525: MILITARY CHAPLAINS, WHO NEEDS THEM? by Gus Hales

In solidarity
Peter Turner.”

Military Chaplains, Who Needs Them? by Gus Hales

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During a recent VFP event I had the pleasure of listening to Jim Radford give a short presentation regarding aspects of his service career. During that talk he mentioned the disdain he felt for military chaplains. Up until that moment I thought I was alone in my revulsion of these pernicious pseudo soldiers. However, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle anyones faith, beliefs or religious inclinations, but only to challenge this department of the military who preach peace whilst at the same time giving moral justification for a young soldier to stick a bayonette in a strangers chest.

unnamedBritish Military Chaplains wear the uniforms of the associated service and accompany their troops whever they are deployed. They are non-combatants and do not bear arms. This not bearing arms is a gross hypocrisy in itself, in other words, go and do your duty son but don’t expect me to do it after all I’m above all that.is moral dissonance reached it’s pinnacle of absurdity during WW1, where local priests would receive a stipend for recruiting eligible parishioners to go and do Gods work on the battlefields of the Western Front. As Siegfried Sasoon said “It may have been the soldier who shot the rifle, but it was the Padre who gave him the ammunition.” There are few and scant records of any priests urging young men not to go. However, nothing new here, isn’t it the Vicar who bangs the military gong on Remembrance Sunday, as he recites before the great and the good, the words “We are gathered here before God”. Wasn’t it the Vicar who read out the last rights before the firing squad shot one their own for refusing to fight and wasn’t it the same vicar who buried the young man and mentioned not a word to his relatives of how he met his demise.

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Religious moral conditioning has been used for centuries by the instigators of violent conflict, Adolph Hitlers appeal to divine authority is well recorded in Mein Kampf, in addition every German soldier had the words ‘Gott Mit Uns’ embossed on his stable belt and various renditions of this slogan have appeared on many imperial military emblems, Nobiscum deus in Latin, Μεθ ημων ο Θεος (Meth imon o Theos) in Greek, С Hами Бог (S Nami Bog) in Church Slavonic, or ‘God is with us in English,’ was a battle cry of the Roman and of the Byzantine Empires. Christian gospels were not the only religious conditioning tool. Buddhist texts were read to Kamikaze pilots pre mission and a connection between religion and battle was made through the way in which Zen Buddhism wedded Buddhist purposes to both the Taoist practice of an art or a craft and, in an historical tradition dominated by a military class, the Japanese “martial arts.” The chant of Allahu Akbar or Insha’Allah can be heard from those fighting for the Muslim cause. Could this be why the British Military now employ Buddhist and Muslim chaplains?

So, to me these particularly odious individuals who claim to be men of peace, do in fact support and prop up the whole show, by conditioning young minds to believe it’s right and just to kill and in addition to act as recruiting Sergeants for the naive and vulnerable. I well remember taking my signing up papers to my local Sunday school vicar (a former Naval Chaplain) as a so called professional person, he never hesitated or offered any words of resistance only encouragement. In addition sailing South in 1982 the chaplains rousing call to arms in the ships makeshift church or entertainment centre still echoes through my mind come the anniversary time of a departed friend, killed in action during the Falklands War. I guess the cap badge motto of the British Chaplains “In this sign Conquer” sums up the madness of it all.

Today the British Military employs Chaplains of all faiths from Jews to Hindu’s and Sikhs. So it would appear that no young person from which ever ethnic group be they male or female is immune from the duplicitous, insidious and subversive nature of religious moral conditioning within the military. We can however take heart from those non belligerent believers who refused to join in with the madness, such as Quakers, Amish and Christadelphians. For if you truly believe in peace, how can you ever condone violence.

Gus Hales served in the British Army, he is a member of VFP UK.

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20 comments

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  1. Ben Griffin

    This is a subject that I have an interest in too.

    When I refused to go back to Iraq in 2005 I was interviewed by 5 different officers.

    The Adjudant was old school Para and couldn’t believe that a fellow Para was refusing to go on operations.

    However the Padre was the only officer who attacked me. He said that he had been to the Falklands and that there were others like me on the boat down who were scared! I tried to tell him that I was refusing to go on operations in Iraq not because of a fear for my own life but because of what we were doing to others. He didn’t get it.

