Yes, You Are a Government-Paid Missionary in Uniform

David Plummer, a chaplain-endorser with the liberal leaning Coalition of Spirit-Filled Churches, responded to the DoD’s decision to publish a new “Faith and Belief” list by making an aside that the

military chaplaincy is NOT about being a “government-paid pastor or missionary in uniform.”

Plummer is making a reference to a phrase made famous by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF, which copied (and slightly edited) a video from a 2004 chapel assembly at Dallas Theological Seminary by US Army Chaplain (Maj) Douglas Duerksen*. Chaplain Duerksen described the military society as “amoral” and “unchurched” — making it a “magnificent mission field.” He followed that by saying

…and its great to be a government paid missionary.

If you don’t view such a statement through a lens of cynicism or prejudice — or outright bigotry — it’s common sense. Christian men and women are missionaries wherever God sends them, whether He has them be a WalMart greeter, CEO, or US Army Soldier. (See the prior discussions on R.G. LeTourneau and Tim Tebow and the words of Mike Huckabee.) Since US troops are paid by the government, they are, indeed, government-paid missionaries.

In point of fact, all US troops are missionaries for their ideologies, whether they want to be or not — and whether they’re “good” missionaries or not. They may turn people off — or they may draw them to their cause — but they are missionaries one way or the other.

David Plummer could have made a more realistic point if he’d been a bit more judicious. It is true that it is not the sole job of a US troop or chaplain to try to convert fellow troops — but no one has ever claimed that to be true. Plummer is rejecting a strawman, one created by Mikey Weinstein and Chris Rodda, apparently because reality isn’t shocking enough to encourage people to restrict the religious freedom of US troops who have beliefs they don’t like.

A Christian Soldier could lead a fellow Soldier to Christ by talking to him about salvation, and he would be a missionary for Jesus Christ.  A Christian Airman could work his entire deployment to Afghanistan “as to God, not men,” and never once try to evangelize his peers — even so, he is still a missionary for Christ. Both are also still paid by the government. Perhaps Plummer doesn’t like the way it sounds, but it makes it no less true.

Mikey Weinstein turned the soundbite into a rallying cry — the lack of truth behind it notwithstanding. He and Chris Rodda did much the same with the more benign phrase “ambassadors for Christ in uniform” (a phrase OCF still uses). The reason Mikey Weinstein has attacked the Christian faith of US troops isn’t because they use the word “missionary” or “ambassador,” but because they have the Christian faith.

This is ultimately a call to restrict religious liberty.  If you’re lucky, Mikey Weinstein and Chris Rodda will say it’s ok for you to have your faith — if you keep it within the four walls of your military chapel.

But if they don’t like your religious beliefs, Mikey Weinstein and Chris Rodda will even attack your religious church services — all the while claiming they’re defending your military religious freedom.

Their anti-Christian rallying cry begins with the simple –and false — accusation that you cannot live your faith in uniform.

That David Plummer — a chaplain endorser — would join in on Mikey Weinstein’s rallying cry is perhaps the most disappointing of all. Perhaps it was ignorance.

Perhaps not.


*Tragically, Chaplain Duerksen’s daughter died in Iraq two years later, a detail Mikey Weinstein has ignored as he’s tried to raise money using her father’s words.

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12 comments

  • In my opinion, it is sad that Plummer associates with non-Christians (Weinstein & Rodda) not because he is trying to lead them to the Lord—Plummer associates with non-Christians because he is one.

  • [Redacted],

    My goodness. Your pen is becoming increasingly venomous … and misleading.

    Where shall I start? Chaplain Duerksen. Actually, prior to your column, I do not think I had ever heard his name (or if I did, it had not registered). I just did a Google search and heard his sound-bite. I certainly do not recall ever hearing it from Mikey Weinstein in my readings of his concerns, (beginning in the mid 2000s). I believe that I first heard that phrase from a retired Baptist Army chaplain from TX (in the mid 80s), whom many believe was badly demented – at least in his later years. And, I am referencing what I have heard with my own ears over the many years that I have been either a chaplain candidate (commissioned in 1983), a military chaplain (commissioned in 1989), or an endorser (since 1992). And as recently as November, one of my group’s chaplains told me that an O-5 Active Duty chaplain told them that this is how that Baptist chaplain publicly identifies himself to his military congregation.

