salaries! Why do we need General Officer/Colonel Chaplains, is there an advanced Theology school they attend? Seems like a lot of these holy warriors are profiteering from religion to me!!

      August 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. Silly Willy

    LOL @ William Demuth. The militant atheist spends everyday trolling on CNN belief blog. If somebody had an article, or blog, about unicorns (which atheists love to compare the belief in God to), then I certainly wouldn't come on there day in and day out and make comments insulting the believers. If I was confident in my beliefs, then I would quietly go about my way and let them believe in silly things. Getting angry and trolling simply suggests that you are not nearly as confident as you say you are

    August 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Silly

      I come here for the same reason the feds watch the cults.

      You people can be dangerous. Jonestown, Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Netherlands, the Heaven Gate cult, Alum Shin Rikiyo, Oklahoma City and the THOUSANDS of other looney tunes your faith turns out.

      I don't mind you killing each other, but you Christians do have a tendency to kill children (as well as buggering them as with your altar boys and Jeffs)

      August 30, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      People who believe in pink unicorns don't:
      – attempt to teach the origins of unicorns in classrooms.
      – commit hate crimes against male donkeys and female horses who like to mate.
      – kill veterinarians who perform abortions.
      – interfere with scientific progress on the grounds that it's against their beliefs.
      – deny evolution even though fossil evidence of unicorns has never been discovered.
      – turn a blind eye and allow young equine animals to get rap-ed.
      – go door to door asking if we have found the pink unicorn in our lives.

      When they start doings those sorts of things then we will make fun of them in an attempt to shed light about the absurdity of their beliefs.

      Oh, it would be so nice if all religious people did was just have their beliefs and live and let live. Sadly, that is never the case.

      August 31, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  6. William Demuth

    Brandon

    Spiritual comfort wouldn't be needed if they wertent in the buisness of killing people.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Vaughan

      Boy you sure have your head in crap don't you..... reality must suck for you.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Vaughan

      I am old enough to be your father.

      Hell, I MIGHT be your father.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Brandon

      Quit being butt hurt about Lebanon and move on crazy man.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  7. asdf

    Humans have had priests in the ranks of soldiers since at least the middle ages. Its no coincidence there is a Bishop piece in chess. It is mind numbing just how constant and unchanging war is even with massive changes in technology and society.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  8. Bill

    My good friend army chaplain Father Tim Vakoc was severely injured in Iraq in 2004 from an IED and died in 2009. He was in a nursing home and two nurses assistants dropped him on the floor when transferring him.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Jesus has a cruel sense of humour. 🙂

      August 30, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Silly Willy

      @William – God have mercy on your soul. You are one cruel sick person.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Vaughan

      William... I have an evil sadistic sense of humor lets meet up.... mocking the wounded even a chaplain means you need some "counseling'

      August 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Vaughan

      Humour brings truth.

      Truth is I have spoken for the dead at funerals of the children who died in Jesus's war.

      He is a cruel savior for you.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Bill

      "Jesus has a cruel sense of humour." Yeah, otherwise sociopaths like you wouldn't exist.

      August 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  9. Bob Porick

    If you're going to quote the Bible, at least quote it correctly. It says, "Do not murder", not "Do not kill" – quite a difference there...

    August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Bob

      WRONG.

      See previous post KJV is the most used Bible world wide, and it says KILL.

      Please say three our fathers and review the basics lest yee burn!

      August 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • CW

      Thou shalt not kill. Pretty plain if you ask me.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Vaughan

      @ and the king James has since been proven to be based on bad scriptural references.... they are finding Aramaic and Coptic passages that say otherwise.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Scott

      With respect to the KJV, it isn't necessarily an adequate translation. Keep in mind, Hebrew > Greek > Latin > English, or something like that. Somewhere a word gets mistranslated. Unfortunately, I no longer have the Bible that had the hebrew translations in footnotes, but if I remember right; it does indeed say "Thou shalt not commit murder".

      With that being said, the difference between murder and killing is nothing more then a piece of hair.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • KentAZ

      Bob is actually correct. Almost all modern translations render the Hebrew word at Ex. 20:13 as "murder" rather than "kill." (The KJV is notoriously outdated and inaccurate) The same word is rendered "kill" in some other passages but in this context "murder" is correct simply because the same Law code contained provisions for executions in various situations as a punitive measure. So it makes no sense to render the command "Thou shalt not kill."

