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Episcopal philosopher suggests it is immoral to pray for our troops

Okay, I am seeing red and feeling like a mama bear. Through a series of links I found myself on the official web site of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA). Their online newsletter features this article:

Reflections on praying for our armed forces
By David Chandler, August 14, 2007
[Episcopal Life] The Book of Common Prayer has a familiar prayer that likely we have all prayed. It is titled "For those in the Armed Forces of our Country," and is on p. 823:

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I confess that I struggle praying this prayer, on moral and theological grounds. Morally, it seems to me that any realistic assessment of praying for our troops necessarily entails a prayer that sooner or later those who are against our troops will be injured or killed. Morally, I have become my enemy in such a situation. I have adopted their morality. This is simply wrong, not an option. Put another way, as a Kantian in ethics, I must treat the enemy as an end in herself or himself, never merely as a means. To me that means they are of absolute value, regardless of any danger they may pose to me or my cause.

Dr. Chandler apparently thinks it is immoral to pray for the safety of our troops in harm’s way. As the wife of an Air Force pilot and the mother of a soon-to-be Army officer, I can tell you this makes my blood boil. I would love nothing better than for everyone to lay down their weapons and live in peace. However, as long as our troops are threatened I will be on my knees praying. How dare this man suggest that those who pray for the troops have sunk to the level of their foes! American troops are not out for military conquest. They are trying to help a nation establish freedom and security. It has been an imperfect operation, but all such undertakings are fraught with miscalculations. Our troops do not wantonly initiate violence. They respond to those who violently threaten and undermine the mission.

I agree we should pray for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and for the conversion of those who seek to obstruct the establishment of democratic peaceful governments. However, I find no moral dilemma in praying for the safety of our troops and the success of their missions. I am very happy to say that our parish dedicates one of our Friday Holy Hours every month to pray for our Armed Forces. I am very sorry that the Episcopal Church chooses to highlight a point of view that discourages such prayers.


Anonymous said…
Strange they don't pray for the troops! thanks for letting us know..
Barb, sfo said…
I thought that the prayer itself was beautiful, and there's nothing in it like, "Help them to kill as many of their enemies as possible, in as many horrible ways as possible."
Obviously this man forgets that not only will some of "those who are against our troops" be injured or killed, but so will some of our troops. EVERYONE is of absolute value. That means the troops too!
Michelle said…
Yes, he is using faulty logic in saying that to pray for the safety of PVT Joe Snuffy necessarily means that you wish ill upon enemy soldiers. It's not a net sum gain of safety.

It's like saying you can't pray that your husband is safe on the highway to work because the only way he could be safe is if someone else gets into a car accident. Obviously, everyone can be safe on the roads and everyone can be safe in Iraq or Afghanistan.
mallys said…
I'm with you...praying for them.
Ebeth said…
Well, the Church teaches that there is truth found in other "churches", but I think we can safely say that there nonscence can overshadow much of that truth!!

Praying for all military here!
episcopollyanna said…
He makes an illogical argument, IMO. Well, that's just being generous (rolling eyes). I'm embarrassed as an Episcopalian that the ECUSA even ran that article on their page, to be honest. And we pray that prayer all the time in our parish, by the way, with great fervor.
Catholic Mom said…

I think the fact that ECUSA ran the article bothers me at least as much as the professor's words. I am sure I can find Roman Catholics who will stand shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Chandler and his ideas. It just hurts that a national church body would give credence to such positions by publishing them in their national publication.
episcopollyanna said…
I can't believe they ran it! I'm trying to compose a response to them that doesn't make me sound like a shrieking harridan. (I think I should wait a few hours - maybe a day.) It's shameful! I completely agree with you.

I think it's a lovely prayer and I am praying for all the members of the armed forces.
wow, I am hurt. I am an Army brat and My husband has been in Iraq a little over a year. (he comes nome in 22 days) I will always pray for our troops. Oh I love you blog by the way!
Crusader Coyote said…
Sheesh! I come from a long line of soldiers, and although I myself am not one, I do work for the Army. My roommate was raised by Marines and a mutual friend was in the Navy. These are our friends and family, and we should pray for their safety -- and for the Afghan and Iraqi people as well!

I am happy to say that even the relatively liberal parish I go to includes our troops in the intentions on Sunday.

St. George and St. Michael, pray for us all!

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