Jewish Chaplain Considers Messianic Jews

The issue of US military chaplains being Messianic Jews boiled over several years ago.  Ultimately, the Navy decided that a Messianic-Jewish chaplain-candidate had to wear the Christian cross as a religious symbol, rather than the Jewish tablets he wanted.  He chose to resign instead, and no one else has stepped forward to continue the controversy.

Still, there are Messianic Jews within the military, and Chaplain David Frommer wrote about his experiences while deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, when he discovered that one of the half-dozen Jews in his congregation was Messianic.

one of the Jewish civilian contractors arrived with a personal box of Havdalah supplies, prepared to conduct the service on his own in the room across the hall. He was one of my favorite congregants and had enthusiastically participated in all the services and classes I had offered…“It’s so great that you have these…” I said, as I removed a beautiful braided candle and some spices from the box he’d brought.

“Well, that’s because of this,” he sheepishly interrupted, as he turned over a sheet of paper that had been in the box as well. It read: MESSIANIC JEWISH SERVICE…

Since childhood, my parents had taught me to avoid Messianic Jews at all costs, much as one would avoid body-snatching aliens or evil wizards…

The theological issues of Judaism/Messianic Judaism are not the point. Instead, the fascinating part of the story is how one chaplain (or even servicemember) interacts with another when their faiths are in conflict — particularly in such strong conflict, as appears to be the case here.

In short, Chaplain Frommer met Messianic Jews in the US military who just wanted to find comfort in their faith — though he still calls it “their version of Christianity.”  They wanted to participate in Jewish services, and he led those services.

Christians in the military actually have similar issues, though it is with chaplains, not fellow troops.  A troop attending a “Protestant service” has no idea whether it will be led by a Mormon, Baptist, Unitarian, or something else — and he often won’t find out unless he asks.  The theologies of some “Christians” can be disparate and lead to awkward or confusing situations.  Jewish groups reportedly cited that very theological confusion as a support to prevent Messianic Jews from wearing the Jewish Chaplain’s badge.

In the end, though, all serve together.  Whether one believes Christ is their Savior but still likes to practice traditions of the Jewish faith, or whether its as simple as preferring gospel over hymns, the US military and its chaplaincy do an admirable job of attempting to provide religious support for all who need it.

Those efforts are by no means perfect, but at least the attempt is generally there.

Via Jews in Green.