Sunday, June 19, 2016

Maybe he did it because of God

GUEST: Reverend Chris Antal, minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Rock Tavern, and founder of the Hudson Valley chapter of Veterans for Peace, talks about his life as a U.S. Army chaplain in Afghanistan and the reasons that he publicly resigned in a letter to President Obama.

I was never morally caught up in the US military. I didn't believe in the Vietnam War, and I didn't want my death to be part of what I saw as a fool's errand. 

In a way, Reverend Antal is a more moral person than I am. He was willing to be part of a killing machine because he saw some ethical reason for what the military was doing in Afghanistan. He joined, in effect, to add his "prophetic voice" to the moral cohesion that he believed he would find once on the battlefield.

The US Military has dropped its call for prophetic voices, preferring to have its chaplains guided by Pentagon propaganda. There was no longer a moral space for Reverend Antal, and he recognized it. Chaplains cannot serve the empire and serve God at the same time.

When Father Daniel Berrigan was speaking in Dutchess County more than a two decades ago, a priest in the audience asked him why the Catholic Church was not opposing the illegal US blockade of Iraq.

"What you are smelling is the stench that comes from the marriage of church and state," Father Berrigan replied. He went on to declare that any religion serving the interests of the state destroys its spiritual authority in the process. 

Reverend Antal, like Daniel Berrigan, came to a moral quandary and chose correctly. Maybe he did it because of God. I like to think it was because of the holiness that we are all capable of experiencing. 

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