    Interestingly, it would appear that the DoD is just now catching up to what the civilian chaplaincy training, certification, and membership groups have been defining as a professional Scope of Practice and Statement of Ethics for years: Namely, that a chaplain is not to impose their personal faith, or their denominational beliefs on others who are not like their own “family” of faith groups. Considering the very real potential for division and judgmentalism, coercion, undue influences, etc., that can and do occur when religion is unchecked in the workplace, now place that in such a vital institution as the US Armed Forces, then you really have a recipe for disaster! Unit cohesion goes to pot! Insubordination reigns(!): Why should a Christian enlisted member follow a senior officer who is a “non-believer,” or, worse, of a religion that is seen as contrary to the tenets of Christianity, etc. The professional civilian chaplain groups wisely saw these issues years ago and issued governance documents to protect the minority faiths from harassment and discrimination. So now, [Redacted], if you attempt to coerce and/or brow-beat your colleagues and subordinates into your church or religious gatherings, you likely will be dealt with. And any poor, misguided chaplain who follows you and “your brand of chaplaincy” (kind of strange since you have never spent a day in uniform as a chaplain), will soon find him/herself back in the civilian sector.

    Rather, military chaplaincy is about being a representative of a faith community who genuinely seeks to care for service-members, enough so that they are performing or providing for the Free Exercise of Religion for all – including the intentional “non-deists,” as in Atheists, Humanists, Freethinkers, as well as Wiccans, Druids, and a whole slough of the world religions that are on American shores. And the same is true of LGBT folks, too. While they are not my own cup of tea, they have as much of a right to exist as Christians, Jews, Moslems, etc., in the military – and they are to not be harassed for their faiths or beliefs, nor attempts made by chaplains to convert them to something that the chaplain finds acceptable. All military personnel have the right to have their religious needs assessed and addressed as best as possible – with honesty, dignity, and respect. No, chaplains are not “government-paid missionaries.” Perhaps to become such missionaries is what some seek to be. That is a very poor motivation for wanting to serve, in my opinion. Nevertheless, there are a great number of “chaplains” who have done this as I just Googled “government paid missionaries” videos and got links to a couple screens full.

    With respect to the DoD Memorandum of March 27, 2017, it is pretty definitive. If chaplains seek to evangelize or proselytize service-members without being specifically invited by them to do so, they are wrong. Your readers can find it here: https://www.spirit-filled.org/documents/Faith-and-Belief-Codes-for-Reporting-Personnel-Data-of-Service-Members.pdf, among many other websites. My guess is that a few chaplains will try these boundaries anyway, and will be dealt with. Perhaps some of my own endorsed chaplains will be in that category. I hope not.

    And that brings me to where you call our endorsing agency “liberal leaning.” I realize that any form of religion that does not match up with your extraordinarily NARROW definition of Christianity is “liberal” in your mind. So be it. But, just for the record, I personally believe — and I suspect that most, if not all, of our associated churches and their chaplains believe:
    1. That Jesus is the Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, and the Son of the Living God. We have taken him into our hearts as our Lord and Savior.
    2. That the bible is God’s word.
    3. That the miracles of the Bible are real. They did happen.
    4. That God loves us … ALL of us.
    5. That Jesus is returning to earth one day and that there will be a new heaven and a new earth — and that such is forever.
    6. That God still speaks to those God seeks to speak to and that God still does miracles.
    7. That God desires us to be honest and follow His ways.
    8. That God desires us to be kind, one to another.
    9. That love covers a multitude of sins.

    So, [Redacted], while I think you may have some of those statements “down-pat,” there are a few others in which I think you are sorely lacking.
    Edited by Admin.

    • Steven Schwartz

      I just want to say, as a non-Christian, that you, sir, reflect the kind of Christian that I am honored to call among my friends — and for whom I try to speak when people claim that “Thus-and-so isn’t really Christian”. (Usually they mean my Episcopalian friends, but….)

      Thank you for your reply.

    • @David Plummer

      That is nice that you put what most of what you chaplains believe, but what about homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion? You say that yours is a Spirit-filled coalition, but how do you define being Spirit-filled? Do you believe in speaking in tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, raising the dead, etc?

    • @David Plummer
      You basically reaffirmed the article above. You use “missionary” like its a pejorative. You jump immediately to imposition, “judgmentalism, coercion, undue influences, etc.,” and worried about “when religion is unchecked” and those who may “coerce and/or brow-beat.”

