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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. shin

    I am sure there are plenty of religious groups out there who would volunteer to administer to the troops down range, and not cost us 20 million in aa year! The military knows that to but it is afraid of losing control over its killing machines! If it's all spiritual why do we have General officer Chaplain, and full bird Colonels making six figure salaries? Religion can be profitable to, they see no hypocrisy in that either obviously!!!

    August 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  2. TG

    On the night before his death, Jesus told his eleven faithful apostles: "This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you."(John 15:17) Later that night, Jesus said to Peter just moments before his arrest by the Jewish religious leaders: "Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword."(Matt 26:53)

    Thus, when being arrested, Jesus did not resist the Jewish mob lead by his former apostle, Judas Iscariot (Mark 14:43, 44) but exemplified genuine love, setting the pattern for all who call themselves Christian. He also gave a principle, that those who "take the sword will perish by the sword".

    Jesus further told his eleven faithful apostles that "if you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you."(John 15:19) Jesus was "no part of the world", with part of the "world" (those alienated from God), being the military. Likewise, his true disciples have no involvement of the military.

    Early Christians refused to serve in the Roman army, in both the legions and auxilia, considering such service as wholly incompatible with the teachings of Christianity. E. W. Barnes noted: “A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [121-180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.” (The Rise of Christianity, 1947, p. 333) Hence, any form of military service is incompatible with Jesus teachings.

    Jesus said that his true disciples would be doing this work: "And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come."(Matt 24:14)

    After his resurrection, Jesus gave a commission to his eleven faithful apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you."(Matt 28:19, 20) A true disciple of Jesus teaches others God's laws, guidelines, and principles, that they are not to have any part of "world", with it's military.

    August 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Jesus also said, "...the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force". And then again, "occupy until I return" (paraphrased slightly – but it's in there). He also prayed that we would not be taken out of the world, but that we would be kept from the evil. Also, American History reveals that many of the Patriots who fought in the American Revolution were actually pastors and their congregations defending their towns and familes. These brave souls were not living by the sword and they did not hide away in their churches, but they fought hard for their freedom... which is something the church in America needs to wake up to and smell the coffee once again because those freedoms are being ripped away through the politically correct mindset that has invaded the USA.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  3. Justin

    Justice, like Religion, is a concept we have invented to make us comfortable with vengeance. There is most likely no God, and most likely no after life. Your perception that every human must pay for every action is simply not logical. It asserts far too many variables into the realm of fantasy. Your belief that there is justice at the end of every human life is simply founded in your belief structure...You have no evidence of such, nor have you any experience that can be rationalize such. Your only stance to which you attempt to refute us is that your bible says so...Well your bible is wrong, full of contradictions, full of hypocrites and wasn't inspired or written by God, it was written by men...Corrupt men who simply wanted to control the minds of others around them...You are right, this world is very crazy, but that is in no way a justification for theism, if anything that is further evidence that we as human beings need to band together as a whole, put aside these differences of faith (which are obviously destructive) and work towards the betterment of us all...Besides, isn't that what your Christ teaches anyway? Love and compassion, even for your enemies? As Ghandi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    August 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Tom

      Justin,
      I read with interest all you had to say. Let me ask you one question. Since Christianity is based on Jesus. What is it you find wrong with Jesus? Christians are human and yes they do make mistakes. Many I am sorry to say do not live up to the teaching of the Bible. However that can be said of many who are not Christians. In fact, of many who claim to have no faith at all.
      For so call errors in the Bible. I would be glad for you to list them. I have never found any. I have had some honest questions about somethings and when explained, what I was told made prefect sense.
      In case you may think I am some back woods uneducated individual I hold 2 ungrad degrees a graduate degree and a doctorate.
      Again tell me what you find wrong with Jesus. He is the only one that Christians claim to be prefect.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Dave

      If I may be so bold as to answer a question that wasn't asked of me, the problem with "jesus" is the very impossibility of his existence. There are no historical records of his birth, life, arrest, trial, or execution. Even in the literary sense, he was never mentioned until years after his supposed death. I won't even bother to address the violations of natural laws involved with the myth.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Ralph

      @Dave – LOL, even atheist scholars admit Jesus was a real person an recorded historically. That's not even worth trying to prove if that's your point. I won't argue with someone that 1+1=3, bc that's about as intelligent as what you just said.

