In a 2011 article titled "Military chaplains are faith mismatch for personnel they serve," the St. Louis Post Dispatch noted: "While just 3 percent of the military's enlisted personnel and officers call themselves Southern Baptist, Pentecostal or a member of a denomination that's part of the National Association of Evangelicals, 33 percent of chaplains in the military are members of one of those groups." The article further predicted that this "disparity could soon widen." And widen it has.
Several months ago, I wrote about an event hosted by the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), a coalition of fundamentalist Christian military chaplain endorsers. (Chaplain endorsers, formally called "Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agents," are the individuals who represent their religion or religious denomination to certify to the military that a chaplain of their religion or denomination meets the educational and other qualifications required to be a military chaplain. Without an endorsement from a government-approved chaplain endorser, a chaplain cannot serve in the military.) My reason for writing about that particular CARL event was to explain why the Air Force's chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Dondi Costin, was in violation of military regulations not only for attending this private organization's event in uniform, but actually participating in it and literally blessing the virulently anti-LGBT message of CARL and its member endorsers by delivering the event's closing benediction.
As I wrote in my previous piece, CARL was clearly formed for the specific purpose of opposing the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), and has continued to lobby against and attempt to undermine the rights gained by LGBT service members since the repeal.
The very first act of this organization, before it was even formally an organization, was a September 2010 letter to President Obama and then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arguing that "normalizing homosexual behavior" in the military would have all sorts of dire consequences for both chaplains and other service members. CARL's next big cause, after efforts to stop the repeal of DADT failed, was to oppose the "sanctioning and normalizing the use of base chapels for same-sex unions," arguing in a May 2011 letter to the chiefs of chaplains of all military branches that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was still the law of the land, and should still "apply to Federal military facilities, particularly base chapels." CARL reaffirmed its commitment to denying same-sex couples the right to get married in military chapels in an October 2011 press release, in which the organization's executive director, Ron Crews, said: "By dishonestly sanctioning the use of federal facilities for 'marriage counterfeits' that federal law and the vast majority of Americans have rejected, the Pentagon has launched a direct assault on the fundamental unit of society - husband and wife." Then there was the outrage over the DoD extending benefits to same-sex partners of military members, the Supreme Court's 2013 striking down of a key part of DOMA, and most recently the lifting of the ban on transgender service members serving openly in the military. In order for an endorsing agent to belong to CARL, they must subscribe to CARL's "Purpose Statement," which includes its purpose of "exposing the rising tide of threats to religious liberty," one of which is "the inherent dangers and destructive effects of providing official approval of and protection for deviant lifestyles and behaviors which Scripture and orthodox Christian tradition and teaching condemn."
But something else struck me as I was writing that piece. At the bottom of all of CARL's letters and press releases is a statement saying that CARL's member endorsing agents "speak for more than 2,600 chaplains serving the Armed Forces." The organization also often touts the fact that these 2,600 chaplains make up more than half of all chaplains in the military (which currently number just over 5,000, including Reserve and National Guard). In reality, this incessant boasting by CARL that its member endorsing agents represent over half of all the chaplains in the military is tantamount to their admitting that the number of virulently anti-LGBT fundamentalist Christian military chaplains is entirely disproportionate to the number of service members who share their fundamentalist Christian and anti-LGBT opinions and beliefs.
While there are about two hundred chaplain endorsers recognized by the government to endorse military chaplains, only about thirty are members of CARL, and yet this minority of about 15% of all chaplain endorsers represents over half of all the military's chaplains?
But wait; it gets worse. We still need to add the many other endorsing agents that are not members of CARL but hold the same fundamentalist beliefs and opinions regarding homosexuality and LGBT rights as CARL. Adding the large number of chaplains endorsed by these other endorsing agents, the number of blatantly anti-LGBT fundamentalist Christian chaplains is probably something closer to three quarters of all military chaplains.
"Bible-Believing" Christians vs. "false teachers"
Everybody is of course aware that there are many different denominations of Christians with varying interpretations of the Bible, but nobody would question that all Christians, whatever their denomination or particular tenets, believe in the Bible, right? Wrong.
According to the hardcore fundamentalists, such as the members of CARL, most Christians are not "Bible-believing" Christians. Only they are. All other people who call themselves Christians are merely "apostates" and "false teachers."
Even according to their own statistics, these "Bible-believing" Christians are a very small minority of all Christians. For example, the website for Focus on the Family's The Truth Project, citing a Barna Research Group study, states that "Only 9 percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview." That's right; only 9 percent. And yet the percentage of chaplains in our military who have this "biblical worldview" that qualifies them as bonafide "Bible-believing" Christians is over 50 percent if you only count those endorsed by CARL members, and, as already explained, is probably closer to 75% when you add the numerous other chaplains endorsed by the rest of the "Bible-believing" endorsing agents who aren't CARL members.
So, what exactly do they mean by "Bible-believing" Christians? Well, let's get the explanation straight from a chaplain whose endorsing agent is a CARL member.
Captain Sonny Hernandez is an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Hernandez is endorsed by the CARL member Associated Gospel Churches (AGC). He is also the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a church whose "Street Preaching Ministry" targets not only gay pride events and abortion clinics, but also Catholic events. One of Chaplain Hernandez's online outlets for his outrageously homophobic, extremist fundamentalist Christian "teachings" has been the "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog -- the blog of former fighter pilot and current paper pusher, Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Dowty.
