Chaplain Questions Militarism, Gets Fired

I wish I had heard even one homily like this on a Sunday in the last 14 years, just one. But I haven’t, which is part of the reason we started this site.

In February, Preacher Randy Beckum carefully and respectfully questioned Americans’ increasing love of militarism, in light of Christian truth. The majority of his sermon consists of quotes from Scripture. He is a soft spoken person. He is not being disrespectful to military personnel, nor is he really making any assertions. He is asking questions, simple questions, basic questions — that is all. He is trying to spur thought, trying to “start a conversation.”

That is too much. It was deemed offensive and disrespectful. He was fired. When the kinds of questions he is asking become too controversial for American Christians to tolerate, I think that is a sign that something is wrong, very wrong. Too many American Christians want certain topics to be considered “off limits,” as in “you can’t go there” or “it is wrong to question this.” Violence and war (and participation in war) is the number one topic that they want deemed “off limits.” It seems quite clear to me that they are afraid of the questions: If you ask the questions, they might lead you to the “wrong” conclusions.

But it is never “wrong” to question anything! Inherent in the Christian faith is an ongoing attitude of self-criticism, self-critique. This applies to both our own souls and our country at large. Our religious leaders garner much praise, love and support when they unite us as Christians (and Americans) by demonizing and vilifying theĀ  “other,” whether that “other” be Muslims, liberals, secularists, terrorists, Obama, etc. We feel edified and strengthened through opposition, enmity. But when they urge us to look at ourselves, and within ourselves, we no longer feel united in self-righteousness and mutual admiration and self-congratulatory celebration for our collective awesomeness: We feel disharmony, disagreement, self-doubt, and maybe even if we let ourselves “go there”…shame? guilt? And how can a country stay strong and united if our leaders make us question our own awesomeness? We kill the messenger and feel safer. With that scary voice silenced, we can once again relax, comfortable and settled with our self-justifications.

Sermons like this in civilian life are rare. They are dangerous for the one who delivers them. So, can you imagine a military chaplain giving a sermon like this? All of the pressures that already exist for our religious leaders — pressures to be popular, to be PC, to be accepted and loved by everyone — all of those pressures are only increased exponentially in the even more militaristic culture of the military.

This story apparently became popular over on Reddit, where it made the front page by attracting readers’ attention and receiving over 500 comments. I would like to know what became of this story and whether the Chaplain got his job back, but a quick Google News search shows only exactly one search result: the original story. Apparently, no mainstream media outlets, local or national, have found this story worthy of reporting?

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