      In addition, do you believe in Alexander the Great? Hint; the earliest records of him were found much longer after his life than of Jesus.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Dave

      @ Ralph...no, we don't. The Romans were the most obsessive record keepers of antiquity, and they had NO records of the guy's existence. None. There are no records of the existence of "jesus", and the only mentions of the guy are literary in nature.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Ralph

      @Dave – Silly kid.

      Occasionally people ask why there is no record of Jesus in Roman records. The answer is that there are no surviving Roman records but only highly parochial Roman historians who had little interest in the comings and goings of minor cults and were far more concerned about Emperors and Kings. Jesus made a very small splash while he was alive and there was no reason for Roman historians to notice him.

      Christianity is mentioned by the historian Tacitus in the early second century. But he talks about it only because Christians were unfortunate enough to be made scapegoats by the Emperor Nero for the great fire of Rome. Tacitus is interested in the Emperor, not his victims about whom he gives very limited information. Still, he does tell us that Jesus existed and was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Dave

      No surviving roman records...except for the literally thousands studies by linguists and other scholars from all over the world.

      "Jesus made a very small splash while he was alive"...which is why they supposedly went to such great lengths to silence the guy, then supposedly arrested and executed him, then actually went to great lengths to suppress the dangerous cult that rose up around the myth. Riiiiiight.

      Christianity is mentioned in ancient records, but the mythic focus of the cult is not.

      By the way, if you'd like to retain any credibility, I'd refrain from sandbox insults. I have not insulted you, yet you feel inclined to insult me. Nothing shows just how right you are like ad hominem attacks.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Ralph

      @ Dave – guess you didn't read the part about the records being that of high parochial Roman historians. Anyways, do you believe Alexander the Great was a historical figure?

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

      I read your excuse, and dismissed it as irrelevant. Roman census records from that area and era still exist, as do legal and financial transaction records. I've seen them in museums in Rome.

      The second portion of your question is sheer intellectual dishonesty. We know Alexander existed, because there are historical, rather than literary records of his life, actions, etc.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Sporkify

      There's nothing wrong with the idea of Jesus, other than his deification. His teachings are admirable and are without a doubt a useful guide for how to live your life.

      Christians in the US, it seems, don't even try to act like him though. You worship the bible rather than Jesus, you're intolerant, ignorant, xenophobic and tragically misguided on almost every social and political issue imaginable.

      Oh, and errors in the bible? Almost innumerable, but I'll give you two freebies. Jesus never existed and the Exodus never happened. There ya' go.

      September 1, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  4. jimmy dean

    thou shall not kill? ahhhh that dont count. lol fail

    August 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Dave

      @ Wiz...both. I served this country, and I never even once saw a chaplain doing anything even remotely useful. The idea of sending them into combat, where they're not allowed to actually fight is ridiculous, and should be obviously so to anyone with a functional brain.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dave

      Whoops...hit the wrong reply button. Sorry.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      @Dave – I can't speak to your experience, but I would suggest talking to those who have been helped by chaplains. I would argue that declaring a particular role as useless, especially in this instance, is an awfully subjective perspective. I am sure there are a lot of people in uniform who would whole-heartedly disagree with you.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Dave

      Nobody has ever been "helped" by these people masquerading as members of the Military.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      Way to generalize, Dave.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  5. John

    Wow, a lot of ignorance about the military in general and chaplains specifically.

    August 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      What ignorance do you mean?

      August 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Dave

      The ignorance is from people who think chaplains have any actual use. They take up space, use up resources, and do precisely nothing useful in return. Behind the lines, this is merely annoying. In combat, it is dangerous.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dave

      They ARE usefull in making sure peace dosen't break out.

      They need to snap the leash on the automotans as soon as any rationality appears.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      @Dave – Honest question – Are you speaking from experience, or strictly out of anti-religious sentiment?

      August 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • bob

      Agnosticism and gnosticism address knowledge, not belief.
      Atheism and theism deal with belief. They are not mutually exclusive terms.
      An atheist lacks belief in the existence of god; they do not need to deny one exists, only that the claims made on a gods behalf are not true.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Dave

      @ Wiz...both. I never saw a chaplain do a single useful thing while I served. They ate, they worked out, they slept. Once a week, they stood up and did some pointless little ritual, and then they went right back to soaking up space and resources they hadn't earned.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  6. Auntie Warhol

    He blesses the boys as they stand in line...