In a September 2016 post titled "Bible-Believing Military Chaplains Wanted," Chaplain Hernandez offered much advice to service members, warning them to make sure that their chaplain is of the "Bible-Believing" variety:
"It is important to note that not all military chaplains that profess to represent Christ are ambassadors, as some are apostates. Just because Christian chaplains wear cross insignias, reference Scripture, and are amicable, it does not mean that they are regenerate, born again Christians. The Devil quoted Scripture (Matthew 4:6) and masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), which is why Christ warned:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. - Matthew 7:15
Hernandez even provided a handy list of questions that a service member should ask their chaplain to ensure that they "are not led away by false doctrines":
"Bible-believing military chaplains should never abjure their responsibility to be watchmen (Ezekiel 33:6-7), which is why they must instruct the service men and women they serve to ask a lot of questions to the chaplains they currently serve with, or one day will encounter, so they are not led away by false doctrines (Ephesians 4:17). Here are sample questions that service men and women can ask their chaplains to see if they speak for Christ (John 6:44), or someone else (John 8:44):
"1. Do you believe the Bible is sufficient, infallible, and inerrant (2 Timothy 3:16-17)? (Special note: if the Bible is not their authority, then they are not born again Christians, because they have nothing to measure their Christianity upon).
"2. What ecclesiastical endorsing agency do you serve (Joshua 24:15)? (Special note: you need to research ecclesiastical endorsing agencies, as there are some that actually approve and endorse homosexual chaplains to serve, despite the fact that Scripture condemns this practice. The Presbyterian Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America are a few examples).
"3. Do you believe homosexuality is a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)? (Special note: a person can be gay, or they can be a Christian. However, they cannot be a gay Christian, because no such things exist. Unless a homosexual man or woman becomes born again, they can never see the kingdom of God (John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 6:11).)
"4. How do you define the word love? (Special note: always remember that many homosexual advocates love to pervert the word love, as they define love as tolerance to sin, and call it good (Isaiah 5:20-21). The biblical definition of love is about obedience to the commandments of Christ (2 John 6), not our conceits, and rejoices not in iniquity but in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Most importantly, true love is about sacrifice, as Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), to make them new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)."
Hernandez's opinion that "a person can be gay, or they can be a Christian" but "they cannot be a gay Christian, because no such things exist" would obviously be disagreed with by the many LGBT-affirming Christian denominations and their members. Among the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's 952 LGBT clients, 645 identify as Christians.
Their remedy to combat the moral decadence of LGBT service members? Get even more of these "Bible-Believing" chaplains into the military!
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which is one of the "Bible-Believing" denominations that is not a member of CARL, endorses over 1,400 military chaplains through the North American Mission Board (NAMB). As noted in the 2011 St. Louis Post Dispatch article cited at the top of this piece, the SBC is one of the most outrageously disproportionately represented denominations in the military chaplaincy. How big is this disparity? Well, while SBC chaplains make up about 28% of the chaplaincy, less than 1% of active duty service members identify as Southern Baptist. But this already completely disproportionate 28:1 ratio apparently isn't enough for the SBC. In response to the repeal of DADT, the NAMB sent out a "Chaplaincy Update" to all SBC chaplains telling them that they did not intend to withdraw their chaplains, but that their intent was to send even more of them.
On a mission to save the gays from their "satanic snare"
Some of CARL's member chaplain endorsers and their denominations have merely put out the following statement saying that they believe that marriage is only between one man and one woman:
"Since God created mankind into genders distinctly male and female, we believe that the only legitimate marriage is that between a man and a woman. He has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of marriage. We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful perversions of God's gift of sex. We believe that God rejects any attempt to alter one's gender by surgery or appearance."
But many have gone further, writing position papers and passing resolutions.
The United Pentecostal Church International, for example, passed the following resolution to "go on public record as absolutely opposed to homosexuality and condemn it as a moral decadence and sin," calling LGBT people "those enslaved by that satanic snare":
"Inasmuch as some segments of liberal Christianity have expressed a willingness to accept the so-called "gay rights" movement as a legitimate lifestyle, and
"Whereas the inerrant, inspired Word of God emphatically declares, in Romans chapter I, homosexuality to be vile, unclean, unnatural, unseemly, and an abomination in the sight of God, and
"Whereas the United Pentecostal Church International is a fundamental Bible-believing organism entrusted with a divine destiny to provide spiritual direction to a wayward world,
"Let us therefore resolve that the United Pentecostal Church International go on public record as absolutely opposed to homosexuality and condemn it as a moral decadence and sin, and do hereby encourage prayer for the deliverance of those enslaved by that satanic snare."
Other statements from CARL members and their denominations include the expected homophobic language, making frequent use of words like "perversion" and "detestable."
There's this one is from the Regular Baptist Churches:
"Perversion is the alteration of something from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion of what was first intended. The sad truth is that all of us are sinners, and all of us have sexual desires that have been bent, twisted, and perverted from God's original plan. You see, sexual desires do not define us. Our created identity defines, limits, and regulates our sexuality. Any desire to fulfill our sexuality outside of the confines of our created identity -- monogamous marriage between man and woman -- is perversion."
And this one from The Christian and Missionary Alliance:
"Homosexual conduct is declared to be detestable because it is out of harmony with the purpose for which God created human beings."
There are also ones with reparative ministries, such as the Missouri Synod Lutherans (not to be confused with the ECLA Lutherans, which is an LGBT-affirming denomination), and quite a few that not only want to save the gays, but whose ministries seek to help the unfortunate family members of those who are caught in this satanic snare, like the Evangelical Free Church of America, which states:
"We in the Church must seek ways to minister to and support those among us who struggle with same-sex attractions, and those who have family members or others close to them who identify as LGBT."
While the views of chaplains like Sonny Hernandez supposedly don't represent the views of the Department of Defense, as the meaningless disclaimer on his homophobic blog posts states, they clearly do represent the views of an entirely disproportionate majority of our military's chaplains. Is there nothing that the Department of Defense can do to remedy this perversion of the chaplaincy, or will it become even more perverted under the incoming administration?