There are many times in life where an employer will tell you what to do. Now I have no problem with an employer saying, "Now Mr. Moo, you must write one column each week and you need to keep it at no more than 1,000 words and edit the piece so it can be used on an upstanding web site. But never has our editor here at the Partial Observer told me, "Hey Moo, this subject is off limits or worse yet, we asked you to write a column because we liked your style – now change it because your writings may not be politically correct." Well to my editor I say thanks – and to the military I say hooey.
Specifically, I say that to the military in the area of the chaplaincy. HOOEY! (I use that phrase because I trust I will not be censored as are the chaplains.) Military has actively recruited chaplains for many years. I have been the target of those recruiting efforts. But now word is out that if you believe and pray in the name of anyone else other than God, you will receive a reprimand and can be receiving further disciplinary action. Chaplains have reported that training at the Naval Chaplain Schools include supervisors and instructors evaluating the prayers of the chaplain trainees.
I really wonder about the criteria for judging because not everyone is going to pray as eloquent as the religious leaders of Jesus' times as was recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 6, verse 5. But even Jesus commented for all of their lovely prayers that were intended for show, the oohs and aahs are the extent of their reward. Whose criteria do we use?
Now military chaplains are being told how to pray and you better not use any name in your prayer that may be subject to editing. For example, don't say the "J" name when you pray. Now for an evangelical trained pastor to not use the name of Jesus in their prayers would be not praying at all. Chaplains are being told that if they pray in Jesus' name in times where they will be praying publicly, they will be counseled. For those of the Muslim faith – God is ok but don't say Allah. Catholics are being told skip the reference to the Trinity, as in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It goes without saying, skip the Mother Mary references. And Jewish priest are told not to pray in Hebrew.
Now as wrong as this is, some chaplains are even being asked to clear their prayers in advance with the base commanders. Talk about mixing the "church and state". I do understand that there needs to be a sensitive spirit among the chaplains, but pre-approval of prayers?
Personally, I have been asked to offer a prayer at a public event on many occasions. But the minute someone puts restrictions on my prayer, I encourage them to find someone else. I have prayed at school with students, at special occasions in the community such as high school graduation, Memorial Day programs and other veteran functions, swearing in of a new postmaster and to offer a blessing at events that have meals included. Folks know me and trust me but they also know that I will not compromise. When they ask me to pray, they are telling me that we know you and we want you to take part in this event. Even when I am being paid to appear at an event in which I will pray (it does happen rarely), no one gets editorial privilege where my prayers are concerned. If you are offended by me praying the way I believe, don't ask me to pray. That logic doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand, does it? If you are unsure of my training and how I will use it, ask me first. Don't recruit the stuffing out of me and then tell me later, "Oh by the way, change this and that".
It seems as though 20% of the members of Congress is putting in their 2 cents and asking that the policy be reviewed and evaluated. All they are asking is that chaplains be able to offer prayers according to their individual faith traditions.
That really isn't asking much, now is it?