For God Or For Country? Baptist Chaplains Must Choose God.

“For God And For Country”, their motto declares
And the chaplains have answered the call
But these chaplains, say Baptists, were caught unawares:
“And For Country”’s not needed at all

The chaplains stand ready to answer the call
Giving aid when the fighting is tough
But to do this “For Country”? That’s not right at all—
See, the motto’s not Christian enough

The troops, like the country, are really diverse
So when serving, there’s pretty good odds
That you’ll see different values or conduct—or worse,
That our laws will run counter to God’s

When that happens, you’d think that a chaplain would search
For his conscience—that strong inner voice
Of course, you’d be wrong; he must follow the church…
Which is what they call “freedom of choice”

See, that’s how you know that the church teaches love;
How you know that they truly adore you—
Your freely made choices come down from above,
And the church does the “freedom” thing for you.

Via The New Civil Rights Movement, we hear that the Southern Baptist Convention has forbidden their military chaplains from even attending, let alone officiating, same sex marriages. The law, as I understand it, permits (but does not require) chaplains to perform any legal marriages, and couldn’t possibly begin to think about banning attendance. But…

“The agency that commissions Southern Baptist military chaplains says no Baptist chaplain will be allowed to perform, attend or support a same-sex wedding either on or off base,” Religion News Service reports.

Indeed, that agency, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention has issued new “guidelines,” violation of which would in essence cause a chaplain to lose his authority and job as a Baptist military chaplain.

Those guidelines?

“NAMB-endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off of a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing.”

“Chaplains are also prohibited from participating in jointly-led worship services ‘with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices a homosexual lifestyle or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.’”

Mind you, this is perfectly consistent with other religious attempts at defining freedom of religion–whereas the constitution frames it as a right of individuals, the churches interpret “religious freedom” as the freedom of churches to make decisions and impose them on individuals. Limit access to both contraception and abortion? Religious freedom. Require a pledge of allegiance even when it conflicts with your views? Freedom. Require atheists to carry “in god we trust” around if they want to use cash? Freedom.

And now, in the name of religious freedom, individual chaplains no longer have a choice about, say, attending the wedding of a friend or family member who happens to be gay. And it’s not the government limiting their behavior, it’s been limited in the name of their own church.

Y’know, maybe it would be best if all chaplains were atheists.


  1. carlie says

    Well, at least now they won’t be able to pull the fence-sitting “I support you personally, friend, I just don’t support you people in the general sense and will still keep voting against your rights. But don’t be mad at me, because we’re still friends, right?” crap.

  2. The Ridger says

    Hell yes. Get ’em out of the army (and navy, air force, marines, and coast guard). If they can’t abide by DOD regs, let ’em leave. The country will be better off without them there.

    (and seriously. If wordpress can recognize my email, why can’t it keep me logged in or log me back in (though I never say Log Out) without making me copy and paste my comment?)

  3. brianwestley says

    I don’t think they’re violating DOD regs, Ridger, it’s just that if any Baptist chaplain violates these additional Baptist antigay restrictions, NAMB will no longer approve that chaplain, and that lack of official recognition is what would remove them as a military chaplain (since the military only takes chaplains from recognized religious bodies).

  4. Trebuchet says

    Here’s the problem I have with this post: The religious right has been screaming for months that pastors will be forced to perform gay marriages, and multiple FTBloggers have called them out on their lies. Do we want to make them true? I’m pretty sure that Catholic chaplains would also face action from their church for performing gay marriages — and probably for performing Protestant ones to boot.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    Wrong outrage, Treb–here, the military is not at all forcing any chaplains to perform or attend marriages. They are absolutely free *not* to attend, by law. It’s the church that says that not only can they not perform, they may not even attend, or face dismissal. That’s religious freedom.

  6. Trebuchet says

    Wrong outrage, Treb–here, the military is not at all forcing any chaplains to perform or attend marriages. They are absolutely free *not* to attend, by law. It’s the church that says that not only can they not perform, they may not even attend, or face dismissal. That’s religious freedom.

    I quite understand that. The church, unsurprisingly, is run by bigots. What are you suggesting as an alternative? Should the military force them to conduct gay marriages? Or what?

  7. Trebuchet says

    (Continued from previous post)
    I guess I really don’t know where I’m going with this (one glass of pinot noir over the line, I guess) but it seems like at least the Baptists are being consistent — they probably have the same rules for civilian pastors as well. The chaplains in question had to have been ordained prior to becoming chaplains and probably believe what the church is saying about gays anyhow. I don’t have any good answers, and should probably stay off the internet for a while now.

  8. Cuttlefish says

    No worries, man… you’re just excluding the middle. There is a wide range between allow them to attend and force them to conduct. Currently, the military is allowing them the freedom to attend or not attend, as they desire, which strikes me as an appropriately neutral stance.

    The Baptists may be being consistently bigoted, but they are undermining any argument they might have made that their own chaplains can minister to any. Indeed, this stance on their part could be used to argue in favor of considerably more diversity among chaplains–including atheist chaplains, who presumably would have no objections to officiating legal marriages of all sorts (though, of course, no one would be obligated to use an atheist chaplain if they had another preference). Baptists, by their own rules, are forbidden from supporting a legitimate and legal segment of their supposed charges.

    The military should not force Baptists to do a damned thing… rather, they should allow atheist and other chaplains to do the job the Baptists bailed on.

  9. ttch says

    I’m unclear about one thing: If a Southern Baptist military chaplain loses his* Southern Baptist military chaplaincy, does he also lose his military chaplaincy? Does the U.S. military branch involved act as an enforcer by removing him from his job?

    * The 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message defines the pastoral office as the exclusive domain of males though there is no official provision for excluding congregations that appoint women pastors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *