Posts by emily

Atheist Chaplain, an Oxymoron?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in News | Comments Off on Atheist Chaplain, an Oxymoron?

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines chaplain as, “a priest or other Christian religious leader who performs religious services for a military group (such as the army) or for a prison, hospital, etc.”  It defines Atheist as, “one who believes that there is no deity.”  One would question the validity of religious professional who believes in no god.  It would be a gross understatement to say that the military Chaplaincy is politically-charged to an extent that is without precedent in American history. A loud and well-connected minority of scoffers, using the false canard of “diversity”, has bullied the United States military into allowing Pagan chaplains.  


Group preparing to press military for atheist chaplain, source says

Fox News –

In what some might see as an oxymoron, an advocacy group apparently is preparing to ask the Defense Department to appoint a chaplain — for atheists.

A source tells Fox News that the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers plans to make the request on Tuesday, floating its president Jason Torpy as the proposed chaplain.

Asked for comment, the association referred to its position in support of a prior bid to name a “humanist” chaplain.

But a Defense Department official confirmed that a meeting is planned between the applicant and the Navy on Tuesday.

Rep. John Fleming, R-La., who last year opposed the creation of such a position, also voiced concerns about the planned request. He told he’s got to wait and see how the proposal plays out, but threatened to use legislation to block it if necessary.

“We’re only finding out about this now,” he said. Fleming said the law is clear that any chaplain needs to have an “endorsing agency” and questioned whether the applicant would have that here. “We just don’t see any avenue, but you know we’ve been surprised before by the military.”

The move would come after lawmakers, including Fleming, battled over the same issue last year.

Democrats tried, unsuccessfully, to pass legislation creating such a post in 2013. In response, Republicans offered up a measure of their own to prohibit the Pentagon from naming such a chaplain. The House approved the measure in July.

With Congress at odds, though, the Defense Department could decide on its own.

A separate organization, The Humanist Society, endorsed Oxford-educated religious scholar Jason Heap last year to be the first-ever humanist chaplain in the U.S. Navy.

The MAAF supported the application. All along, the group has argued that more people identify as atheists and humanists than any other non-Christian denomination.

But Republican lawmakers who have fought these efforts have described the push as nonsensical. The motto of the Army Chaplain Corps is, after all, “Pro Deo et Patria,” or “For God and Country.”

Fleming said last year that the idea of an atheist chaplain is “an oxymoron.”

“It’s self-contradictory — what you’re really doing is now saying that we’re going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains,” he said.

But the MAAF argues that military chaplains are not providing enough outreach for those who do not believe in God.

According to research in 2009 by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, about a quarter of military servicemembers who participated in the study said they had “no religious preference.” More than 3.6 percent identified as humanist, while a little over 1 percent identified as pagan.

Several organizations and religious scholars have pressed the U.S. military to consider naming chaplains for those servicemembers.

“Such broad-based and growing support of professionals and experts should make it easy for the Department of Defense and the Navy to open their doors to diversity of belief that includes humanists and other nontheists,” the group said in a statement last year.

Fox News’ Jim Angle and’s Judson Berger contributed to this report.

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Help to Overcome

Posted by on Apr 7, 2014 in Prayer Art | Comments Off on Help to Overcome


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The Case for Prayer, Part 1: Why the Case?

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Military Prayer | Comments Off on The Case for Prayer, Part 1: Why the Case?

Photo: Voice of America

“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” – II Corinthians 3:17

Skeptics, appealing to the “Separation of Church and State” mantra, often will insist that prayer is a private matter that has no place in any public forum outside a church building, and certainly no place in government. In those few cases where skeptics are forced to relent, such as the military or Congressional meetings, the naysayers retreat only slightly, demanding generic prayers that are devoid of Judeo-Christian theology.

Some Christians, in the midst of all this back-and-forth, often ask why public prayer matters.

In point of fact, it matters on multiple fronts:

The assault on public prayer is a direct assault on American history. The war on public prayer is not about tolerance, as tolerance is—as we shall see in the coming installments—but a Trojan horse for the marketing of a very anti-American and totalitarian agenda. To the skeptic, our freedoms are not a matter of Providence, but rather a product of evolution and therefore subject to change. This is why fundamental liberties—such as freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear arms, expressed in black-letter print in the Constitution—are always up for reinterpretation by the skeptic.

To the skeptic, our Founders envisioned America as a secular Utopia in which law and justice are devoid of any connection to religious information. This worldview denies the fact that our very legal system of common law, which has its roots in the Old and New Testaments, predates our own Constitution by over a thousand years, and informs the way our Founders understood basic liberties.

The assault on public prayer is a coordinated dismissal of that Providence, and, by default, an assault on the liberties for which our Founders fought and died.

Our record of public prayer is integral to understanding American history. To understand America’s perseverance through difficult times requires an understanding of American character. Our history of public prayer, particularly in the military, provides snapshots of that collective character in every historical era, from colonial days to our modern era.

Our record of public prayer provides encouragement and warning to our generation. Our society is at its greatest impasse since the Civil War. Whereas we fought over secession and slavery, today the struggle is over our identity as a nation. The decision we make will determine our path forward.

