US Navy Chaplains: Character Matters

At the behest of the Chief of Naval Operations, the US Navy Chaplaincy has begun a summer campaign hashtagged “#CharacterMatters.” According to the Chaplaincy’s release on the subject, CNO Adm John Richardson

challenged us to “actively strengthen our shipmates’ integrity,” so that the entire Navy team, as an institution, behaves in a way that is “consistent with the values that we profess.”

It’s a fascinating opportunity — and one that could be easily missed. For example, it will be interesting to see how the chaplaincy chooses to define “character”, a natural prerequisite for helping Sailors understand that character “matters.”

In that vein, leaders have previously said US troops need to have a “moral compass” — but they declined to identify the “absolute north” to which that compass needed to point. Presumably, this is in due in some part to fears of offending someone should they imply there are absolute moral standards that define things like character or integrity — and those absolutes often come from religious faith.

Yet, the military cannot “train” to character until it can articulate character in a way that is trainable. Saying “Sailors need integrity #CharacterMatters” may brief well, but will it achieve the objective?

If it is the chaplaincy that is trying to say #CharacterMatters, will they do so with an eye toward faith?

It appears the Navy Chaplaincy will largely be posting pictures of “selected character traits” and letting people comment on them, via their Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds. Whether that achieves the high goal they’ve set out remains to be seen.