Air Force Chaplains: “You’re not going to be proselytized”
A fairly benign article on the chapel community at the small Schriever AFB, CO, listed some of the events held throughout the year. The chaplains went out of their way to say the events they host are not coercively religious:
“Our events are not religion-based,” Werner said. “During retreats, we hold educational classes teaching how to deal with life issues. You’re not going to be proselytized.”
Chaplain (Capt) Portmann Werner probably could have used a little more nuance in that statement, since some of the events the article referenced included Ash Wednesday and Christmas Eve services, which clearly are “religion-based.” Even marriage workshops hosted by the chapel generally allow for some element of religion, even if they’re not a full-blown religious guideline for marriage.
On one level, it’s understandable for the chapel community to want to advertise its “Geek Lunch” and Resiliency Picnics, focusing primarily on support to troops and trying to eliminate misconceptions about the “religious” hosts.
On the other hand, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines are mature adults. (At least, that’s what they’re told if they’re recruited without their parents’ signature.) Most average human beings aren’t going to be surprised — or offended — if a chaplain says something religious. They’re chaplains, after all.
This hypersensitivity to religious thought is largely the product of militant atheism and loudmouthed critics like Michael “Mikey” Weinstein — who represent a miniscule portion of the population. Attempting to mollify that concern should rank up there with attempting to allay the concerns of those who have a problem with red shoes.
Sometimes it is more productive to focus on the majority of your intended audience, rather than the fringes — especially since the fringes probably have no interest in your chapel event, anyway.