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Public Lecture: “The Military Chaplain: An Inherently Ambiguous Role”

The Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney invites you to attend a public lecture.

The military chaplain: An inherently ambiguous role

Speaker: Professor Grace Davie, University of Exeter

Date:  25 March, 2015

Time:  1.30pm – 3.00pm

Venue: UWS Bankstown Campus, Building 23, Room G.40

RSVP: by 16 March, 2015 (for catering purposes)

This is an open and free event.

This lecture explores the inherent ambiguity in the role of the military chaplain. It will do this in three ways. The first relates to the extent of religiousness among those serving in World War One, a discussion that reflects in turn broader and at times conflicting narratives about the process of secularization and the place of war in this. The second considers the role of the chaplain in terms of the two institutions which he or she serves. As David Martin writes: the military chaplain is ‘doubly commissioned by Church and State’ (1997:149). It follows that the ‘angle of eschatological tension’ in which a chaplain stands is particularly sharp. There is an inevitable friction between total obedience to the military and proper obedience to God. This is related to a third point: the tension between the pastoral and prophetic role. Chaplains are there to serve people in the circumstances in which they are caught up, including armed conflict. Few would dispute this. The question of ‘morale’ (itself related to ‘moral’) is rather more intractable. If chaplains are enjoined or feel called to sustain morale, are they effectively participating in the military effort – in the sense that they are enhancing the capacity of a unit that sooner or later will be involved in the use of lethal force?