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Moral engagements: morality, mission and military chaplaincy

Todd, Andrew and Butler, Colin 2013. Moral engagements: morality, mission and military chaplaincy. Todd, Andrew, ed. Military chaplaincy in contention: Chaplains, churches, and the morality of conflict, Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology, Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 151-168.

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This chapter offers a critical overview of the distinctive moral role of British military chaplains, in order to understand how this is an aspect of their ‘mission’. It addresses chaplains’ own discourse relating to their multi-dimensional moral role, drawing on new evidence from a British Academy sponsored research project. In particular the paper investigates how chaplains’ construct their role in negotiation with the military discourse of morality and ethos, which forms an essential dimension of the context in which they operate; and in their day-to-day interaction with military personnel. In evaluating this discourse, the chapter identifies how chaplains deploy particular ethical language and/or approaches; and the significance of this contribution to moral debate and practice and the practical ethics of war. Of particular significance will be the distinctive, and often unrecognised, contribution which chaplains make in the military context by working between moral systems from different settings: that of the military, of wider society and of faith communities. The chapter then locates the moral role of the military chaplain within wider frames, offering a new theoretical perspective on the role and its wider significance. Drawing on, and extending, the work of Gadamer and Habermas, it argues that the role is essentially hermeneutic – about interpreting different traditions in relation to each other. This critical role suggests a particular understanding of the ‘mission’ of chaplaincy, that the chaplain is not so much a missionary to the military, as someone responsible for discerning where God is at work within that context. This understanding gives rise to the critical and highly significant question: How is the mission of God (the missio Dei) to be discerned in the midst of armed conflict and the use of lethal force? This question is critical both for chaplains, as they participate in the ‘mission’ of the armed services; and for the churches who sponsor chaplains, and whose members serve as military personnel alongside them. The chapter argues that the question demands a positive engagement with the moral purpose of the military from the churches, rather than a more passive, functional pacifism which is currently more prevalent.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
J Political Science > JZ International relations
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Publisher: Ashgate
ISBN: 9781409431589
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Last Modified: 06 Feb 2022 11:23

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