As it stands now, military chaplains wear two insignia: one denotes their rank, the other their faith: A cross for Christians, Torah scrolls for Jews, a crescent moon for Muslims, a Dharma wheel for Buddhists. Nobody yet knows what the Hindu chaplain will wear once she is commissioned.
Now there is a move afoot, spearheaded by retired Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff to introduce an insignia that would denote “chaplain,” with alongside the denominational symbol.
Chaplain Resnicoff makes a compelling argument. There are already four broad faith groups represented in the chaplaincy with more to come, and he worries that troops won’t instantly recognize a Dharma wheel or Hindu symbol. In a recent blog for On Faith, he wrote:
During hard times the insignia has been a silent reminder that a chaplain is present. A “ministry of presence” begins with an awareness of presence, and we must recapture the power of the chaplain’s symbol to broadcast the message that he or she is present, part of the team.
Additionally, today’s insignias symbolize the diversity of our religious faiths-but not the unity of our chaplains. No individual chaplain insignia links it to any other.
Now the Washington Post reports that the top brass likes the idea of a universal chaplain symbol, though perhaps not exactly the ones Chapl. Resnicoff proposes. Informal conversations we’ve had with chaplains indicate that some at least will not happily embrace the change. One thing’s for sure, this won’t be the first time chaplains’ insignia will have raised a ruckus.