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The Just-Chaplain Theory

The church need not divorce the military to remain a godly counterculture.
2000This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

As a U.S. navy chaplain, I heartily agree with much of what Michael J. Gorman stated in his opinion piece, "Irreconcilable Differences." Among other things, he asserted, "It is time. … to enlarge our understanding of 'the world' to include the military, and of 'the church' to exclude it."I warm to his biblical understanding of the church as God's counterculture for righteousness. He exposes the spiritual vulnerability of the church to a powerful state that happily uses the church—and the military—for its own ends. He is correct in saying the role of the military is "to protect, defend and extend a state's national interests at home and. … abroad." How ever, there are some loose ends that need discussing.For starters, given the destruction and human misery that resulted from the Kosovo bombing (with which he opens his argument), shouldn't this be matched with the tedious and commendable peacekeeping mission in which our troops are presently engaged? That soldiers must hold violent weapons in readiness in order to maintain a precarious peace is one of the ironies of dealing with bitter enemies.Second, Gorman ponders whether a Christian can really claim that God is on his side in any armed conflict. His point is well taken: I was skeptical about the Kosovo bombardment because the situation was complex, guilt was shared by both sides, and we didn't have enough information to draw battle lines so distinctly.However, I have no such doubts about our engagement in World War II (1939–45) to stop Hitler's ruthless aggression. Does he? Surely there must be occasions to apply rational grounds for participating in armed conflict, aggrieved though such participation is. There comes a point when a nation-state has to decide to defend or ...

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