Cherry-picking chaplains?

If ever there was a time I wanted to be in two – or three – places at once it was after the June 10 screening.  Alice Chao, a lawyer in the Bronx District Attorney’s office, had organized a screening for fellow lawyers who belong to the Center for Faith & Work of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  Some 25 people gathered on the 3rd floor of a building in midtown, and after the screening Alice split everyone into three discussion groups — and this is where my wish for bilocation kicked in.

As it was, I could only sit in on one group (but Bill filmed another one, so we hope to be able to peek into that through video clips).

Two issues stand out from the discussion in the group I joined:

– the role of chaplains as liaisons with local communities
picking up on the segment in the film in which a chaplain walks out to a shura and another chaplain mingles and dances with Afghan National Army soldiers, one participant wondered whether that could send the wrong message.  We discussed how this can be a gray area – can a chaplain inadvertently be seen as “officially representing” the US gov’t and, if he is Christian (which most chaplains are) therefore send a signal that the US is a Christian nation?  And how would that color the conflict in the eyes of Afghans and Iraqis and the world at large?
– our selection of the chaplains featured
one participant felt we had deliberately chosen only subjects that would show the chaplains in a positive light.  Others pointed to speakers in the film who had reported that some chaplains had abused their position.  But the question resurfaced as to why we did not have troops on active duty saying anything negative about a chaplain.  As part of the discussion, I explained that chaplains are officers and most of the troops we spoke with were enlisted.  Anyone who might have had a beef with the chaplain would not be willing to speak on camera.
What I failed to say was that this was the reason we documented this side of the story through people like Wayne Adkins, a retired Army Lieutenant who has brought official complaints, and Mikey Weinstein, who has brought law suits against the government.


a health-care chaplains reacts to the film

Back to Chaplains Under Fire web site

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