Russell Moore is the Dean of Students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Last week, he published an Op-ed in the Christian Post – featuring his reply to ‘A Confused Chaplain’.
Dear Dr. Moore,
I’m a committed evangelical Christian, and also a chaplain with responsibility for people from all sorts of religious backgrounds. I am called on to pray at many functions, with mixed audiences. Some over me are pressuring me not to end my prayers “in Jesus’ name” but to instead pray more inclusively to God, generally. I can pray “in Your name” and that seems to solve the problem. I mean Jesus, of course, but it wouldn’t be as patently offensive and it would enable me to minister here longer and more effectively. Is that ethical?
A Confused Chaplain
This chaplain is confused about “in Jesus name”? Bullshit. Or quite possibly the most inept chaplain ever. It’s actually not even against the law at all. Nor would a ‘sectarian prayer only’ law or military regulation even be helpful. Non-sectarian prayer simply doesn’t exist – many religions do not pray at all, or pray to many gods, or require special ritual, clothing, mat, or other item.
Jewish chaplains are never forced to avoid Jewish prayer, etc. Catholic chaplains are similarly never expected to ‘pray Muslim’ to a Muslim soldier. Instead, they simply hand the soldier a phone number to call – the nearest acceptable civilian religious leader. They may provide logistical support (building space, sacraments, holy texts), but a Christian Chaplain is never expected to lead a Wiccan service, or to ever pray in any non-Christian manner.
There are two distinct situations where chaplains lead prayers in the military:
1) The chapel services – full on church service. (optional)
2) Ceremonies and tradition – award ceremonies, retirements, change of command, change of responsibility etc. Perhaps most shockingly, nightly prayers are pumped over the loudspeaker on Navy ships at sea. (mandatory with no opt-out)
Neither of these situations includes a ban on invocations saying “in Jesus’ name”.
Any chaplain would know all of this. It’s a fake question. There is no way a chaplain would ask that question. No way. However, Russell Moore provides answers. Disturbingly, he encouraged this alleged chaplain to break a law that doesn’t exist.
Russell Moore’s response to ‘confused chaplain’
As for the old “in Your name” wink and nod, I would counsel you against that… Well, behind all those rationalizations hung a warning: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).
When Caesar asks for service and for taxes and for honor, we should render such things gladly. Prayers don’t belong to Caesar, though, and they shouldn’t be brought before him for editorial submission. We owe Caesar submission and loyalty in almost everything (Rom. 13), almost.
But when Caesar objects to the mention of Jesus in a Christian’s prayers, we must have the conviction to say, “Sir, I wasn’t talking to you, sir.”
Wow. Encouraging open disobedience and insubordination in the military. Russell Moore didn’t even bother to see if the problem was real. Nobody should ever ask this guy for career advice. I guess that is unless you’ve got a Martyr complex.
Why did Russell Moore’s fake chaplain get confused?
A (bat shit crazy) Ex-Navy chaplain named Gordon Klingenschmitt championed the idea that it was illegal to ‘pray in Jesus’ name’ (though it wasn’t). He claimed he was fired for it, despite the fact that he was fired for insubordination and directly violating a commander’s order. That same commander – a fellow chaplain and fellow born-again evangelical – told reporters very damning stuff, but few picked up on it. In the end, he stirred up 75 congressmen to put forward some (totally unnecessary) law “guaranteeing that chaplains can pray according to their own religion” – which is EXACTLY the situation that has always existed in the military. Klingenshmitt now makes his living spreading this lie.
Klingenshmitt popped up in the news again recently. He discussed his biblical explanation for why there are 4000 observed species that exhibit gay behavior. Reason: gay demons inside of gay humans are exorcised and they sometimes go for animal hosts (as perverted as they are).
Russell Moore’s fake chaplain is influenced by this guy:
What’s in a name?
The fake chaplain described ‘some over him’ (we call that a supervisor) recommending a ‘non-sectarian’ prayer. That’s actually not completely unheard of. It’s not a policy, or law – and supervisor’s can’t order a subordinate chaplain not to pray a certain way. However, it is a common personal choice among chaplains. It also gets said defensively by chaplains when pressed by atheists like me.
This is how I’ve previously responded to the concept of ‘non-sectarian prayer’ to a very high ranking chaplain:
Your Christian Privilege is showing
A very high-ranking chaplain once told me that he was all-inclusive because he didn’t say “In Jesus Name” during his invocations. I told him that was his Christian privilege showing, and he was taken aback. I asked him if he’d ever seen any soldiers turn to face towards Mecca. He had not. The chaplain paused, then offered that he wouldn’t stop them. How kind of a concession! Would he wait for them to pull out their smart phones to attempt to face the correct direction? (and is that through the Earth?)
Then I ‘explained’ that perhaps my ‘atheist version of prayer’ is to scream really loud, mostly in swear words. Then the chaplain smiled and said “Oh, I see what you mean.”
All versions of prayer need to be opt-in. I shouldn’t have to stand up and bow my head every time someone retires or gets promoted (I refuse to bow, but I have to stand). Religion has no place in a change of command ceremony, nor a change of responsibility.
Why is it even there? “In Jesus name, you are the commander of 44th BCT!”…? We’re working on it. It’s going to take some time, but we will fix this.
I don’t care if you leave out a name, or if it’s in Zeus’ name. It’s unconstitutional to order me to stand up and bow my head for your god(s) – named or not.
We’re 50 years behind the civilian world, that already nixed state-run school prayer. Same thing applies here, for the same reasons, and it’s not going to stop until a viable challenger steps up. My friend foxhole atheist veteran, Dustin Chalker already tried once. Paperwork was conveniently ‘lost’, his peers were intimidated into ‘forgetting’ meetings, legal strategies could have been improved – the case was basically laughed out of court for not exhausting all administrative remedies first (hint: ‘lost’ paperwork). We learned a lot of lessons though, and I promise you this fight is coming some day.