An article at the Unitarian Universalist website notes an increase in Unitarian military chaplains and chaplain applicants after decades of under-representation. The article reports the denomination now has 10 chaplains, with 7 more applying. While a significant increase from the “one or two” chaplains before (including Army Chaplain Rebekah Montgomery), it still isn’t a high number. The reason for the low interest?
It’s no secret that for many years after the Vietnam War many UUs harbored some hostility toward the war and the politicians who promoted it. In some cases veterans themselves were treated distantly in our congregations, even shunned.
One UU chaplain said they are needed to balance out “evangelicals”: Read more
An official DoD article covering the theme “Why We Serve” highlights SPC Adama Blackthorn, who has the nickname “Evil.” It highlights his unusual life story, from a practically homeless bouncer to making candles as a hobby with his family:
His all-natural candles also play a role in his faith — the Earth-based Pagan religion.
“I’ve been a practicing Pagan for almost two decades, and it’s very fulfilling,” said Blackthorn…
“I grew up Southern Baptist and my family is all Christian. They Read more
Cauldrons, spell books, brooms, and swords in a military witchcraft ceremony.
Photo credit: Katrina Gutierrez
A local paper — in an article briefly titled “No Hocus Pocus” — noted that “hundreds” of basic trainees have attended Wiccan services at Lackland AFB, Texas:
[There is] a curious multiplication of Wiccans at Lackland. Hundreds of basic military trainees have chosen to study witchcraft at the base.
“When we come over here on a Sunday, often times, there are 300 to 400 (trainees),” Tony Gatlin said.
Gatlin is the coven’s high priest. His wife Read more
The US Air Force Academy is holding a Religious Respect Conference this week, inviting “religious and First Amendment advocacy groups” to meet with cadets and chaplains on the topics of religious tolerance and dignity.
On the topic of training in religious respect, the Academy had a noble goal for its future officers:
“The…goal is teaching an ethic of respect regardless of who people are, whether they follow one faith or another faith or no faith at all,” said Chaplain (Col.) Robert Bruno…”What we are trying to teach is a fundamental ethic of respect. We recognize the inherent dignity of every human being…”
“We agree to disagree agreeably, civilly, respectfully, professionally,” he said.
On accommodation, Jewish Chaplain (Maj) Joshua Narrowe made an Read more
Local Albuquerque papers noted that a Buddhist stupa was going to be removed from New Mexico’s Petroglyph National Monument because it was unconstitutional:
The National Park Service said Monday that park service will remove the ten-foot structure containing Buddhist relics from the park this week after getting an opinion from the Department of Interior’s solicitor general. The solicitor general ruled last month that keeping the Buddhist stupa violates the Constitution on established religion.
The story of the stupa is somewhat complex, as the NPS “bought” the stupa when it gained possession of the land from the original owners (after a legal battle) in the 1990s. The Park Service didn’t raise the monument, nor does it Read more
In July, US Army Chaplain (Capt) Somya Malasri was recently hosted a “Buddhist meditation and yoga workshop,” sponsored by the Cannon Air Force Base chapel.
Generally, chapel services aren’t newsworthy events, and except for a few photos, this event was similar. What makes this significant (though not unique), of course, is Read more
The US Army facility at Camp Zama, Japan, recently hosted the 53rd annual “Bon Odori Festival:”
The festival is consistently the largest bilateral event of the year for U.S. Army Japan, this year attracting more than 30,000 visitors to the installation. This year’s Bon Odori featured live entertainment, games for children, a variety of ethnic foods, bilateral sports, and a fireworks show.
While that sounds benign enough, it turns out this was actually a huge religious celebration:
Bon season is a Buddhist holiday that honors the departed spirits of one’s ancestors. The tradition dates back more than 500 years.
Relying on the ever-accurate Wikipedia:
Bon Odori originates from the story of Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), a disciple of the Buddha, who used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother. He discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering. Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother…The disciple, happy because of his mother’s release and grateful for his mother’s kindness, danced with joy. From this dance of joy comes Bon Odori or “Bon Dance”, a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.
Naturally, some military atheists will see this as a vast, unconstitutional government conspiracy to give preferential support to Read more
Cadet 2nd Class Yung Chin died while on leave in June; he had completed two years at the US Air Force Academy. Every year the wing performs a homecoming memorial formation in which the names of deceased graduates are called (to the reply of “Absent, sir!”). Regrettably, there are often cadet names included in those rolls; Cadet Chin’s name will be there this year.
What is somewhat unique about Cadet Chin’s memorial was the faith under which it was conducted:
Sensei Sarah Bender, the Academy’s Cadet Chapel Buddhist Program Leader, held a service that included remarks from friends and family, a memorial meditation, military honors and Celtic blessing as Chin’s ashes were interred at the cemetery…
Sensei Bender prayed for Chin to be healed and find peace. A committal ceremony followed.
While Buddhism is a very small minority within the US military, USAFA has had a Buddhist program for many years (even before the religious scandals of recent years). The Academy, and the US military, generally do an admirable job of providing the spiritual resources that any military member, or their family, might need — even if they are a minority faith.
May God give comfort to the Chin family.