Military Chaplains, Who Needs Them? by Gus Hales
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.
British 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.
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.