    Since leaving I have been in heated discussions with Padre’s about their role in the military, they just don’t want to face up to the massive contradiction.

    1. Garry Harriman

      It sounds like they were not as self aware or as comfortable with who they were as people as you clearly were and are now, Ben.

      Religious people scare me and there are a lot of them down here in the Bible Belt of the Southern United States. They are all just as flawed and imperfect as the rest of us but they are just fortunate enough to live in a comfortable mass delusion that fits their own self concept.

      I got into a heated exchange with my father in law some time ago, a retired Army Major and Vietnam vet`, a man who I love and respect greatly. However, this story made me realise how vile religion is in its hypocrisy and judgmental attitude to others. He is also a minister, and he told me about conversion therapy classes he was running to `cure` homosexuals of their `immoral behaviour and sickness`.

      That, for me, underpins how vile, irrelevant, judging, outdated and just plain deluded religion, of nay kind is, and how humanity will be better off, far better off without it…..and war!

      Cheers

      Garry

    2. Garry Harriman

      Ben
      Do Army padres attached to the Parachute Regiment and SF have to complete the selection to join them, and what would they know of being scarfed? I bet you are scared, even a SAS solider, there would be something wrong with you if you were not scared, it`s natural and even with that level of training, there is no way to gauge how you would respond to effective enemy fire.

      Did you try and ascertain what their view point was as to what you were doing there and how it affected you as a person? As you say re not wanting to face up to their contradictions, it1`s the same kind of issues when you engage people of faith on issues such as evidence, real, definitive, substantial evidence for their beliefs, the warped logic for those beliefs, and the state of the world and why someone who went to all that trouble to create the world would and us would then say, `oh well, free will` get on with it!` As I have learned here on the US, faith is the ultimate trump card!

      God bless you

  2. Kieran

    A truly fantastic article Gus. This is a very poignant piece of writing considering western nations are condemning and pointing the finger of blame at an entire religion just because they happen to share faith in the same version of religion as a handful of butchers.
    It is very easy to kill a man when you are convinced God is on your side. Shame on the men of the cloth that justify murder.

    1. Gus Hales

      Great comment Kieran.

      Yes it does appear to be an apposite post considering current world events.

      It somewhat mystifies me that Muslims are the only group of people on the planet that we identify by their religion. It sometimes smacks of the language of the early troubles days you are either Catholic or Protestant, whereas we are all so much more than religious labels.

  3. S. Brian Willson

    When I was in USAir Force training in a ranger-type unit at Fort Campbell army base in 1968-69 in preparation for Viet Nam, I surprisingly did not follow orders to perform the bayonet drill. I endured a 2 hour wild scolding in our commander’s barrack’s office. He ordered me to be counseled by our squadron chaplain.

    A Southern Baptist, he immediately lectured me about loyalty to the cause fighting evil – the Vietnamese “Communists” – as he showed me photos of what he said were dead Vietnamese, on the back of which each photo was stamped “Department of ‘Defense’”.

    He told me I had a responsibility to stop these atrocities from continuing. All I wanted to do was share my feelings of revulsion to plunging the bayonet into a dummy which were genuine. I was not a pacifist or even opposed to the war at the time. I simply needed to process this new scary feeling. He said I was disturbed.

    He ordered a consult with an Air Force psychiatrist. The psychiatrist and I shared a lengthy, and respectful conversation. He recommended a reassignment to another unit more in line with my disposition since this Air Force ranger-type unit was a bit unusual, needing highly motivated airmen, of which I was not one.

    I was not reassigned. After 12 weeks of training, I received a certificate of successful completion, never having performed the bayonet drill. I nonetheless complied with orders to deploy to Viet Nam in great inner conflict.

  4. John Boulton

    Couldn’t believe it when I discovered that the British had endorsed Buddhist chaplains. I wonder where they stand on the first of the five precepts… Not to kill or harm? What happened to ‘right livelihood’ too? Jokers. As for all the other lot, ah, no words… just keep cashing those cheques guys! Ca-Ching!💰Type in to your nearest search engine… George Carlin religion.

