Focus on the Family has expressed support for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry. The Military Ministry is known for its “Rapid Deployment Kits,” which are a New Testament, Daily Bread devotional, and the evangelistic booklet How to Know God Personally, packaged in a ziploc bag. One Air Force officer and aircrew is quoted as saying
I received the Rapid Deployment Kit a few months back and I want to extend my thanks. I carry my New Testament Bible in my flight suit when I fly. I read a Psalm before each flight Read more
Amazingly, little has changed over the past year (in fact, two years) with regard to religion in the military. No lawsuits have gone on to litigation, Congress has yet to address the controversy as they promised in 2006, and though many controversies have made the press, few have had any noticeable impact on military operations. That may help explain why military religious issues have fallen off the “Top Ten” lists of church/state and free exercise pundits (including Time). (By contrast, “Religion and the Military” featured prominently in 2006, even making the “#1” in some places.)
This year does have a unique potential, however, as President-elect Obama may bring a different perspective on both the use of the military and its internal governance. Already, some are wondering what impact his administration will have on Christians’ ability (and desire) to serve in the military. Read more
An Air Force article from Iraq notes that military Chaplains served all religions this past holiday-filled December:
Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans all observe major holy days in December. Air Force chaplains here spent much of the month making sure everyone in the diverse Joint Base Balad community had an opportunity to worship according to their beliefs.
The article includes a picture of Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Cohen, the wing Jewish Chaplain, with a Magen David Menorah, as well as officers observing a candlelit Christmas Eve service there. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Terese Erickson, the deputy wing chaplain in Balad, noted that
Accommodation means making sure everyone has an opportunity to worship…
and supported those words with her actions:
Army Spc. William Corum…is one of three lay leaders for a group of Wiccans and Pagans that meets here… Read more
An AF.mil article highlights a round-the-clock team of Chaplains and assistants who minister to the patients at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
They visit and pray with patients and the medical staff, and “set the tone” for caring for the deceased in accordance with the servicemember’s religion.
The religious support team accommodates everyone’s religious needs, Chaplain Rome said. Outside their office one can find different translations of the Bible, the Quran in — English and Arabic — and a Book of Mormon.
In an unusually moving story, the AP covers soldiers in Iraq spending their second consecutive Christmas away from their families (as they continue on their 15-month deployment). For some, it is their third in four years away from home.
“A lot of guys struggle to find meaning in Christmas. I keep reminding them what it’s about. It’s a season of hope,” said chaplain Capt. Matt Hemrick, of Belmont, North Carolina, on Christmas Eve.
Both President Bush and President-elect Obama (text and video) offered Christmas messages to the troops. Interestingly, both also referenced George Washington’s Christmas night crossing of the Deleware, as did the Joint Chiefs of Staff just a few days ago–though the current Commander-in-Chief and his incoming replacement still managed to use the word “Christmas” when referring to December 25th.
President Bush also offered a message for Kwanzaa.
As also covered at the Religion Clause.
Updated: Ed Brayton picked up the story for his blog, where commenters varied from ardent detractors to the supportive.
As noted at Jews in Green, a Messianic Jewish Chaplain candidate withdrew from Chaplain training after being told by the Navy that he would be required to wear the Christian cross, rather than the tablets worn by Jewish Chaplains.
In the 12 December article about candidate Michael Hiles, Rabbi Eric Tokajer says
This decision essentially bars Messianic Jews from serving as chaplains within the U.S. Navy because it would require them to wear an insignia inconsistent with their faith and belief system.
As noted at CNN, this week is the 40th Anniversary of the flight of Apollo 8–the first space flight to circle the moon. Interestingly, CNN notes that the trip was one on which an “inspirational and soothing” event occurred:
Apollo 8 also produced what to many was one of the most inspirational and soothing moments in history when Lovell and crewmates Frank Borman and William A. Anders took turns reading from the Book of Genesis. It was Christmas Eve and the whole world was watching. NASA said at the time it was expected to be the largest TV audience to date.
The astronauts signed off with these words: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth.”
This same “inspirational” event was marked by a lawsuit in the US which influenced further “religious” acts in space, as previously discussed.
Jim Lovell was the third crewmember on Apollo 8; he is perhaps more famous for his role on Apollo 13, one of three astronauts that was supposed to land on the moon but never did.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen distributed a holiday message this week.
Notably, the Admiral successfully managed to write about the 232-year history of the military during this “season”–including the 25 December 1776 Delaware river crossing of George Washington–without mentioning “Christmas” or any other holiday celebration.