Just How Many Religions Can Military Chaplains Serve?
by Russell D. Moore
The 1970s television comedy M*A*S*H shaped for a generation of Americans the idea of what a military chaplain ought to be. The character Father Mulcahy was kind, warm, sensitive, and benign. He seemed always ready to offer a listening ear, but was decidedly nonjudgmental, rarely raising a word of protest when those in his charge included an adulterous husband, a woman so promiscuous she bore the nickname “Hot Lips,” or a man willing to cross-dress to get out of military service.
Father Mulcahy wasn’t really all that Catholic, or even all that Christian. He seemed to be more of a Unitarian with a crucifix, the very icon of amorphous, therapeutic civil religion. There was no need for a Billy Graham or Fulton Sheen type, it seemed, because Father Mulcahy was, well, a chaplain.
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Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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