      In any case there is no Biblical justification for Christian participation–passively or actively–in secular warfare. The wars conducted by ancient Israel were done under direct divine command. The same cannot be said of secular wars. The early Christians refused to take up arms for the State until Augustine of Hippo authored the contra-biblical "just war" theory (which, BTW, is also hopelessly idealistic–no secular war has ever conformed to its criteria).

      August 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • aleppo1091

      Bob is correct. In the"Old Testament"/Hebrew Bible the commandment is You shall not murder... not You shall not kill. The "New Testament"/Christian Bible, especially the KJV, is notorious for its mistranslations. Another whopper is the reference to Moses & the "Red Sea." Look up the Hebrew/Jewish reference to the Sea of Reeds. There's lots of corrections in books & on line for people willing to accept the correct translations by Jewish scholars.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  10. Brother Maynard

    Onward Clergy Soldiers, marching as to war

    August 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I wonder if they bugger recruits like they bugger altar boys?

      August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Ed

      @William Demuth

      "I wonder if they bugger recruits like they bugger altar boys?"

      Its comments like this that prove all you want to do is insult people who have faith not educate just berate. Its also these comments that have you branded a troll. Finally despite your obvious level of education they also prove your a closed minded fool

      August 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  11. Bob

    A chaplain in the military is like a vegetarian at a steak eating contest.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Ed

      Not that I totally agree but I liked they way you said it

      August 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  12. UhYeaOk

    I knew as soon as I saw this item all the deadbeat idiots would be out in full force mocking, religion, military chaplains, the military etc. You people are pathetic, if a wounded man wants a pastor by his side before he dies he has EARNED THAT RIGHT. Most of you that are critical of this in the military probably never served a day in your life.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Harold Trainer, USAF RET

      Some of the guys are part of the problem. The military is too religious and too fundamentalist. They are sky pilots and the ones I knew were way too consevative and not enough Christian or otherwise as relates to their principles. I guess you need some but it gets back to if we do not have these types of wars we won't need them.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Bob

      We're not critical of a dying soldier wanting a chaplain, we're critical of a) gov't spending on religion and b) someone professing to follow Christ yet being in the military.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • So

      So, then why aren't all the other religions present on the battlefield for that reason. If we are going to justify paying for one we need to do it for ALL religions.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • who

      My natural father died while serving in th US Army. My stepfather was a lifer. I served 7 years during Viet Nam. And I say if soldiers want a chaplian or minister, the church of his/her choice, not the government, should provide the service.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Perhaps if they had found faith BEFORE they made war they wouldn't be going to hell?

      August 30, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Cardiac50

      And there are plenty of those of us that did serve that are here to mock it as well.. I wouldn't be quite so critical of chaplains in the military if there was really any sort of equitable treatment of religions. You have only to look at the many suits against enforced and coerced religious practices at the military academies to get an understanding of what "religion in the military" really means.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • neoritter

      Bob and So –
      There are "chaplains" of all faiths available to service members. But if there are no Hindus in a unit, why attach a Hindu priest to the unit, etc. For the most part though, the soldiers are of a Christian denomination. Last I checked the majority of Americans are Christian so that would make a lot of sense.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Point after touchdown

      I agree with the part about representing all religions, they are all the same to me, however a Muslim or Jewish or even a Scientologist should have their clergy men represented, paid for by their church, ministry, temple, mosque etc.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Vaughan

      You are correct .... When I was wounded .... I had an Canadian Chaplain minster to me. I was never present when they ministered last rites in the rear at the KAF surgical hospital but I have heard 2nd hand. To all the turds who whine about religion in the military.... sign up and do the job.... atheists don't last to long in firefights.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • KentAZ

      Bob:

      "We're not critical of a dying soldier wanting a chaplain, we're critical of a) gov't spending on religion and b) someone professing to follow Christ yet being in the military."

      Amen–exactly.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Trigger

      @SO. Go back...read the article again....not just the top and bottom. There are ALL religions in the chaplain corps. Wish people would pay attention to the article before commenting. Jump in the deep end for a while, your gene pool is too shallow.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • So

      Trigger your reading skills need work and you're the one who needs to jump in the deep end.

      'Today army chaplains minister to soldiers of all faiths regardless of their own

      We’ve had our first Buddhist chaplain, now we have our first Hindu chaplain.

      The U.S. Army employs around 2,900 chaplains.'

