Did you hear? I am going to be Court Marshaled.

8 05 2013

Well, that is what some news sources said.  As is often the case, reality is far less exciting.  For those who missed it, the report stated the military would court martial Christians who shared their faith.  That is not going to happen.  The truth is the military supports religious freedom.  The only thing that is prohibited is for someone to use their position to force others to follow their beliefs or use methods considered coercive or disrespectful and disruptive.

When we deploy we live in confined spaces and spend 24 hours a day for months with each other.  We will spend long hours on watch or patrol.  A wide range of conversations happen including many on faith.  99% of the time they are good conversations and help pass the time.  When lines are crossed, appropriate actions are taken.  Bottom line, as a Navy Chaplain, I have felt free to express my faith and hold firm to my beliefs.  I also have a responsibility to ensure everyone has religious freedom.  The moment I say another group cannot practice their faith is the moment others can tell me I cannot practice my faith.

In the United States we are struggling with how to talk about faith.  There are those who would like to see us become a completely secular society in which faith is strictly personal and not allowed in the public square.

This is understandable.  The world is more complex today.  We have access to information like never before.  We can experience a wide range of cultures and world travel is easier than ever.  We often find ourselves with people who have very different beliefs.  The easy answer is to ignore those different beliefs and play it safe by only talking about “secular” items to avoid offending anyone.  That thinking over simplifies the world and actually robs the quality of the relationships we could have and the culture we could experience if we acknowledged our differences.

Additionally, to say faith is simply a personal matter is to ignore the role faith plays in a religious person’s life.  My faith impacts my morality and my understanding of how to treat people.  It is impossible to make it personal.  It is who I am and I am not unique.  The average person of faith understands that our faith shapes us and naturally spills out into our public lives.

Another danger I see is to make everything a result of biology.  Whether it is love or ethics, we try to explain everything down to how we evolved instead of looking at the complexity of life.  Does biology play a role?  Of course but it plays one role of many.  I will take some of the things I have heard and take them to their extreme.  This Sunday for Mother’s Day, children tell your moms that you have genetically evolved to care about the person who was your primary care giver in infancy and moms feel free to tell your children the reason you love them is due to your biological composition and with evolution you may or may not maintain your love for them in the future.  I think it is safe to say that would not be the way to make Sunday a special day.

What makes the Untied States great is freedom.  Whether that is freedom of speech or freedom of religion, we flourish when we are free to believe and bring those beliefs to the market place of ideas.  Ideas that are poorly thought out or are not founded on solid ground naturally a marginalized and minimized.  Ideas that are well thought out or are built on a solid foundation have to be engaged.  Will we agree?  I hope not.  I become stronger and sharper when my beliefs are challenged.  I am forced to truly look at what I believe and why I believe it.

I have great confidence that Christianity has deep roots.  We have a rich tradition built on the foundation which is Jesus Christ.  We add richness and beauty to the mosaic of our country.

For those who want only a secular world, I encourage you to be careful that you do not simplify this complex and wonderful world.  There is more than meets the eye.  Maybe instead of trying to court marital me, we could get some coffee.


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