    August 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Dave

      In other words gets in the way and does nothing.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dude, you are showing your age.

      Many a day tripping out to that one!

      One of the greats

      August 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  7. doesNotMakeSense

    so what happens when the other side is also christian? is it pastor against pastor? the Lord vs the Lord? God vs God?.

    August 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      You know, it would be pretty funny if the other side had the same thing and they got close enough to duke it out in hand to hand combat.

      You're sitting over there shooting at the enemy then look over and see two people fighting to the de.ath with bible in hand.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • albert

      This just goes to show the hypocrisy. These are not real Christians for the simple fact that they do wind up killing each other. Jesus taught that his "true" followers would be recognized by their unity as well as their love for each other. It should be mentioned that Jesus never went to war while on earth, nor did he teach his followers to do so. These people will be judged for their blood guilt.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Tim

      Yup interesting delimma. I think the bible points out very clearly that war is wrong and clergy support of war is very wrong. You know that beat thier swords in the plow shears and pruning hooks and the make war no more verse.. Also the penalty of those misleading those inhabiting the earth verse also.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • albert

      Killing/War is not the Christian way. This is total hypocrisy and a mockery of God. Please read Matthew 7:20-23.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Its like celebrity death match

      What a sham and a shame.

      Teaching children to kill in the name of God.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ William

      I'll allow it

      August 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • TheWiz71

      It's a nonsense proposition. Chaplains are defined by the Geneva Conventions as non-combatants, just like military medical personnel. As a result, they could pastor "enemy" combatants captured by "friendly" forces, just like army doctors will treat injured Taliban as well as GIs. And, once again, like whack-a-mole, another nonsense sentiment. Military chaplains are not about giving a divine imprimatur on military conflict. They are about ministering those who wear the uniform. After all, no-one would suggest that prison chaplains are giving godly credence to crime. It is about ministering to people in high-stress situations. I have personally known military chaplains who are pacifists.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • doesNotMakeSense

      TheWiz71... your comment makes 100% sense, as long as the clergy does not take sides and administers same spiritual service to anyone involved in the conflict. Then I see it as a spiritual 'red-cross'; I have no issues with that.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  8. fred

    Laughing,
    Thanks, I thought you were going to tell me to get the flock outta here

    August 31, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • J.W

      I bet you all are giggling like schoolgirls.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Laughing

      fred, you are ON today, got to respect a solid pun.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Laughing

      JW

      Does my name say Giggling to you?!

      NO! I Laugh, no giggle zone over here.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • J.W

      You lie Laughing. You probably sound like Anderson Cooper making pee jokes. Although he does have the beautiful Isha Sesay on his show. She should be featured alot more.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Laughing

      Well I do make pee jokes.

      And I sound like Anderson Cooper ......... maybe because..

      I AM ANDERSON COOPER!!!!!

      August 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • J.W

      No way you said you were 25 Anderson Cooper has to be older than that. Lisa Ling turned 38 yesterday and she and Anderson Cooper were on Channel one together when I was in school.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Laughing

      Well now, aren't we clever, but which one did I lie about, being 25 or being Anderson Cooper........

      (Psssssssst............... I'll give you a hint, I'm not Anderson Cooper)

      August 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • fred

      Oh, let's see 25 38 25......doesn't look like a keeper to me or is that cooper

      August 31, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • J.W

      I wish you were Lisa Ling. She is even prettier that Isha Sesay

      August 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • fred

      ok JW you are getting scarry now .....are you about 5'11" and standing outside my window?

      August 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  9. J.W

    Then you must hate yourself Laughing because you are a silly goose.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • J.W

      How did I do this? I never do this.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Maybe if you weren't such a chicken you wouldn't mess up and post in the wrong spot.
      ...
      Wait...
      Was it YOU who crossed the road!? And Laughing threw the stone at you and the chicken you were crossing the road to meet?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • fred

      Not to worry I am one step ahead of you

      August 31, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  10. r.ortiz

    give credit to these men and women who serve as chaplains, war is not a beautiful thing these chaplains risk their lives to bless and give moral support to our service men god bless these men and women chaplins.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Dave

      In other words, they're endangering the Soldiers around them for nothing.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • streetcar01

      Why Chaplains?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • albert

      Killing/War is not the Christian way. This is total hypocrisy and a mockery of God. Please read Matthew 7:20-23.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      How can one offer moral support to those in the process of killing people?

