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.

5 comments:

indavao said...
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Invictus_88 said...

The majority of soldiers want the chaplaincy to be provided.

In light of which, your blog entry should probably focus more on expressing what would be gained by depriving the soldiers of this free service.

Steven Alleyn said...

Actually, I believe I addressed that. Whether or not you believe I did is your own problem - unless you'd like to explain how you can reconcile the chaplaincy with the church & state thing, then there isn't much you've said that changes things.

Oh, and for the record, my blog will focus on whatever I damn well please. That's usually the way it works.

Invictus_88 said...

You didn't address it though.

There was a reference to the alleged democratising power of secularism (which ex Soviet Bloc people might take issue with, and which I certainly do), and then there was:

"...the separation between the church and the people's sovereign institutions of governance is imperative to those same institutions' impartiality before all citizens..."

Which is confused in a few different ways.

i. It suggests that religious provision necessarily involves deeper religious bias.
ii. It suggests that a secularist ideology is any freer of bias than a religious one.
iii. And it suggests that the services the troops want should be given a priority below that of institutional 'secular purity' - for want of a better term.

You're free to focus on exactly what you want, of course. Just as I'm free to illuminate what I see as flaws.

Steven Alleyn said...

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.


That's what I meant when I said I addressed it. As far as the democratizing power of secularism, I actually do believe in it - look at the early and continued successes of the United States (whose founders, if the texts about and letters from them I've read are anything to go by, went to great pains to ensure that church and state maintained as much separation as was possible in the culture of their time).

To your three points:

i. Yes, a religious provision DOES signify a deeper religious bias. It also lets our enemies point to our armed forces and recruit new fighters based on the notion that these are religious wars.

ii. Secularist ideology isn't about freeing us from bias, it's about a) showing the world that our interests do not lie in promoting religion and b) making all citizens equal before the law and before our culture, regardless of religion. Secularism isn't about enforcing an atheistic government, it's about ignoring religion in judicial, legislative or executive matters.

iii. Yes, the troops wants must take a second priority to the interests of the state. The armed forces exist to maintain, promote, defend those interests and compromising them for their peace of mind is self-defeating.

I hope that clears things up.