      They JUST got their first Buddhist and Hindu Champlain out of how many? DUH! They are using Christian chaplains to minister to all faiths but they don't know all the in and outs of other religions moron.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Patrick

      I served in the USMC as an open atheist and was ridculed and belittled during my entire enlistment. The only reason other Marines actually knew I was of no faith is because I was honest when asked and was not afraid to let others know of my irreligious preferences. The christians are the biggest hate mogerers I have ever encountered, be it military or civilian world. I would also like to quash a well-known myth; "there's no atheists in a foxhole". I don't know anything about foxholes, but I have alittle bit of expereince in fighting holes (USMC term) and I never started to pray or cry out to the jesus zombie when the real rounds started flying. I only did one term in the "suck" and couldn't get out fast enough and away from all the christian Marine hipocrites.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Patrick

      Vaughan

      "You are correct .... When I was wounded .... I had an Canadian Chaplain minster to me. I was never present when they ministered last rites in the rear at the KAF surgical hospital but I have heard 2nd hand. To all the turds who whine about religion in the military.... sign up and do the job.... atheists don't last to long in firefights."

      I would love to meet you face-to-face and have you tell me that! As a former Marine and an atheist, I HAVE signed up and I HAVE done the job. You're a je-rk-off!!

      September 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  13. who

    Why are my tax dollars paying for religous leaders to be in the military? Won't the civillian folks do it out of duty to their god?

    August 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • JW

      Good question, but they are probably fearful of dying and meeting (or not meeting) their God.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      Excellent question !!! Ah, how much are they getting paid might we ask?

      August 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  14. Grimm

    God bless the chaplains. Some of the best soldiers I ever served with. It takes balls to go on a battlefield armed only with faith. Think about it.

    August 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • who

      Or delusion.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Military chaplins seem damned by ANY reading of the scripture.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  15. chase

    how many imams or mullahs or rabbis are deployed by the armed forces?

    GET RELIGION OUT OF OUR FREAKING GOVERNMENT

    August 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Brandon

      a decent amount actually. Everyone has a right to religion. Even if there are those like you out there that will do everything in their power to regulate that.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  16. Michael

    A waste of tax dollars. I also find it strange the belief blog is on the front page almost daily.

    August 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      And I find it strange that you comment in an area you don't believe should be here.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  17. hmm

    oxymoron war - chaplain. You shall know them by their fruits: love. they should not be there. if they are there they should not bear arm. if they do not bear arm they should teach these soldiers what they are doing is dead wrong. if they don't they share in their sin: killing people. Most of these chaplains are agnostics anyways. They just happen to be paid chaplains.

    August 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Bill

      Next time read the article before replying.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  18. justin

    So i pay tax $ for people that dont carry a gun and when push comes to shove probably wont pick up a gun to defend?

    August 30, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      When push comes to shove they won't defend?? How do you know that? At least they have a uniform on maggot, get off your couch and enlist yourself then......

      August 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Grimm

      get a lifew you moron and shove your precious few tax pennies where your brain resides.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • jdurand

      Yeah, you do. Go cray about it to your mother cause I think she's the only one who cares.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Jim

      They may not contribute bullets downrange, but they're a force multiplier that can make the other troops on the battlefield more effective. I just got back from a year in Afghanistan and I know I thought so even though my faith group doesn't typically use the military chaplains for church services.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • neoritter

      Jim's right, moral is an important factor no matter what era of warfare soldiers are in. Chaplains are a source of moral for at least some troops. Those troops with higher moral can also have the effect of raising the moral of the troops around them.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Ed

      @Jim

      Thank you

      August 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Patrick

      neoritter

      Jim's right, *moral* is an important factor no matter what era of warfare soldiers are in. Chaplains are a source of *moral* for at least some troops. Those troops with higher *moral* can also have the effect of raising the *moral* of the troops around them.

      It's *MORALE* not *moral* you nincompoop! You would think any person would know the difference...jebuz krist!

      September 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  19. EnergyBeing3

    Ah..... so.... isn't like one of the Ten Commandments THOU SHALL NOT KILL??? It's this a touch hypocritical? If I was religious and I was giving some advice, it would be that killing is murder. OK I'm not religious and I still know that killing is murder. Are they going over there and explaining that killing and murder is against the religion? Even a true Buddhist realizes this. I'm not a Christian and I'm having some severe cognitive dissonance over this article.

    August 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • UhYeaOk

      The actual interpretation is thou shalt not murder. They arn't hypocrites at all, you just need to learn how to read.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Jim

      Since the same book that says "Thou shalt not kill" also instructs prophets and kings to go to war or kill, God obviously DOES have a concept of "just war." We (the United States) always aim for "just wars", so there should be no problem with chaplains counseling troops in the field to do their duty and then counseling troops that have challenges with that, with family separation, etc. I just got back from Afghanistan and my church made a special video for all of us, stressing that if we do our duty honorably and justly, we need have no fear of a rebuke from God on that point.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • William Demuth

      UhYeaOk

      So the King James Bible is now incorrect?

