Friday, January 19, 2007

What does it mean to be a UU who serves in the military?

Just as there are many different ways in which all Unitarian Universalists find connection to our liberal religious faith, there are also many different reasons why some UU's find their vocation in the Military. These are a few of the more common answers to this question.

For some UU's the experiences they have had while serving in the military are what has brought them to their Unitarian Universalist faith. Serving overseas with the military will often bring someone face to face with war, with human rights abuses, with hatred, with poverty, and with the responsibility that we have to the rest of the world. For these military UU's, service in the military not only is the basis of their liberal faith, but can also be how they live their faith, by working through the military to address some of these global social concerns.

Some UU's who serve in the military find in that service an expression of the separation of Church and State, a touchstone of liberal religious faith. For these UU's their religious life is separate from their military career, and in doing so they are able to be ethical presences within the military in a way that maintains the essential authenticity they need in both their religious faith as well as in their military service.

Some military UU's find the motivation for their service in the belief that the military needs the diversity of liberal religious voices from many traditions, Unitarian Universalism among them. Without such voices, the military will find it difficult to live up to the standards of religious pluralism that is written into military policy and regulations. The only answer to the perception of the increase of conservative religious views within the military is for liberal religionists to be willing to serve.

There are many other reasons that a Unitarian Universalist might find their vocation in the military: they might have a family tradition of such service, they might have chosen to serve for the economic or education benefits, they might have chosen to serve because being a liberal and being a patriot can still be the same thing. For whatever the reason, many UU's find their life's vocation within the ranks of the Military, and UU Military Ministries is dedicated to supporting them on their religious path.

But, beyond those who serve on active duty or in the reserves, there are also many UU families who have military members serving, be they spouses, parents, or children. These families need support as well, especially in this time of war. Also, there are many more veterans in our congregations than might first be apparent, partially because it may not always be apparent to our UU Military Veterans that their military service is accepted within our congregations. In truth, we should be seeking to learn from the experience of these military veteran UU's in our congregations, while at the same time realizing that many of these veterans still carry spiritual and physical wounds from their time in military service. Our congregations need to learn to better minister to these veterans.

The next twenty years will see a spiritual crisis in the lives of the men and women serving in the current combat operations around the world, and Unitarian Universalism can present a healing message of love, community, and transformation in their lives and the lives of their families. Many UU's with experience in the military may find their call to ministry (ordained or not) in helping to minister to those returning from our current wars. If we are to address this need, Unitarian Universalism needs to turn to our veterans and equip them for this ministry.

These, among others, are some of the reasons for the importance of Unitarian Universlist Military ministries. If you are a serving military member, a veteran, or a spouse, then perhaps you would like to connect to other UU's in the military at . If your congregation would like to start a military ministry, or already have one, please contact UUMM at .

There is one other reason that some UU's serve in the military, including myself. And that is love. Not love of war, but of those women and men who choose to stand between their beloved homes and the desolation and hell that is war. That is my call to military ministry.

Yours in faith,

David Pyle
2LT, USAR Chaplaincy Candidate

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