Why Having A Pagan Military Chaplain Is Important

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 12, 2008 — 9 Comments

The Baptist Press interview with Army Chaplain Jim Breckenridge provides a keen insight into why Pagan efforts to have their own chaplains appointed is so important.

“Breckenridge recalled talking recently with a soldier who claimed to be a Wiccan. Although Wiccan beliefs are contrary to the principles of the Christian faith, Breckenridge said she at least was willing to talk about spiritual matters. “When God-fearing is present in any form,” Breckenridge said, “then there is the opportunity and the challenge to introduce Jesus Christ into the conversation.” Certainly, Chaplain Breckenridge is doing just that.”

Despite the military party-line that their chaplains are trained to serve soldiers of all faiths, the truth is that non-Christian soldiers are often openly discriminated against, secure that military bureaucracy (and a solidly Christian hierarchy) will protect them from censure.

“Master Sgt. Kathleen Johnson, 40, a career soldier from north Florida who enlisted in 1985, said many soldiers do worry about invisible things and pressure others to do the same … Johnson said she has been threatened with failing a mandatory course if she didn’t bow her head during prayer. One military chaplain bragged to her about how he had stalled some Wiccan soldiers when they asked for a place to gather until they finally just gave up.”

How can a Pagan soldier trust in their chaplain, when he or she knows there is a very good chance they simply see it as an opportunity to “introduce Jesus Christ into the conversation”? A situation that has grown only worse as Evangelical Christians slowly take over the chaplaincy.

“The percentage of Evangelical Christian chaplains is higher than their faith’s representation in the ranks. The military directs them not to proselytize. But many say that would force them to deny a basic tenet of their faith.”

The message to Pagans in the military is clear, don’t trust the chaplains. They aren’t interested in your problems, or helping you through tough times, they simply want to win you to Christ.

ADDENDUM: As if by fate, shortly after posting this item, I got an e-mail from the Rev. Paula Johnson, Coordinator of Operation Circle Care, a Circle Sanctuary-sponsored charity that sends care packages to Pagan troops in war zones. They are gearing up for the Yule season, so if you want to send a little holiday cheer into a Pagan soldier’s life, check out Patti Wigington’s blog for a run-down of what they are looking for, where to send it, and what the deadlines are.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Ananta Androscoggin

    Military Pagan Networkhttp://www.milpagan.org/The Military Pagan Network has been collecting links to the information of the military services Chaplain’s programs, including requirements, training, and some of the texts relevant to Chaplains in the field.A good source.============The Association of Professional Chaplainshttp://www.professionalchaplains.org/Of all the U.S. Chaplains’ associations I’ve looked at, this one is not Christo-centric, and comes across as more oriented to actual Chaplaincy than it is to covertly converting the masses under chaplain’s guise.They have much information on training and certification as Professional Chaplains.

  • Christopher

    I always love the line “..who claims to be a Wiccan.” If you replaced “Wiccan” with “Christian” you’d get a backlash so fast your head would spin.

  • WitchDoctorJoe

    I am a proud member of the Order of the Pentacle, for Pagan Veterans.In my ten years in the Army, I had many experiences with those Chaplains who “stalled us” out of our rights. and worse.While in Iraq, I provided and lead those services, secretly. I was threatened by the Chaplains staff with a court marshal if I was caught.The same issues exist in the prison system. In California there are only five recognized religious faiths within the prison system. Meaning if your not one of these five, they won’t hire a Chaplain for you. So if your a Wiccan or anything else you must depend in someone of another faith.Several prisons have placed that responsibility on Catholic and Protestant Chaplains.I was recently deposed for Rev. Patrick McCollums lawsuit against the state, in which I made this same argument.It is a great conflict of interest to charge an Evangelical Christan with the responsibility of facilitating the religious needs of Pagans, especially when it conflict with the tenets and doctrines of their faith…They believe that Wiccans are going to Hell for devil worship, more importantly, they could go to hell for helping them…I am now the Minority Faith Chaplain at a local state prison, I provide religious services to Wiccans and facilitate services to everyone else who is not one of the five and does not have a representative for their faith.I got started there when the Protestant Chaplain contacted me because he was responsible for the Wiccans and he didn’t want to be the “Witch Chaplain” anymore.We shall overcome…

  • Gary

    I was very lucky that much of my time in the Air Force, I did not encounter a significant amount of discrimination. I did always feel the pressure of those extreme Christians who felt it was their job to “convert” me, but as an institution the discrimination was not very bad during the last 10 years I was out of the closet. However, with that said, I still did experience problems with military chaplains – most of whom thought I was either playing in a “fantasy” religion or was sidetracked by their devil. How crucial it is to have a pagan military chaplain!!

  • sarenth

    My question is, given the lack of Pagan Chaplains for prison or for military, is how does a person go about becoming one/getting the credentials necessary to be one? Do the qualifications in the case of prisons vary state-by-state or is there a set rule or sets of rules governing this?How are Chaplains chosen/trained/what-have-you in the military, what training is necessary to even begin to apply and how could civilians fulfill the role of chaplain or spiritual guide to troops who do not have a chaplain of their faith?

  • Tomb

    I want to be a Pagan Chaplain but I just don’t know how…

  • IX

    Seeing the other comment about the Air Force… Maybe that’s that place to start.I am still in the Air Force myself, and I’ve had experience with the Chaplains… Their attitude has always been, (quoting one here) “I don’t care if you’re a member of the God-Squad. If you have a problem, we’re some one you can talk to.”The problem with military chaplain program is all the hoops you have to jump through to get it and the dependency on regulatory groups that are recognized by the military. Probably, one’s best bet is to be a Unitarian chaplain (only one in the Army as far as I know) and try to foster a healthy CUUPs program.

  • Mike

    As long as the xian monopoly is in place in the Pentagon, there aren’t going to be any Wiccan chaplains. We were bouncing this idea around ten years ago.

  • Phoniex Windchild

    luckly for me my chaplin holds a degree in Gardenarian. I really haven't had any problems. Other soldiers have questioned me about my faith, but only in earnest.