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History of Non-Christian Chaplains

It has not been until relatively recent history in our military that faith groups other than Judeo-Christian have been officially recognized. Up until 1862, a chaplain was required to be endorsed by a “Christian” denomination excluding any chaplains in other faith groups from being officially recognized by the government.

Continue reading the History of Non-Christian Chaplains here

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The Church and the Chaplain (1952)

FM-21-13-50“The Army recognizes the importance of religion in the American way of life and in your training as a soldier. For that reason, a complete program of religious training is provided for soldiers of the three general faiths, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant. This program for the spiritual and moral welfare of the soldier is the responsibility of the commanding officer and is carried out through the chaplain assigned to the unit Chaplains advise commanders in religious matters and work directly with soldiers in helping them solve their problems. The chaplains have volunteered for this duty and it is their desire to be of the greatest possible service to soldiers and their dependents. Separate religious services usually are conducted for members of the three faiths, but it is sometimes impossible to conduct a separate service for each group. When this is the case, a general religious worship service is held. Attendance at these services is, of course, entirely a personal matter, but if you participate, you will find them a source of inner strength and your job as a soldier will be made easier.

“If your church requires that you attend services of your denomination, see your unit chaplain and he may be able to direct you to a chaplain of your faith in the area, or to a church of your faith in a nearby community.

“Available to you also are other religious activities such as Sunday school classes, Bible study classes, Holy Name Societies, and the Serviceman’s Christian League.

“Remember that the chaplain is always available to help you as a personal counselor. He will be happy to talk to you about any personal problem and will try to help you find a solution. Anything you tell him is confidential and privileged. This means tha the cannot be required to repeat anything you have told him. The chaplain will visit soldiers in the guardhouse or hospital, and you may call upon him to conduct religious services such as baptisms and weddings.

“It is customary to address these officers as ‘Chaplain,’ but Catholic chaplain may prefer to be called ‘Father’; Jewish chaplains may prefer to be called ‘Rabbi’; and Protestant chaplains sometimes prefer to be called ‘Reverend.”

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Taken from FM 21-13, “The Soldier’s Guide,” Department of the Army, June 1952 (author’s collection).

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Chaplain Rabbi Kushner

When-Bad-ThingsI had heard of the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” from back in the 1980’s but I didn’t know that the author, Harold Kushner, had been an Army Chaplain. He just served for two years so there isn’t much of his military history to find, but what I could discover (plus a little more) is in his chaplain story: Chaplain Harold S. Kushner.

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