Christianity in the Military: Are Chaplains Becoming Increasingly Fundamentalist?
The evangelical transformation of the military began during the cold war, in a new American Great Awakening that has only accelerated across the decades, making the United States one of the most religious nations in the world. We are also among the most religiously diverse, but as the number of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and adherents of hundreds of other traditions has grown, American evangelicalism has become more entrenched, tightening its hold on the institutions that conservative evangelicals consider most American — that is, Christian.
“It was Vietnam which really turned the tide,” writes Anne C. Loveland, author of the only book-length study of the evangelical wave within the armed forces, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 1942-1993. Until the Vietnam War, it was the traditionally moderate mainline Protestant denominations (Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians), together with the Catholic Church, that dominated the religious life of the military. But as leading clergymen in these denominations spoke out against the war, evangelicals who saw the struggle in Vietnam as God’s task rushed in. In 1966, Billy Graham used the pulpit of the Presidential Prayer Breakfast to preach a warrior Christ to lead the troops in Vietnam: “I am come to send fire on the earth!” he quoted Christ. “Think not that I am come to send peace but a sword!”