Chaplain's Column: Disasters, Derelicts and Dirtbags

Since pastors are extremely holy people and well-trained in making formal prayers at special events, it makes perfect sense that they should not be a part of the regular activities on the street. I mean, for last rites, it might be an option to call...


Shit happens.

A woman calls because her drunk boyfriend has come home with "beer muscles" and assaulted her and her child. A motor vehicle accident results in a gruesome decapitation. An eight-year old girl is discovered to be the target of the perversions of a well-respected male in the community--her father, pastor, teacher, or family friend. Three young children burn to death in a preventable house fire. As a law enforcement officer, you have to respond. You had better be ready and able. And you ought to be first rate at what you do. Chaplains ought to be the same with their tasks.

The world in which we live is a crazy place--filled with all kinds of fruits and nuts. And I'm not talking about all of the wonderful cakes to which we have to look forward this time of year. I am continually amazed at the new lows to which people will go as they show their depravity.

Since pastors are extremely holy people and well-trained in making formal prayers at special events, it makes perfect sense that they should not be a part of the regular activities on the street. I mean, for last rites, it might be an option to call one in. They are neatly dressed and would blush at the thought of someone having a spit cup in the car. For an investigation centered around crime scenes with pentagrams and miscellaneous other religious ritual paraphernalia, call in the religious experts. Call in the pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, theologians, and local university scholars. Makes sense, right? Right.

So why in the world have a "chaplain" along? My intention isn't to ride the coattails of previous columns here at Officer.com, but to continue to help us all--LEOs and chaplains--continue in helpful dialogue that moves us forward in providing practical services. We don't want to be in the way. We (at least I hope) are not here because we are "wannabes" anymore than particularly religious LEOs who want to help the chaplain are "wannabe" chaplains or pastors. Okay, okay--so we have all had struggles in these areas and seen the nightmare Christian cop or chaplain, but with today's great networks, the role, training, and expectations of well-trained, dedicated, properly motivated chaplains is continually evolving. And it is helping.

I think I speak for the majority of chaplains when I indicate that we don't want those super-refined, extremely eloquent, hyper-polished preachers/administrators/evangelists on the street, either--unless he or she is a chaplain. The drum I continue to bang has been banged by our excellent forerunners and current fellow chaplains for a long time: pastor/rabbi/imam/priest does NOT equal "chaplain. "

Many of us have heard the horror stories of pastors who deem themselves "chaplains" in the event of particularly difficult incidents or tragedies. I am not questioning their motives in all cases. They may mean well. But so did Hitler.

I remember well the stories of Oklahoma City and 9-11 responders and others sharing of unusually harmful statements and demeanors shared by chaplains in the aftermath. Until I found myself in the thick of the response to public safety personnel on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in the aftermath of Katrina, I thought that they were lies at worst and exaggerations at best. Then reality set in.

On two different occasions, I learned of chaplains offering their services by sharing that this entire catastrophe was an easily readable necessary outcome of the construction of casinos on the coast and the degradation of morality in New Orleans. Now I am not interested in discussing the truth of such biblio-theological statements, but I am interested in setting the record straight: such statements would never come from a properly trained, selflessly motivated, others-oriented chaplain. Call the person what you will who makes such statements, but please don't use the term "chaplain."

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