“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” – Thomas Merton
Covering a high school football game for the local paper, I was alarmed to witness what was for me a first: a JROTC Senior Night ceremony. I shook my head as I listened to repeated future plans to “serve our country” and even one cadet whose interests included “watching the Military Channel.” I wanted to go ask the school’s instructor if he accepted responsibility for every severed limb, lifetime of PTSD or body bag of those impressionable youths who go on to learn the hard way that war is no video game.
But my righteous indignation settled on one bare theological fact: those kids are going to need Jesus. And that is why I, as a Pax Christi member, support the chaplains.
Look to Jesus’ example. He was present for those who sought him, regardless of who they were or what they had done in the past. It is the responsibility of the Church to share the Gospel with the people. That is why there are missions, and that is why there are chaplains.
Our nation is becoming increasingly militaristic. Congress won’t touch the defense budget, opting instead to cut social welfare programs. Signing up for the armed forces is now seen as a way out of poverty or a way into a disciplined life. The question of the next protracted conflict is no longer an “if” so much as a “when” and “where.”
Those who take the oath give up civil rights in the process, as they are now required to follow orders without question. They enter a world where sexual assault in the norm. They are brought down to the basest of human instincts and trained to be killing machines.
That means that the military needs the presence of chaplains. They are the best demonstration of God’s love in a seemingly godless world. Taking them away by cutting funding to the Archdiocese of the United States Military would serve no purpose other than to promote the very militarism that we are trying to stop. For without God in the military, there is the danger that the military will become a god itself.