A chaplain is the Army’s agent for ensuring the soldier’s free exercise of religion, and as such bears a heavy responsibility. Chaplains must diligently defend their soldiers and advocate on their behalf with those who seek to restrict their Constitutional rights. This paper has established the potential conflict with the Army chaplaincy stated mission to ensure the free exercise of religion when the chaplain practices Christian fundamentalism. But are the beliefs held by a fundamentalist clergyperson totally incompatible with service as an Army chaplain?
After reviewing the research and anecdotes provided in the paper, I conclude that in some, but not all cases, fundamentalist views are incompatible with service. A fundamentalist Christian holds very strong beliefs, but like every other American retains the right to the free exercise of those beliefs. However, certain tenets of fundamentalism, when taken to extreme, are incompatible with other soldiers‟ rights to free exercise, and therefore inappropriate for chaplains. It is not the beliefs themselves which are incompatible with chaplain service, but the practice. If by attitude and action a chaplain does not respect the rights of others, denigrates those who believe differently, and refuses to work collegially with peers, that chaplain is not capable of performing the inherently governmental functions of the chaplaincy, that of ensuring free exercise rights. In fact, that chaplain threatens the free exercise of soldiers by his or her very presence. On the other hand, when a chaplain respects the rights of others, even when their beliefs are very different, that chaplain will protect them and their right to free exercise.
Ultimately, the challenge will remain for all chaplains: to live and work in an institution in which they are required to act within the bounds of their endorsed faith group while simultaneously supporting the free exercise rights of others. For all chaplains, this means maintaining a strong sense of ethics regarding the conduct of evangelism and the assistance provided for all soldiers. More specifically, for chaplains holding fundamentalist beliefs, it means understanding that the soldier, not the chaplain, decides when the interaction between the two should be inherently religious in nature. If the chaplain can accept this, he or she will serve the soldiers well.
1 U.S. Department of the Army, Religious Support, Army Field Manual 1-05 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, April 2003), iii.
2 The focus of this paper is on the Army chaplaincy, because the regulations, standards and anecdotes from that community are most readily available to the author. However, the recommendations will be extrapolated to the Department of Defense level, since that is where policy for the chaplaincies of all services is established.
3 Gerrie ter Haar, “Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change: a comparative Inquiry” in The Freedom to Do God’s Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change, eds. Gerrie ter Haar and James J. Busuttil (London: Routledge, 2003), 2.
4 R. A. Torrey and others, eds., The Fundamentals: a Testimony to the Truth, vol. I, reprinted from 1917 ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980), 5.
5 Franklin Johnson, “Fallacies of the Higher Criticism,” in The Fundamentals: a Testimony to the Truth, vol. I, eds. A. C. Dixon and others, reprinted from 1917 ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980), 55.
6 James Orr, “The Holy Scriptures and Modern Negations,” in The Fundamentals: a Testimony to the Truth, vol. I, eds. A. C. Dixon and others, reprinted from 1917 ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980), 94.
7 Robert E. Speer, “Foreign Missions or World-Wide Evangelism,” in The Fundamentals: a Testimony to the Truth, vol. III, eds. A. C. Dixon and others, reprinted from 1917 ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1980), 231.
8 Heinz Streib, “The Question of Salvation and Faith-based Radicalism,” in Faith-based Radicalism: Christianity, Islam and Judaism Between Constructive Activism and Destructive
Fanaticism, eds. Christiane Timmerman, Dirk Hutsebaut, Sara Mels, Walter Nonneman and Walter van Herck (Brussels: P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2007), 151.
9 Nancy T. Ammerman, “North American Protestant Fundamentalism,” in Fundamentalisms Observed, eds. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), 54.
10 Noah Adams, “Timeline: Remembering the Scopes Monkey Trial,” All Things Considered, July 5, 2005, linked from NPR Home Page, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId
=4723956 (accessed February 27, 2011).
11 Ammerman, “North American Protestant Fundamentalism,” 28.
12 Ibid., 55.