John Adams said it succinctly: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Our history of prayer shows us where we have been, and where we can go. It in, we learn what kind of people we must be if we are to persevere as a union. Historic prayers give us pause to reflect that our great status as Americans is a gift from God, and not a product of philosophical rumination.

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Just Power

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in Multimedia, Prayer Art | Comments Off on Just Power


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Prayer in a War Zone

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Military Prayer | Comments Off on Prayer in a War Zone

My time on active duty showed me who is in control.

The Word Among Us

Prayer in a War Zone

They say that war and deployments change you, and that you’re never the same afterwards.

As a Navy captain who has been deployed to war in the Middle East several times, I can vouch that this is true. But it doesn’t mean that all the change is bad: you just see things differently when you return home. For me, one of the greatest changes is the way I look at prayer.

Each time I was deployed, the experience was much the same. Epic sandstorms and incredible heat, with temperatures of 130° F or more and humidity that could reach over 90 percent. Drinking one water bottle after another, with endless trips to the portable toilets. Cramped living conditions, zero privacy, and lines for everything. Deployment to a war zone also means combat conditions, danger, fear, self-doubt, and prolonged separation from family and friends.

In these circumstances, with so many things out of your hands, you see how little control you have over your life and the lives of those entrusted to your care. But very intensely, you realize that God is always in control and that he hears you when you pray. This sense of God’s closeness became a living reality for me, as I brought him my concerns for my family and the troops under my command.

Mass Meant Everything. Weekly Mass was the highlight of my prayer life during deployment. For Catholic troops, it’s not just an obligation—it’s a sanctuary and a place of peace.

Mass was a simple affair. The chaplain would arrive with a small box containing missals, a chalice, wine, hosts, and everything else he needed. There might be five people, or fifty; the first two to arrive did the readings, and we all sang what we could manage. The priest would put on his vestments, and we’d start—sometimes right out in the open desert with a utility table for an altar. The biggest Marines you’ve ever seen would come from out of nowhere to stand, humble and needy, in that small circle. Even if you could hear the sounds of battle and worried about being shot at, you wanted to be there for those twenty minutes of peace.

After Mass, if the chaplain had time, he heard confessions. We would line up and confess our sins face-to-face when our turn came up, with those behind standing a respectful distance back. Then the chaplain would be off to the next base. I always prayed for these priests. They were often overworked, due to the shortage of Catholic chaplains, but they never complained.

We appreciated their sacrifice, because weekly Mass meant everything. In those few minutes, Christ restored us and made us strong enough to handle the next week. We would close our eyes and remember our loved ones back home, knowing that they were hearing the same Scripture readings that day. Through the Mass and our faith in Christ, we were connected.

Prayer and Post-its. Early every morning before my day got going fast, I would read my daily Scripture. The Word Among Us was a great help—I discovered it while deployed, among the donated materials that the chaplains set out. Then I would pray for my family and for the men and women who were serving with me. I’d pray for those who had died that week and for their families. When our missions were especially dangerous—convoys through areas where there were snipers and IEDs, for example—I prayed for that too.

During the day, I looked for opportunities to keep turning to the Lord. Even with little time and no privacy, I could usually find a minute to pull out my Bible, read a passage, and intercede. And just to help me remember everyone and everything I was praying for, I kept a prayer list of Post-it notes in my Bible. In the fog of war, you can’t always remember names and needs without some help. Those sticky notes were invaluable!

Deployed service men and women have all the same concerns and problems that they had at home. And deployment can make them worse. We worry about our spouses, with all the extra work and burden they are carrying alone. We wonder if our children are doing well in school. I remember hearing a sailor on the phone with his wife one night, talking her through the bills: “Honey, take four envelopes, and write out ‘mortgage,’ ‘groceries,’ ‘gas’ … .” He did his best to sound positive, but his chin quivered as he spoke, and I knew his military pay wasn’t enough. His name went on my prayer list too.

Letters and e-mails from home let me know that other people had me on their prayer list. My parents had a prayer circle of other elderly parishioners who prayed for my service members and me. This was huge! Some of these people I had never even met. Knowing that they were remembering us and lifting us up to the Lord gave me a sense of security and hope that we would make it through.

Changed Forever. In “the world,” as deployed troops refer to home, it’s easy to think you’re in control. You go where you want; eat what you want, when you want; watch what you want, with remote controls in hand. When you’re deployed, you don’t have choices like that because you’re not in control.

And so I prayed. It was all I could do—and the best thing I could ever do. I learned that the Lord was very near. Sometimes a sailor would come and tell me about bad things happening with his family, and I’d see this big, powerful guy break down in tears. I’d address the problem by contacting our command back home. But it was prayer that brought peace to that service member in front of me. As we prayed, I often felt like the words I was speaking were coming from somewhere else.

So yes, my deployments have changed me. There’s not a single Sunday that I don’t relive a Mass in Iraq or somewhere else in the Middle East. When I lector, there’s not a single time that I don’t think back to reading Scripture at Mass in a war zone, where church means “us”—the people and not a building, just like in the early Church. As I read the Old Testament, I see a place I’ve seen before, not an image from a movie. I feel the sand and hot wind on my face, and for a moment, I’m back there.

Best of all, I now know without a doubt that God is with me and that he hears me whenever—and wherever—I pray.

Navy captain Mark Ghirardi lives in northern Florida with his wife and two children.

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