A new study indicates thata the chaplains serving the military don’t really mirror the people they serve.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Huffington:
A military chaplains serves as both a religious leader and a listener — ideally one who can assist military personnel of all faiths. A frequent refrain among chaplains is “chaplain to all, pastor to some.”
But according to Department of Defense data, the nation’s corps of chaplains leans heavily toward evangelical Christianity, failing to mirror the military it serves.
Even though just 3 percent of the military’s enlisted personnel and officers call themselves Southern Baptist, Pentecostal or some form of evangelical, 33 percent of military chaplains are members of one of those groups, according to Pentagon statistics.
And the disparity could soon widen: Data from the Air Force indicate that 87 percent of those seeking to become chaplains are enrolled at evangelical divinity schools.
The discrepancy is the result of a number of variables, including a post-Vietnam aversion by mainline Protestant and Catholic seminary leaders to participate in military culture, and the popularity of online chaplaincy courses at evangelical seminaries.
Military officials say chaplains are trained to support troops of all faiths, regardless of their own religious affiliation.
“In these various roles, chaplains respect the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
But liberal theologians and educators say the imbalance could compromise efforts to meet the spiritual needs of soldiers facing combat or the stresses of military life. And some critics go further, arguing that the military risks becoming a mission field for evangelical Christianity.