      It is the OFFICIAL Bible of millions of people.

      The whole murder switch was just a loop hole so Jews can kill Arabs.

      Unless YOU know more of Christs will than the Pope himself?

      August 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • neoritter

      Just War Clause, look it up.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      Who decides when it's a "Just War" ? Anyone? How are they qualified? Kill, Murder, Taking the Life Of Another Human... all the same thing. Or is it not? I'm eager to understand how people justify murdering each other when it's not truly self-defense.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • neoritter

      The imperative is against unlawful killing resulting in bloodguilt. The Hebrew Bible contains numerous prohibitions against unlawful killing, but also allows for justified killing in the context of warfare, capital punishment and self-defence.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      JIm, you are brainwashed if you think that the Jesus Character would be OK with you going over to another country and killing people. C'mon, I know you have more common sense than this. You've been duped. It's beyond outlandish. No human priest can just "pardon your acts of murder" ... this is a SCAM and a CON of spirituality. This is weaponizing religion.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      neoritter

      I have studied your Just war clause, and your MAD, and your Preemptive War, and to me they all smell like a simpletons version of Jihad.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • neoritter

      @Will – I highly doubt you have and I highly doubt you know what jihad is. Your most recent comment is proof of this.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • William Demuth

      neoritter

      WRONG

      Jihad= Lies told by old men to get kids to kill for an imaginary man in the sky.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • KentAZ

      Applying OT mandates to engage in war and capital punishment to Christian participation in secular war is specious. The nation of Israel was a theocracy wherein God decided the criteria for execution. Secular warfare has no such mandate or basis.

      Augustine's "Just War" theory is extra-biblical and contra-biblical and represented a paradigm shift for nominal Christians. Prior to the 4th century, early Christians would not take up arms for the State, and that was based on principles found in the N.T. Additionally, no secular war has ever come close to conforming to Augustine's concept, which is hopelessly idealistic. Secular wars are not fought for moral and ethical reasons, as is evident with regard to our government's latest incursions in the Middle East.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "We (the United States) always aim for "just wars"
      I would suggest that claim isnt exactly correct. I guess it would depend on what you define 'just' as. I would suggest that the current Iraqi war could not be classified as a just war.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  20. William Demuth

    Thou Shall Not Kill.

    What is so hard to understand about that?

    Blessed be the preacher for theirs is the kingdom of hell.

    August 30, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Agnostic Atheist (AA)

      @William Demuth,

      Chaplains are non-combatants... they don't carry or use any type of weapon.

      August 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Agnostic Atheist (AA)

      Propoganda is their weapon and they use it to kill.

      They supress a soldiers natural revulsion at killing by convincing them they are above moral law. It seems a redneck with Jesus on his side is an obedient redneck.

      For example, Hitler had 200 priests at Stalingrad to convince the boys to fight on.

      Amazing how many dead Christian boys Jesus seems to need.

      August 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • A Theist

      FYI,
      kill != defend youself. The chaplains aren't even there to egg "killing" on. They're there to consult the fallen and those that already share their beliefs. You could bet all the tea in China that if everyone followed the "Thou Shalt not Kill" rule, then we wouldn't even be there in fhe first place.

      August 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • huh

      "The chaplains aren't even there to egg "killing" on."

      Really, so that is why they are wearing a military uniform in a combat zone. If they really didn't want to "egg" people on then they shouldn't be dressed as a soldier.

      August 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • William Demuth

      A Theist

      Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

      Pattons prayer for better killing weather

      August 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Brandon

      You obviously have never dealt with a chaplain, they stay as far away as possible from vocalizing their views on warfare. They are there for spiritual comfort, not validating killing.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Bill

      Patton wasn't a chaplain, Demuth. What's your point?

      August 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • A Theist

      @ huh They wear military uniforms because they offer the best protection (you didn't honestly believe the military was making a fashion statement all these years, did you?). They have helmets and plates for bullet protection, boots for mobility, and camo to prevent them from being an easy/spottable target. Again, I posit that their purpose there is to console the wounded and dying and give advice to those that share their beliefs (or did you not read the article and just jump to the bottom, skipping the part where it says they wear a crest of their faith so "enemies" recognize they are non-soldiers?).

