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.