World War II Vet Recalls Preaching to Japanese

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, repeated in the Stars and Stripes, documents a recent local Honor Flight that had just returned from helping World War II vets see the World War II memorial in Washington, DC. The article highlights Phil Crenshaw, a World War II chaplain’s assistant:

At 91, Crenshaw is the last living chaplain’s assistant from World War II, as determined by Army Sgt. Maj. Stephen Stott. Crenshaw recently served as chaplain on last week’s South Plains Honor Flight.

Crenshaw was called to active duty in 1943. He shipped out to Okinawa to assist Louis Wunneburger, the chaplain there.

The article makes a reference to an earlier Avalanche-Journal article in which Crenshaw recalled a surprise shipment the chaplain received:

One day, a merchant vessel unexpectedly delivered several boxes to Wunneberger. No one knew where they came from or who sent them.

They contained 1,000 New Testaments — all printed in Japanese. 

Wunneberger preached to the POWs, and one Japanese prisoner asked to be baptized.

The role of Christinity in the American military’s post-war Japan may be one of history’s forgotten lessons (see some background here).  Regardless, it is a near certainty that Chaplain Wunneberger would have faced the wrath of Michael Weinstein demanding his court-martial had he done the same thing today.

Weinstein’s research assistant, Chris Rodda, famously claimed a chaplain violated military regulations when he provided Bibles to third country nationals supporting the Allied effort in Iraq — when they had asked for them.  The US military essentially banned local language Bibles in Afghanistan — they burned Afghan-language Bibles with the trash in 2009.  That means a US military chaplain wouldn’t be able to provide a Bible to an Afghan even if he was asked by an Afghan who was, or wanted to become, a Christian.

For those that think this is simply the result of necessary separation between the military and religion, realize the US military has handed out Korans to locals — even to those who haven’t asked for them.  (Notably, intellectually inconsistent critic Michael “Mikey” Weinstein — who agreed with the Bible burning — claimed he was going to provide Korans for distribution by the US military to Afghans.)  In other words, the Bibles weren’t burned because they violated some broad-based restriction on religious texts; they were burned because they were Bibles.

While Macarthur’s vision of a Christianized Japan wasn’t realized (and largely failed), Japan’s Constitution (also Macarthur’s work) explicitly protected religious liberty — a legacy largely recognized as successfully continuing today.

Afghanistan’s Constitution protects religious freedom, too — sort of.  More than a decade after US forces liberated Afghanistan, and even after thousands of troops have died there in actions defending the Afghan government, Afghanistan still ranks near the top in the world for persecution against Christians.  Government approval of a death sentence for an Afghan convert to Christianity might have something to do with that.

In short, the American attitude toward religion in these foreign endeavors has changed.

So have the results.