Army Captain: Where Did God Go in Afghanistan?
US Army Capt Michael Cummings writes an interesting commentary at the New York Times on the “religiosity” of the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan: “Where did God go in Afghanistan?”
In what could be considered a disappointing indicator of the spiritual tenor in Afghanistan, Cummings writes that no one seemed interested in attending their Chapels, at least not publicly:
As I entered [the makeshift chapel], I thought for a moment I was in the wrong place. It was empty, save for two other soldiers. Then I saw the chaplain…The chaplain went where he was needed, by any truck, helicopter or patrol that would take him.
The service itself was awkward. The chaplain had gotten used to conducting these small ceremonies, and he tried to move past the empty silence…
As I walked back down the hill, I was still shaking my head in disbelief. Where was everyone?
While some have said the Army is guilty of spreading religion so thick it practically proselytizes every foxhole, Cummings seems to have found the opposite to be true.
On the other hand, people tend to generalize and extrapolate their own experiences. At least one of Cummings’ stories came from an outpost with less than 60 men. Another came from Bagram Air Base, whose “thriving evangelical community” was “featured” on al Jazeera just last year. It seems unlikely that deployed locations are simultaneously proselytizing Billy Graham crusades and spiritual desert wastelands.
Still, the varying nature of Bible studies, Chapel services, and even Chaplains themselves is something military Christians will face throughout their career. One might leave a thriving Chapel community at a base and return a few years later to find it practically nonexistent. Such is the transient nature of both military “pastors” and their congregations.
It’s sometimes easy and even a relief to move to a base where you can “plug in” to an already established group of growing Christians. The challenge is when you move to a base where the opposite is true.
What will you do then?