      Why do you assume the worst in people, particularly given the complete absence of the epidemic of Bible-thumping Christians you seem to imply? Where is your good will? Where is your faith in Christians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of their calling — again, given the absence of the monsoon of examples to undermine that faith?

      You made a couple of comments that make it appear you didn’t read what was above, or at least read it well. You did a Google search for a video that’s already linked above. You linked to the PDF of the memo at your site when it is already at the article linked above. Further, you appear to have mischaracterized that memo: it says nothing about evangelism or “boundaries.”

      Incidentally, you took the “liberal leaning” adjective a little too personally — and, again, assumed a negative.

      Given your own tone, you may need to reconsider to whom you direct the word “venomous.”

  • Steven Schwartz

    OK: This article is an interesting level of self-negating.

    “In point of fact, all US troops are missionaries for their ideologies, whether they want to be or not — and whether they’re “good” missionaries or not.”

    At this point, calling anyone a “missionary” then becomes meaningless; it’s the same as saying “person”.

    So you have to look at what the *difference* is; and that is where the point that Weinstein and Plummer were making comes in; if evangelizing work gets in the way of the mission (in the military sense), then the question is “what comes first” — and in the Armed Forces, I know which should come first, no matter what — the mission. To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the people in the field and the nation, and to be a terrible example before people outside the faith.

    • @Steven Schwartz

      if evangelizing work gets in the way of the mission

      That has happened exactly zero times in recorded history, so why the histrionics?

  • #BibleBelievingPreacher

    Mr. Plummer, I would disagree with CFP that you are liberal leaning. Instead, I would argue that you are unregenerate. I pray that God would grant you repentance from your apostasy.

    To other chaplains serving, beware:

    http://christianfighterpilot.com/2016/08/30/bible-believing-military-chaplains-avoid-the-wrong-endorsing-agency/

  • Steven Schwartz

    @BF “You say that yours is a Spirit-filled coalition, but how do you define being Spirit-filled? Do you believe in speaking in tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, raising the dead, etc?”

    @BibleBelievingPreacher “Instead, I would argue that you are unregenerate. I pray that God would grant you repentance from your apostasy.”

    And *this*, in a nutshell, is why the separation of Church and State is a good thing. :)

    Because even within a sect (at least, I am guessing you are all Protestant, from the way you’re talking) of a single religion, there’s such bitter division over what to believe that basing anything other than one’s *own life choices* on that religion, especially anything involving other people’s lives, makes no sense at all.

    @JD If so much as one member of the military has left because of religious harassment, then people putting evangelizing ahead of the mission *has* impaired the mission. And I think we have *ample* evidence that they have.

    Beyond that, we can look at *why* bans on evangelizing on certain foreign duty stations were placed — or do you think that’s all due to supposed “anti-Christian” feeling in a majority-Christian military?

    • @Steven Schwartz

      we have *ample* evidence

      Right. That’s why in the *10 years* Mikey Weinstein has been “fighting” this “evangelical *coup*” he has won exactly *zero* court cases and proven exactly *zero* cases of any such thing — despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

      You’re free to fear a bogeyman. Just don’t be surprised when you face criticism and opposition for trying to get the government to restrict religious liberty because you’re afraid of someone else’s freedom.

  • The fatal flaw with the MRFF is that it and Weinstein believe in freedom FROM religion.

    Such a thing is only possible by infringing on the rights of all.

    The US Constitution actually does not contain the phrase ‘separation of church and state.’

    The confusion comes from a letter Jefferson wrote in reply to a concerned denominational leader, in which Jefferson reassures the man that there will be a ‘wall of separation between the church and the state.’

    Was Jefferson a full-fledged Christian? Considering stories of him cutting specific verses from the Bible, doubt can be cast for such action.

    Is not God proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence?

    This country was not built for or by atheists, George Washington and John Adams’ actions could be considered nearly theocratic.

    Back to Jefferson, if you think he was ok with just any religion (even considering his treatment of the Bible), what about the Islamic pirates and how they were handled?

    The Constitution mentions no religious test for office, but how long is the tradition of oath-taking with one hand on the Bible?

    This country wasn’t founded by perfect people, but the Christian principles are clearly there.

    The basis of most US law is found in the Bible, starting with the ten commandments.

    The question will have to become, if one is free to believe in a proselytizing faith, how is it that they aren’t free to attempt to proselytize?

  • The basis of most US law is found in the Bible, starting with the ten commandments

    And that is why it is illegal in America to have any god but Yahweh

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