Sunday, July 5, 2009

On the Chaplaincy

Most people would agree that a modern democracy owes it to itself and its citizens to maintain a secular approach to affairs of state; the separation between the church and the people's sovereign institutions of governance is imperative to those same institutions' impartiality before all citizens and their proper service of state interests.

So why is it that our armed forces are still maintaining an active chaplaincy - either at home or in missions abroad - on the public dime? Is it so strange that our enemies think we're fighting religious wars against them? Our own government is paying to ship priests overseas to preach the Christian message.

I understand that our soldiers are doing a tough job and some of them need a bit of spiritual guidance or what have you to be able to go out and face those realities every day for however long their tours of duty end up being. But the abovementioned proper service of state interests requires that we consider the ramifications of state-sponsored religious figures in our state-sponsored war-machine (not that the Canadian war-machine is particularly terrifying, but I wouldn't wanna piss 'em off, anyway). The trick, I believe, lies in the "state-sponsored" bit.

Soldiers who want spiritual guidance should be given the same choice as people all over Canada and the United States: pay the Tithe. The military could cut funding to the chaplaincy entirely, paying only for their transportation, while the soldiers themselves pay the tithe from their salaries to keep their regiments stocked with all that's required to satisfy their spiritual needs. This hands-off approach may not be immediately appreciated by our enemies on the ground, but the intellectuals (and yes, our enemies do have a class of intellectuals interpretting world events for them) may well understand the intention behind the change.

Additionally, the stories of soldiers forced to attend services by social pressures might change if the culture of religious kow-towing espoused by the people at the top is, in this way, forced to change. I doubt it, but one can hope. The real pay-off will be in the long run; every other facet of our society has benefitted from the democratization and accessibility that secularization has brought with it, the military will prove to be no exception.