      @ William: Patton was not a chaplain, but a soldier, so your point is irrelevant. Aside from that, he's by no means an authority of the Bible or Christian faith, so remind me how this has anything to do with what we were debating, please.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Patton didn't write it, he had a chaplain do it. Just like with the Enola Gay, or the bombing of Dresden.

      The PURPOSE of the clergy is to prevent moral men from leaving the battlefield.

      Simple rationalization of murder.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      CHRISTIAN HYPOCRITES = HATING AND KILLING MORE PEOPLE FOR JESUS AND GOD = TOTALLY DELUSIONAL

      August 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • A Theist

      So one Chaplain wrote a prayer that condones killing. You must be in the same camp that says, because just ONE priest is a pedophile, they all are. By your logic, everyone in the world is a terrorist, a religious nut, or a cold, calculating, murderous Atheist.

      Please, beyond the single incidences you can provide, PROVE to me–and I mean proof, not just taking things out of context and show casing the Crusade (which even the Catholics have now denounced)–that the "purpose of the clergy is to prevent moral men from leaving the battle field."

      August 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • neoritter

      @A Theist – I think you're wasting your time. They're either stupid or trolling.

      BTW – EnergyBeing, putting something in caps doesn't make it true or intelligent.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • William Demuth

      A Theist

      I wish you could have been at Lt Cl Samuel Chermans funeral after the bombing of the barracks in Lebanon.

      Sam was Corp, I was Army. I saw with my own eyes an Army chaplin tell his sister that Jesus loved her because same had died for him.

      Sam died in his sleep, and never even had bullets for his rifle.

      Yet I watched that BA__^#ard work with recruiters in the crowd at the home, trying to get more cannon fodder.

      Fu(())))k them. If I knew what I know now I would have slit his throat and put him in the box with Sam.

      August 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Ed

      I really hate to agree with William Demuth but a chaplian serving under Patton's command did indeed right that prayer for Patton. He was ordered to by Patton. He did protest but then he followed the order. The better action by the chaplain in this case would have been to refuse the order. It was a bad decision by one man. William likes to use these to generalize that all chaplians do this things. William read my comment to your buggering comment above. Even your facts are correct here its another example of the same.

      August 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Ed

      Many examples exist.

      The Enola Gay had a special prayer before they killed 200,000 and the bomber wing that hit Dresden ALSO did when they killed 300,000 others Christians.

      When you guys stop using Jesus to rationalize murder I might cut you some slack, but not today.

      August 31, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Ed

      @ Wiliam Demuth

      "When you guys stop using Jesus to rationalize murder I might cut you some slack, but not today"

      I don't see any evidence in the article of Jesus being used to rationalize these wars. In fact the only time since Iraq, Afganistan, or Libya have begun I have heard religion used as part of the argument to whether or not we should be at war it is being used by Atheist as proof christian should not have started the wars. Unfortunately the Christian community dio=id not start the wars. The Christian belief ig God is not being used to justify the wars. I saw nothing in the article to suggest that the chaplains are using relegion to rationalize the war. hey seem to be providing religous service to military personnel. I see no evidence that it stops at Christian chaplains according to the article most faiths are represented. So prehaps its time to stop blame the Christians at least refernce to this article.

      As for "Thou shall not Kill" we all agree that killing is wrong however sometimes it is just. For instance a police officer having to kill a criminal to save their or someone else's life. War can also be just for instance WWII to stop Hitler. Imagine the outcome had we Christian Americans refused to serve. No Imagine French, Canadian, English, Belgium, Spanish, Greek and all the allied nations Chirstians refused to serve. Would you have preferred that outcome? I don't know you and you come off as a bit a storm troper maybe you would prefer saying Hiel Hiltler as opposed to hello to people. But since you like to claim to be open minded and seem to enjoy argueing your position so Dogmaticlly I suspect you would not like a world run y Hitler, so like it or not the Christain killing in that war was necessary. It was not good but it was just.

      Unfortunatly life is not as black and white as we would like it. The Bible is a guide but like all guides sometimes its necessary to break the rules. When Christians feel this need it causesthem to have crisis of conscience. We don't want to kill but are in a position were we feel we need too. Those the need for cahplians in a war zone. Not to rationalize the act but to help the soldiers deal with their spritual nneds and hear they can be forgiven.

      I know its hard to understand for someone who does not believe and obviously has such angry with the Christain faith. BUt the some of the soldier s need them is it so wrong they are there?

      August 31, 2011 at 10:37 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.