    1. Gus Hales

      Hi John,
      When the Buddhist community UK, were first approached by the military to nominate a potential chaplain, an endorsing authority was formed. As the authority began to speak out about the appointment, the government through a belligerent simply ignored the endorsing authority. A compliant Buddhist was found lured in by ego and pay and the military got their man. The whole sorry story can be found on the attached link. I chipped in my disapproval, but alas it was to late. Note the events of 2009.

      https://luangpor.wordpress.com/forces-chaplaincy/

  5. paul

    Hi Gus, I think your article is excellent and we should all be aware, no matter what faith or religion, of the insidious nature of how those who would like to further their own ends can aggressively try to manipulate our consiuos.
    I am a member or VfP UK and will not hate or harm any other, Peace.

  6. Garry Harriman

    Thanks, Gus, very enlightening indeed, epically the diversification of religious faiths that make up society today. I can remember not being permitted to annotate `none` as my religious denomination of military NoK paperwork. I was ordered to annotate a religion, which would be Church of England. It`s just too bad I was a month old in 1970 and thus not old enough to make an informed decision on my religious beliefs at that time! Padres are indeed strange entities, and I remember boxing one when I was part of the RAF boxing team, but they are as very a contradictory element to warfare as religion is to scientific evidence and logic. As for religion….I have not trouble in saying I do not respect an religion or, indeed any claim or belief for which is deluded and for which there is no evidence to support. I believe religion is a man made concept and is no longer relevant or indeed required in this modern age of enlightenment and knowledge. I live in the bible belt of the USA and I have now learned not to engage a believer in conversation as faith is the trump card all the time! In fact, I would like to thank God that I`m an atheist!

    Garry H
    Ga
    USA

  7. Garry Harriman

    Remember, God loves you……well, with very stringent conditions and crieteria…..if you don’t meet them, well, you can just burn in hell for eternity, okay?!

    Cheers, God

    1. Gus Hales

      A FAITH LYMERIC

      WALK AWAY FROM THOSE EMPTY PEWS
      COME AND HEAR MY ATHEIST VIEWS
      YOU WERE NOT BORN IN SIN
      SO GIVE US A GRIN
      YOU HAVE ONLY YOUR DOGMA TO LOSE

      1. Garry Harriman

        Like water and oil, religion and politics do not mix.

        George W Bush and Tony Blair are good examples of that! Here in the USA, right wing evangelicals, the `true believers` have managed to align and embed themselves into the fabric of the Republican Party and the main stream political; agenda that non issues of personal choice (abortion, same sex marriage/parents and more) manage to become issues on what people actually vote for over here, including, shockingly, the teaching of creationism as a viable alternative to proven science such as evolution and natural selection.

        I do not vote anyway, but I would definitely not vote for anyone if they possessed religious belief. watching the RBL Festival of Remembrance via YouTube here in America again reminded me of just how intrinsic the State and the Church are in terms of national cohesion and how it is used to justify and guide the nation on such issues as serious as war and the justification for it.

        God, in my view, fits the profile of a psychopath A jealous God, a self loving and self serving God, a cruel and hating God who will judge you as a person based on who you sleep with, a God who is always seeking money, a homophobic God and a God who kills anyone en mass who does not believe in him or live by his means!

        Yes, like reality TV, the world and humanity will clearly be better off without religion and a realization that we are all one people sharing a world with many and we face the same collective issues!.

  8. Chris

    During World War Two, my Dad said the men would jokingly say about the priests, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” Most of the men, including my Dad, quietly questioned, amongst themselves, how religion could justify having their clergymen in the army? It didn’t make sense!

  9. Graham Horne

    A superb piece of though provoking writing. Very well done.

  10. Malcolm Samuel

    That story certainly hits the nail on its head…….

    1. Garry Harriman

      I think Jesus said the same thing to the Roman solider on Calgary Hill!

    2. Garry Harriman

      Sorry, Calvary Hill, wasn’t it?

  11. Chase

    Guys, I totally agree with everything stated in your comments. Religion of all forms is used by government to control and coerce people to follow their bidding under the guise of doing ‘gods will’. However, in all of this I believe God gets a bad rep. The God they refer to is not the God who sent his son to die on the cross to be the saviour of the world….referred to as the ‘prince of peace’. Jesus calls believers to shun violence, love their enemy. be merciful and be peace-makers…but we can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. The problem is not with God…it is always with man!

    Peace brothers

    1. Gus Hales

      Hi Chase, where you been, missed you bro.

      Could it be that Man created God in his own image?

  12. peter turner

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

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