      August 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Scott

      I really don't think this is what Christ had in mind.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Dave

    Great...dead weight in combat. What a wonderful idea. If they're not fighting, they belong elsewhere. How many actual Soldiers will be injured or killed while trying to protect these guys?

    August 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Jo

      I agree. I don't want my tax dollars to pay for religious geeks in the armed forces.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Jo, I'm all for them being back at the base, running counseling sessions, holding services and whatnot. But in combat, anybody not armed is just dead weight, and a danger to everyone around them.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Andy

      I can assure you were are not geeks and are not keeping soldiers from doing their jobs. Lets get all the info before you starting making rash comments.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Dave

      Oh, really? Tell me...who protects these wanna-bes in combat? The real Soldiers. What good are these empty sets of BDU's in combat if they're not fighting? Just as bad an idea as sending reporters into combat. Useless wastes of space that can't help in any way.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Acosta

      yeah you should know that its not infantrymen who protect chaplains but whats called a chaplain assistant which isnt a mos your assigned but choose to have its part of a ministry team chaplains arent dead weight they provided support to our troops who have religiouse needs

      August 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Dave

      Their religious "needs" don't need to be addressed in combat. That's what church is for.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • mike

      I'd rather get an actual soldier's opinion as to whether or not they want these guys around. Everything else is baseless opinion.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Dave

      Mike, I'm a veteran. Chaplains are useless parasites and do not belong in combat.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  12. oneSTARman

    I Pledge Allegiance to the Cloth on the Wall and to the HOLY STATE under the ONE GOD which owns my Body to be Given as a Human Sacrifice to WAR. There is No Greater GLORY than to MURDER and DIE for Thy Bloodthirsty Power. Amen

    August 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jo

      I think they have drugs to help with your problem.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  13. Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

    Laughing I need prove about your potential – just you need a prove regarding supreme being.

    in the mean time you are nothing.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Laughing

      Did you ask for PROOF of a supreme being? Sorry, I can't help you there, but hey if there is no proof of my potential, which has led you to believe I am nothing, and there's no proof of god......what conclusion does that lead you to?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Telling other people that they are "nothing"...what does that make you?

      Did you even try conversation before you sank to the mud-slinging and denigration of people you do not know?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      If you want (and can follow) I can prove free will doesn't exist, implying that we don't have souls, meaning there is no god.

      But I guess being an atheist, me with my engineering and physics background and graduating near top of my class must be really stupid and (according to your other posts) ugly.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  14. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    James

    "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

    Oh...OH...I know this one...pick me..pick me....

    It's saw the headlights and thought it was morning and needed to crow about it! Cocado – a – do....SPLAT!.
    .
    I wasn't there, I don't know why the chicken crossed the road that is why I asked the question.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • James

      Oh come on dude....not even a chuckle....wow you're a tough crowd.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Laughing

      ......I laughed

      August 31, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      A chicken died, how can you laugh! I guess you would see humor in choking a chicken!

      August 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • James

      Are you a vegetarian? 😉

      August 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  15. Andrew

    This is f@#$ing stupid. Jesus didn't say to go to war, let lone take him as a mascot.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • James

      Jesus doesn't like swearing either, off to hell with you.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • EnergyBeing3

      Didn't you get the memo? The NEW Jesus carries knives and guns and after you eat some of his body and drink his blood, you'll be off to kill in his glorious name because as a good little soldier, you follow orders. Oh man, it's GREAT TO BE AN AMERICAN!!!

      The new Christians.... CANNIBAL VAMPIRE KILLING MACHINES!!! .......... The movie will be coming out next month along with the video game.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • BRC

      Quite certain I've already played that game actually... at least twice.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Andy

      No mascots here. Chaplains doing a job that cannot be done by others.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Clay

      How do you know? Maybe Jesus walked around with burnt nasty guts hanging from his teeth. Just because its in a book does not mean its real.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  16. ThomasPaine

    I myself am an avid Deist and a Veteran, I must say that my thanks go out to all Chaplains and much respect to thier families. I don't believe out unit would have made it through Iraq without our Chaplian. Most if not all soldier when they are toubled would rather go to a Chaplian first for advise or help than a psychiatrist. In fact I still keep in touch with my old Chaplian and his family, These are genuinely good people that put themselves in harms way to ensure that we the soldiers are ready to face the hardship of the battlefield.

