Army Chaplain Reportedly Resigns over War Policies
US Army Reserve Chaplain Christopher Antal submitted his resignation “in protest” in April due, according to Antal, to the American policies regarding drones, nuclear weapons, and “preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection.”
Antal publicly submitted his letter directly to his Commander-in-Chief, President Obama.
Reached for comment, the Army somewhat subtly said Antal had submitted his resignation, but it was still being processed — meaning Antal was still an Army Soldier and still held to certain military standards. Given the content of Antal’s letter, it seems they may have been weighing the rules regarding contemptuous words toward the President and just letting Antal go away quietly.
Chaplain Antal has had an interesting career as a chaplain. He’s a Unitarian Universalist and was once cited in an article discussing how the UU was trying to get more chaplains in the military to “balance” the presence of evangelical chaplains.
Antal also says he was sent home from Afghanistan and essentially kicked out of the military because he preached a sermon (and then published it online) basically denigrating all US military policy. He says he was reinstated and promoted after a congressional inquiry.
Antal was also quoted as proudly claiming to be the only chaplain willing to pray with a pagan, as a pagan — an action clearly antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It would seem the cross Antal wore was there only in the academic sense of the term.
During the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the UU advocates for the acceptance of homosexuality — Antal seemed to chide those chaplains who considered resigning in the face of changing social norms in the military, though he did so with a qualifier:
Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.
It is notable that Antal is now resigning over explicit policies that were in place before he joined the military. Not only did he “know what he was getting into,” nothing has changed in those policies in years.
The UU has had a tortuous time with the military. On one hand, they’ve outright said they want UU chaplains to counter the influence of Christian chaplains in the military — with the added intent of increasing their congregation sizes. On the other hand, the very concept of war as waged by America is viewed with “hostility” by the pacifistic-leaning Unitarian church.
This same self-contradiction seemed to plague Antal, who, rather than minister to the needs of service members within the military, decided that his disagreements with military policy outweighed his ability to serve. That’s fair, though it is questionable why it took him this long to make that decision — or, for that matter, why he even joined in the first place.
It turns out his first attempted enlistment might have answered that question for him: He described himself as a pacifist, and his attempt to enlist in the US military was denied because he had refused to register with the Selective Service. Only years later did he obtain an ironic “moral waiver” that allowed him to join to help with a shortage of chaplains.
It seems he should have taken his difficulties in joining the military as a clue.
So Chaplain Christopher Antal has now decided to resign — and not just resign, but to resign “in protest.”
For the record, if Chaplain Antal was punished for the content of his sermon in Afghanistan, then the military was right to reinstate him. The US military is not supposed to be in the business of telling chaplains what to preach or otherwise controlling the content of their sermons. It should not have taken a congressional inquiry to force that right, but given some historical context over the past few years, it is not surprising.
That said, it is unlikely many deployed service members — serving in combat, away from their families, performing the mission — improved their morale or their spiritual fitness by hearing a chaplain rail against them becoming “people of the lie…raising our children to kill without remorse” and creating a “colossal misery [of war on] the innocent.”
It’s entirely possible that is what led to him being removed, with troops asking for spiritual support from a chaplain who aligned more closely with their moral and spiritual values. While he shouldn’t have been removed for what he said, one would hope his pews would have been empty the next week, anyway.