Why are Chaplains Teaching Ethics Anyway?

One might think after all these years we would have reached a point when we would look at ethics derived from the Bible and chucked them into the Sun. The U.S. Air Force, in a surprising show of good sense, has suspended a program where chaplains used select passages from the Bible to make warfare a religiously justified part of human nature—neglecting that there is no law of nature dictating humans must be violent warlike creatures.

Liberty Counsel has the usual host of odd legal arguments for why not allowing Christians extra privilege is actually a violation of their rights.

“Allowing chaplains to include Christian values and themes in ethics presentations does not violate the establishment clause. It’s not even a mixing of church and state,” asserted LC Founder Mathew Staver.

I have to wonder how he figures this when the quotes being used are cherry-picked pro-war passages exhorting an Evangelical approach to Christianity. It’s not a matter of adding in a section on Christian ethics amongst a broad scope of various ethical schools. Revelations 19:11 is not a statement on ethics, but a free pass justification for religiously based warfare. Implying that, because Jesus is a mighty warrior, we should be as well allows us to skip the nasty considerations of whether or not our actions are just. For an ethical program, skirting ethics in favor of blatant killing people in the name of Jesus is justified logic misses the main point of such a program.

Staver said, “it’s a violation of freedom of religion when the Air Force seeks to suspend this ethics course solely because it has some Christian themes that are being taught by chaplains.”

Yes, they’re the victims because they can’t force their dogmatic approach on everybody anymore. Furthermore, I wasn’t aware Christians had a right to compulsory ethics courses for all soldiers.

“If we were to exclude [soldiers] from the choice of having [access to] chaplains and to Christian, Judeo-Christian messages and counseling, then we would literally be prohibiting them from exercising their religious beliefs and practices,” he explained.

And, when that happens, we’ll give a shit. Except nobody is saying soldiers can’t have access to chaplains and privately discuss these issues if they so wish.

What the news stories lack, however, is any discussion on why we have chaplains teaching ethics courses. They’re largely not qualified psychologists or philosophers who are conversant in the field. What is apparent is a cultural privilege accorded to men of faith, whereby their word is given equal accord to experts. We should feel uncomfortable at the idea of religious leaders teaching courses they’re unqualified to teach. They’re theologians, not ethicists and counselors. This nation has an addiction to the image of religious leaders as indispensible purveyors of moral wisdom when evidence bears out the opposite.

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