    Thank you.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • streetcar01

      No doubt these are good people. My curiosity is why they must be chaplains. Are they able to bring something to the table that helps you that others not affiliated with religion can't?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      @StreetCar01 – What They Bring is ABSOLUTION – How ELSE can a 19 Year Old Boy murder people he would NEVER have had any reason to HATE if his COUNTRY had not sent you there. You FIGHT for your BUDDY or Because you are ANGRY – but you need FORGIVENESS to SLEEP at Night.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • bob

      Chaplin is the genirc term for all personal regardless of their faith. There are a lot of haters on this one. Athiests vs. Religous type of deal. Just nonsese, "There are no atheists in a fox hole" Im sure only a handful of these people commenting actually serve, and for those who dont, you are just stupid to say I dont believe in this there for they are dumb/waste etc.. You really should have no opionion on the matter since it doesnt apply to you. Even if you pay taxes for this, you also pay taxes for welfare, healthcare, and other things you might not use or need. If you have a problem with that, elect leaders that will speak your voice, instead of complaining about it on here.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Clay

      Well, maybe if the Armed Forces stopped running off the non-Christians, we wouldn't need so many damn Chaplains to hold you little girls hands. Never met a chaplain that left any impression other than he was gay and wanted to bone me.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  17. Anthony

    I deployed in support of OIF in 2009 and OEF in 2005-2007 and just wanted to know if CNN knew there were any male chaplains? This is a subtle way to poke Orthodox and Catholics in the eye.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  18. ben

    This is total BS. I am in the chaplain assitant corps and non of that "training" will ever happen! haha

    August 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  19. streetcar01

    Are chaplain's doing this work because they are easier and/or cheaper for the military to employ than trained social workers and psychiatrists/psychologists? It seems to me that the "services" they provide fit more into these roles than a preacher's role.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Actually, psychology is a point of study for many clergy.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • shin_

      There easier to control than Shrinks/Sociologists!

      August 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  20. Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

    I'm just stating the fact: PLEASE TELL ME which one is NOT TRUE

    you are not even as rich as Bill Gates. – TRUE
    you are not going to have more girl friends than Hugh Heffner – TRUE
    you are not as smart as Albert Einstein. – TRUE
    you are not as handsome as me, oops sorry Brad Pitt not me. – TRUE
    you even AFRAID (You might pee on your pants) if your boss angry at you. – TRUE

    But with your PROUD and with your small brain you can certainly say that there is no God. – TRUE

    HOW DARE YOU MOCK ARMY CHAPLAIN.

    Respect the ARMY and ARMY CHAPLAIN

    August 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Laughing

      Troll Alert

      Move along people..... nothing to see here.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      How about those Yankees!

      August 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Michael

      F*** your make believe magic wizards.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • James

      “you are not even as rich as Bill Gates. – TRUE
      you are not going to have more girl friends than Hugh Heffner – TRUE
      you are not as smart as Albert Einstein. – TRUE
      you are not as handsome as me, oops sorry Brad Pitt not me. – TRUE
      you even AFRAID (You might pee on your pants) if your boss angry at you. – TRUE”

      Scary coming from a religious person so your priorities are money, sex, science, physical appearance, anger all things the bible condemns but you’re focused on it. Dude you need to humble yourself before God and repent.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • IslandAtheist

      Bill Gates is an atheist.
      Brad Pitt is an atheist.
      Albert Einstein regarded belief in a personal god as childish.
      Hugh heffner said religion is a myth.
      I am retired an don't have a boss.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      Please tell me LAUGHING or anyone which one is not TRUE?

      By the way Your level of ATHEISM is NOT as GREAT as this person who finally realize there is God:
      1. Georgi Malenkov – Successor of Joseph Stalin, prime minister of Russia, official speaker at Stalin funeral.
      2. Malcolm Mudridge – Long vocal critic of Catholic church. He said he owed his conversion to Theresa of Calcutta.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Why did the chicken cross the road?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • James

      "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

      Oh...OH...I know this one...pick me..pick me....

      It's saw the headlights and thought it was morning and needed to crow about it! Cocado – a – do....SPLAT!

      August 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      That's my point.

      You are at bottom of the population in every way I could possibly think of. even I bet most likely you are at the bottom of your high school class.

