A Nonprophetic Ministry

'Military Chaplains and Religious Diversity'

Kim Philip Hansen
Palgrave MacMillan, $85, 252 pp.

Kim Hansen’s ethnography of chaplains in the U.S. military opens with a memo, sent to the chief of chaplains, explaining the Muslim holiday of Eid, the festival of fast-breaking at the end of Ramadan. The memo provides the relevant dates, suggests ways to accommodate Muslims as they prepare to celebrate, and concludes that “as in the past, a liberal leave policy is recommended.” The details are mundane; what is remarkable is the date of the memo—six weeks after September 11, 2001. “While radical Muslims were claiming that America was at war with Islam and right-wing Christians were arguing that we should be,” Hansen writes, “the military chaplaincy was quietly demonstrating the truth of the matter: that the United States is a nation deeply committed to religious freedom for everyone.”

This study collects over thirty interviews conducted with primarily Navy chaplains in the Southwest. Though its reach is limited by this regionalism, and by the small number of interviews, Hansen manages to include a diverse collection of denominational and religious affiliations, and to explore some of the most compelling conundrums...

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About the Author

Melissa M. Matthes teaches in the Government/Humanities Department of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.