Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Buddhist chaplain is Army first

Text: Bob Smietana, The (Nashville) Tennessean

When Thomas Dyer heads to Afghanistan in December, the former Marine and one-time Southern Baptist pastor won't take a rifle with him. He won't take a Bible, either. Instead, Dyer, a Tennessean National Guardsman from Memphis and the first Buddhist chaplain in the history of the U.S. Army, hopes to bring serenity and calm, honed by months of intensive meditation.

That preparation, he says, will help him bring spiritual care in the midst of a war zone. "We're going to put it to the test," Dyer said. Dyer's deployment is another step in the U.S. military's attempt to meet the diverse spiritual needs of America's fighting forces. It's no easy task.

For one thing, the military chaplaincy is facing all the complications that have affected American religion over the past 40 years. The decline of mainline Protestants and their aging clergy. The ongoing Catholic priest shortage. The explosion of religious diversity. The emergence of people with no faith. The ease with which people move from one faith to another. More>>