      If you are at the bottom of the population you are NOTHING, just a LOSER who is going eventually going to die. and yet so sure there is no God.

      and that is the fact. You are going to die eventually.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Laughing

      Well personally, I would like to think that one or none of those is true. I think I have the potential to be as smart as Einstein, or as rich as bill gates or have as many girlfriends as hugh and so on. If you are saying currently, then yes they are true statements about my person compared to some of the more renowned atheists, all of which are highly successful. I am confused how any of it still has to do with your belief....

      Then again i think we are detracted from the MAIN question at hand. ACTS has asked a very important question that needs and answer:

      Why did the chicken cross the road you ask? Well lets discuss it's motives. Might there be a handsome rooster on the other side? Maybe the chicken has escape on the brain and is running from the terrifying farmer. This could possibly be a childrens movie where the little chicken is lost in the big city, hilarious highjinks are ensuing around this chicken as it trots merrily across the road.

      You have also failed to specify, where is this road? What type of chicken is this?

      I think this question is going to keep me up all night.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • James

      "You are at bottom of the population in every way I could possibly think of. even I bet most likely you are at the bottom of your high school class.

      If you are at the bottom of the population you are NOTHING, just a LOSER who is going eventually going to die. and yet so sure there is no God."

      You see the splinter in his eye but you are not seeing the LOG in yours. Haven't you ever heard the faults you see in other people are the faults you have within yourself. God is revealing to you that you have issues.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      chicken want to cross the road because it want to go to the other side of the road.....

      August 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      It was a country road I believe

      August 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      and there were pretty flowers on the side of the road

      August 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Laughing

      Ooooooo, thats adorable, so you've taken the leaders in their respective fields, you know the top .00001% and anyone below that is a loser? So considering these people are all atheists, what does that make the 100% of the population below them?

      Sorry kid, I think the chicken question is a lot more pressing and frankly more interesting topic at hand then anything you write. Go back to your bridge, I hear there are a bunch of gruff billy goats running back and forth on it.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Laughing

      Well that changes EVERYTHING

      Flowers along a country road you say?

      This question just became incredibly easy.

      Clearly this chicken has gone to the otherside of the road to learn if the grass really IS greener on the other side, thus answer two age old questions in one FOWL swoop, killing two birds with one stone if you will.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Great now we have more questions.... what was the other bird and who threw the stone?????

      August 31, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Laughing

      It was me, I threw the stone. I can't help it, I hate birds SO MUCH. Pooping on me, flying at me, flying disease-bags just waiting to peck our your eyes.

      By the way did I say stone? I meant boulder, It was I boulder I launched and although I killed two, I was aiming for the flock, I failed in my endeavor

      August 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • fred

      Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, Laughing you threw out of tern

      August 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Laughing

      It was me, I threw the stone. I can't help it, I hate birds SO MUCH. Pooping on me, flying at me, flying disease-bags just waiting to peck our your eyes.

      By the way did I say stone? I meant boulder, It was I boulder I launched and although I killed two, I was aiming for the flock, I failed in my endeavor

      -------–
      Wow some serious anger towards chickens. The devil must be inside you.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      There you go,
      it's nice right not to fight about religion. Next time if there is a news regarding religion JUST don't click it if your intention is to mock. I never leave nasty comment in the http://www.whygodwonthealamputee.com or any atheist website – I do respect it

      because

      for me it's simple at the end all of us die – we will know the truth, we will know if there is heaven or hell by that time.

      Now back to work!
      peace

      August 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ACTS

      Absolutely, did you know, contrary to popular belief, that it was chickens that were made in gods image? I know, crazy world we live in right?

      August 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      To the original poster with the really long (and unloving) name,

      You sound as though you are very angry and are venting your anger at the board, and specifically at those you think are atheists. Perhaps if you were to look within and ask yourself what you are really angry at, you might be able to converse here in a more civilized fashion.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • J.W

      You all are silly geese.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Laughing

      @JW

      I HATE BIRDS!!!! they are fowl!

      August 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • fred

      JW
      You should have ducked that question

      August 31, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • J.W

      Then you must hate yourself Laughing because you are a silly goose

      August 31, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      I'm not angry, all argument are useless it will never convert theist to atheist or vise versa – so why don't just telling the truth that PRIDE is capital sin for both theist and atheist – especially atheist who is most of the time think they are self sufficient that why they won't accept that there is a supreme being up there.

      I have a joke – not chicken joke

      A man died and went to The Judgment, they told him , “Before you meet with God, I should tell you — we’ve looked over your life, and to be honest you really didn’t do anything particularly good or bad. We’re not really sure what to do with you. Can you tell us anything you did that can help us make a decision?”

