Our fragile and amazing First Amendment

At a recent evening hosted by the Crossroads Cultural Center, a young woman in the audience asked  how chaplains minister to troops of other faiths or no faith.  This is a question that always comes up, and, indeed, it was one of the issues that drove us to make the film: we wanted to see for ourselves whether and how a predominantly Christian clergy in the employ of the state served the needs of a religiously diverse population.  Chaplain Ken Bolin answered in a way that reminded us of the many chaplains we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They reached to others out, fueled by their faith to love, not judge, fellow service men and women.

The more time passes, the more I realize how very important this is.  Anyone read the book Christian Nation?  It is a particularly chilling dystopia because it underscores that what we have is so very valuable and, possibly, so very fragile.  We take its existence for granted, but the  Constitutional balance that at once guarantees our free exercise of religion and prohibits the government from establishing any one religion is delicate and finely tuned.  And it needs to be protected if it is to endure.  In his extremely well researched novel, author Fred Rich sets out how, through a confluence of planning and accident, a dogmatic religious faction comes to power in the US.  And, yes, military chaplains play a role in this dystopia: rather than reaching out in faith-inspired love to help and comfort troops, the chaplains in this novel love only those who share their faith and help the government impose that faith on those who do not.

We are so very lucky that the world Rich describes exists within the pages of a book and not in the world we inhabit.  As we approach Memorial Day, we want to thank all the chaplains and all the troops who have died upholding this delicate and oh so valuable balance in our Constitution.

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with apologies

All the blogs we posted from 2007 when we were filming in Afghanistan and Iraq got frozen, so we are now transferring what we can salvage to this wordpress blog.  Unfortunately, every time we publish one, subscribers will get something from 2007 in their inboxes.

There will be several over the next few days, and we apologize for this avalanche of old news.


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Crossroads: “Hope for our Veterans”

We are delighted and honored to be part of “Hope for Our Veterans,” a three-part series organized by  Crossroads Cultural Center

Under Fire: A Candid Look at the Military Chaplaincy

April 24th at 7:30 pm at The Catholic University of America

(McGivney Hall, Keane Auditorium)

The event is free and open to the public   —  join us and spread the word!

Crossroads Cultural Center in Washington, DC, is hosting a three-part event that explores “Hope for Our Veterans.”  The first (on March 21st) focused on the difficulties facing too many of our veterans upon their return and it featured Nancy Albin, co-founder of a valuable resource and source of hope: the Los Angeles Habilitation House, which helps returning veterans suffering from PTSD tackle the sometimes seemingly unsurmountable challenges to reentering the workforce.

The second event will take place April 24th and will explore the role of military chaplains with excerpts from “Chaplains Under Fire” and a discussion with Chaplain Ken Bolin (who was an infantryman before he became a chaplain) as well as documentary’s editor, Andrea Hull, and director Lee Lawrence.  The evening will be moderated by Suzanne Tanzi, managing editor of Traces magazine.

Part three of the series, “The Arts and Military Healing,” will be presented by Smithsonian curator Jane Milosch on Veteran’s Day. We’ll keep you posted about the time and location.

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On view for another month at the Brooklyn Museum, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is an amazingly effective show.  It groups some 400 images taken over the last 166 years thematically — from training to deployment to combat, injuries, death, and the 1000-mile stare of returning troops.  By organizing the show this way, it drives home the constants of war.  The equipment and circumstances change, the realities of sending people into combat doesn’t.  There are acts of bravery, tenacity,  loyalty and love on the battlefield, in hospital tents, by gravestones. There is also unspeakable brutality, suffering, and devastation both individual and collective, military and civilian.

This was our take on it.  If you have seen the show in Brooklyn or any of its previous venues (Museum Fine Arts, Houston;  Corcoran, Washington, DC; Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles), please share your thoughts.

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Value of chaplains — in the WSJ

More and more, hospitals and the medical profession in general are recognizing the value of chaplains — this at a time when the number of NONES (people who subscribe to no religion) is on the rise.  This is one of the take-aways from an article by Laura Landro in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.  Here is an excerpt:

Wendy Cadge, a sociology professor at Brandeis University and author of the 2012 book “Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine,” says she has seen nurses in intensive-care units pray for patients, or respiratory therapists say a prayer when they must remove a breathing tube, in the presence of family. But chaplains, she says, “define healing in a much broader, more holistic way than other members of the health-care team,” her research found, and they almost universally they believe they can best facilitate healing by helping patients tap their inner resources, rather than by calling on a higher power to intervene in their outcome.

Until recently there has been little data on what U.S. medical schools teach with regard to spirituality. A 2010 survey by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that 90% of medical schools have courses or content on spirituality and health. Ms. Cadge says such courses, along with an increase in academic research, have helped raise awareness among doctors about spirituality’s importance to health.

Here again is the link to the full article — and share any thoughts you might have about Ms. Cage’s statement that chaplains help “patients tap their inner resources, rather than by calling on a higher power to intervene in their outcome.”

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Picturing combat

Combat cameras — when we had trundled down to the banks of the Euphrates to witness a baptism, waded into the river up to our hips, praying we wouldn’t trip or stumble, we weren’t the only camera there.  Click click, click.  The same sound troops hear at their backs on missions and in trainings.  I thought of their service and the risks they take  when we stopped into the museum of the Cranbrook Art Academy.  There, tucked in the display of works by alumni,  a small section highlighted the work of some who had served as combat artists  in World War 2.  The glare was such that I had to stand way to one side so I am not doing justice with these snapshots to the efforts of men who, like our combat cameras today, sought to capture some of the truth about humans in battle.

Hari Kari by Jack Keljo Steele, 1945 - Steele served as combat artist in Australia and the South Pacific. He made this ink drawing on the back of Royal Australian Air Force map.

Hari Kari by Jack Keljo Steele, 1945 – Steele served as combat artist in Australia and the South Pacific. He made this ink drawing on the back of Royal Australian Air Force map.

Australian Soldier by Jack Keljo Steele, circa 1942 -

Australian Soldier by Jack Keljo Steele, circa 1942 -

Sentry by Robert Collins, c. 1945

Sentry by Robert Collins, c. 1945

Soldiers in New Guinea by Jack Keljo Steele, 1945.  Troops beat their way through the thick bush to bring a wounded comrade to safety.
Soldiers in New Guinea by Jack Keljo Steele, 1945. Troops beat their way through the thick bush to bring a wounded comrade to safety.

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A live link

Although the Humanity Explored film festival is over, there still seems to be a live link through another site:  http://learni.st/learnings/86739-chaplains-under-fireImage

So if you want to stream the doc, you’ve got another chance (and, of course, there is always the DVD you can buy).

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