Posts Tagged ‘War Zone Faith’

George Tyger’s War Zone Faith

May 27, 2013

The Rev. George Tyger was my minister at First Universalist Church here in Rochester, NY, before he enlisted as a U.S. Army chaplain.  He has written War Zone Faith, a book of reflections based on his two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

WarZoneFaithWar Zone Faith is not a book that glorifies war and killing, but neither is it a book that depicts American troops as victims.  It is about courage, comradeship and loss.  Tyger depicts combat as an extreme form of the human condition, of having to do your best under circumstances not of your choosing.

Unlike him, I have come to think that U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan was a terrible mistake, but like him, I have a high regard for people who serve in the U.S. military.   There are those who enlist in the military out of economic necessity, but there are those, some overlapping with the first group, who want to do something for the good of their country.   There are military families, who generation after generation.

And if willingness to serve is used for unworthy purposes, that is not the fault of those who serve.  They do not send themselves into war zones overseas.   They are sent by the President and Congress, who cannot act without the consent of we, the people.  If our policy is a mistake, the responsibility lies with the citizenry, not the troops.

We Unitarian Universalists like to say that we respect human diversity, but the U.S. military has greater diversity than any other American institution I can think of.  American troops are of all races, all ethnicities, all religions, all social and economic classes, all kinds of family backgrounds.

Rev. George Tyger

Rev. George Tyger

In recent years United States military chaplains have come to be disproportionately from fundamentalist Protestant backgrounds.  Andrew Bachevich, in The New American Militarism, said this dates from the 1970s when many of the mainstream American denominations turned away from the U.S. military because of their opposition to intervention in Vietnam.   The religious conservatives were the main ones that still honored the military.  At the same time, Bachevich noted, the strict, fundamentalist type of Christianity was well-suited to counteract the drug abuse and all the other military discipline problems of that era.

At the same time, conservative Christianity has certain limitations.  Chaplains are supposed to represent their own faiths, but serve everyone.  But if a chaplain thinks that someone of my religious belief is going to hell, I don’t see how I can confide in that chaplain.  That is why a chaplain of the eclectic Unitarian Universalist faith, which looks for the good in all religions, might be able to serve men and women of any and all religions.

I originally was in favor of the invasion of Afghanistan.  I thought the United States was justified in invading a nation whose government harbored the terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.   And I thought the result of the invasion would be to liberate Afghanistan from the rule of cruel religious fanatics.   George Tyger still thinks that, and I don’t, but I thinks his choice is an honorable one.  George Tyger, thank you for your service.

Click on UU minister joins Army as a chaplain for a 2008 article in UU World about George Tyger’s enlistment.

Click on Meaning in the Midst of War for an excerpt from Tyger’s book.

Click on Things That Go Boom in the Night for Tyger’s reflections on returning home from Afghanistan.