      The newly arrived soul thought for a moment and replied, “Yeah, once I was driving along and came upon a person who was being harassed by a group of thugs. So I pulled over, got out a bat, and went up to the leader of the thugs. He was a big, muscular guy with a ring pierced through his lip. Well, I tore the ring out of his lip, and told him he and his gang had better stop bothering this guy or they would have to deal with me!”

      “Wow that’s impressive, “When did this happen?”

      “About three minutes ago,” came the reply.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Laughing

      alright fred,

      I 'll give you that, solid reply.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Laughing

      @ AYANBASPOY (you should have ACTS help you come up with a better acronym)

      First, argument isn't my main goal, its to chat about theology and the craziness that ensues. Sure I could go on an atheist site where everyone agrees with me to a point, or go to a christian site where no one would agree with. I like to chat with believers and see if I can learn something and maybe teach something. Who knows how many people have come across this blog and decided to do more researching because of it.

      For instance, I think its good you came on this blog. You clearly have a healthy dose of misconception when it comes to atheists, maybe this will help (or really hurt, probably really hurt it) our cause.

      And now I have a joke for you,because yours is a goodie, but an oldie.

      Three nuns die and go up to the gates where St. Peter is waiting for them. They get in line and after a while they finally make it to the front. The first nun walks up and St. Peter and he askes " did you sin while on earth?" The nun replies "Yes holy father, I touched a mans pen.is with this finger" St. Peter replied "Wash your finger in the holy water and you may enter" She washes and enters heaven. The second nun walks up and is asked the same question, she replied "Yes holy father, I touched a mans pen.is as well, but with both my hands" She is told to wash both hands and she can enter heaven. At this point there is a commotion in the back of the line. A nun has started pushing her way forwards in a frenzy, "What's all the commotion?" askes st. peter
      The nun screams as she runs forward " I have to gurgle the holy water before Sister Mary here sticks her butt in the holy water!"

      August 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • fred

      JW
      So you think we are silly geese:
      Why did the blonde cross the road?
      She wanted to see the geese because she heard honking!

      August 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Atheist you are NOTHING but you are so proud of yourself

      Laughing

      No it doesn't hurt me. but again no argument can convert theist to atheist or vise versa

      one of the reason I believe in God is because this world is so crazy, including some Christian/Muslim fundamentalist, some priest abusing children.

      If you hope for justice in this world – THERE IS NO JUSTICE.

      Believing in GOD gives me hope that at the end of this life EVERYTHING WILL BE BALANCE.

      EVERY SINGLE MAN will be held accountable for his action. because if you expect JUSTICE will be serve in this world – I don't see that.

      Luke 12:59 "I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny." Human must pay for every action he did in this life to the last penny – AND THERE IS JUSTICE AT THE END OF HUMAN LIFE

      August 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      So you're religious because you believe in karma basically? Or at least that there should be karma and since we don't get it here we need to get it in the afterlife.

      I can see that, I wish I could do the same because I see the lack of justice in the world as well and think people should get what's coming to them. But based on what I know of this physical world I am certain that sometimes people just get away with stuff and it sucks but I just can't believe in a god. Unless he proves himself to me I will never believe in god because I just see so much evidence against it.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Laughing

      OK

      So you have an insanly overdeveloped sense of justice that needs fulfillment that you are unable to find here on earth. So basically, you believe because you really really want people to be punished, then I guess the christian god is right up your alley.

      I don't wish to convert you, but it does bother me that religion, in all forms, is put up on a pedastal as if it should actually be taken seriously and shouldn't be scrutinized. There are two types of beleivers who come to this blog. 1) people incredibly bound up in their faith and feel the need to defend it, especially when its questions and 2) people who are comfortable talking about their faith and have a good discussion.

      You seem to be in the former, but hey, it could be my project of the day to convince you to be in the latter category, though I should warn you, calling Atheists nothing and saying they're all going to die and "meet their maker" isn't going to win you a lot of friends. You might also want to come up with solid arguments to back up your beliefs instead of using random examples such as.... I will never be richer than bill gates, thus god exists and I'm stupid.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • J.W

      Fred I didn't see your joke until now. Laughing is right you are in the zone today. Although you are obviously an anti-blondist, but we can work on that.

      August 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
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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.