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Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

An Article on Faith

There is an interesting article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today, on the faith of Soldiers in Iraq. Click here to read it.

In my experience, it is similar to my experience of Soldiers and their faith. Many Soldiers do not have the time to get involved in chapel service or a Bible Study (well, they say they don't, but I still always offer!). The reality is that the hours are long and hard in the combat zone. So many Soldiers express their faith in a much more private manner- reading the Bible, prayers on their own, etc.

This article illustrates that some Soldiers grow in their faith and others struggle, while in Iraq. It's interesting, of course, that the article was skewed toward Lutherans and Catholics, but that is typical of Minnesotan Soldiers (as well as Iowa, the Dakotas, etc.). My experience working with Soldiers is that the largest representations of Soldiers are Catholic, or some form of Baptist, but that's an unofficial guess-timate. The wonderful thing is that each base offers a variety of worship services, ranging from Roman Catholic, to liturgical Protestant, to contemporary Protestant, to Gospel services, and just about everything in between in the Christian spectrum. We also provide for the religious needs of Soldiers of all faiths; sometimes that means having an officially recognized lay leader provide a service, or, if one is not possible, flying in a chaplain from that faith group from time to time.

One last random observation, dealing with my last post: the title was Not War, But Reconstruction. I think about the title, and I should be careful: it IS a war. Obviously, people are being wounded and killed, and someone is shooting those rockets and mortars at us. But it is not a war in the same sense of which it was in the beginning phases of the war. It is a different type of war, a different type of combat. It is one of protecting the people trying to rebuild their country after years of oppression and neglect. The fact that it involves not just our folks, but the Iraqi people is what makes this, ultimately, their war to win now. We have won the war of liberation. Now, the will of the Iraqi people is paramount in the war of reconstruction and the war of defense of this new nation. Iraq IS at war. They are at war against Al Qaeda, against insurgents, and against the countries supplying them. As Americans concerned for a country to be free and safe, this war MUST continue to be our war as well.

This is difficult for Americans, I think, because we no longer fully grasp the reality of evil. Evil is more hidden and subtle in our country. Hence, when we are faced with a real threat, we find ourselves less able to grasp the nature of that evil. We want to relativize it, or blame it on not getting enough hugs as a kid, or something like that.

That brings this back, full circle for me, to the nature of faith. How has Iraq affected my faith? Here are two ways: one, it has convinced me that evil is real. I believe that before, but in sort of a theoretical way. Now I have experienced the effects of it. Second, it has focused my faith more on the need for Christians to love each other, and to love the world. Again, in this case I am not talking about some mushy "I'm ok, you're ok" sort of love, but on the abiding and deep "agape" type of love found in the Bible. Agape is the Greek word best meaning something like steadfast love. A love that goes beyond the superficial, and challenges us to true Christian love and fellowship. I think that is why so many of our churches are shrinking: we have forgotten how to love. Yet it is the most important command: Love God, and love your neighbor. We in churches love to talk a good talk, but so often our actions are superficial, or hide our true impulses to gossip or discourage each other. In Iraq, God has really been speaking to me about the need to be more Christ-like in my ability to love.

I'd encourage you all to read that article, and then think about how God has challenged your faith in times of trial or difficulty.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Mom said...

Hi Chris!

I read the article and words fail me!! All I can say is "WOW". It speaks volumes on the emotions that the Soldiers feel while there and how it strengthens their faith! Very enlightening article!

Love you and miss you!!!

Mom

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Sallie said...

Chris,
After reading your article and the ones in the paper, all I can say is, I know God has a reason for this. We are all His children and he loves us all.
Agape love existing in our world (including our churches) would be an awesome thing. I now have that to pray for in my daily prayers.
I pray for the troops daily (especially for you) and for their loved ones at home (especially Marianne and the boys).
I'm closing with one of my favorite prayers.
"My prayer for you is that in the midst of changing circumstances you will rest in the arms of our GOD who never changes, whose foot never slips or falls and whose LOVE FOR YOU IS OVERWHELMING."
May the GLORY OF GOD illumine your heart this CHRISTmas time.
God Bless,
Your Sister In Christ

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian,
I am extremely encouraged yet saddened at the same time reading the newspaper article and your blog. It is too bad that something so painful as war is needed to bring some closer to God. The blessings are always there in our lives, but hard to see until evil realities are played out in front of our faces.
I pray for you and your family everyday and that God will work through you to touch the lives of the soldiers you come in contact with. I am sure they are comforted by you, and see Christ from your actions and conversations. It must be so awesome to speak to these soldiers on such a deep level, knowing that your words could be their stregnth, comfort or ultimately their direction to eternal life.

I miss you and pray for your safe return...soon,
Tom H.

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Sister Margit said...

Chris,

We miss you and wish you were here for Christmas. But you will be next year, so we can't wait.

Lots of love,

Your sis-Margit Anne

7:56 PM  

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