Safe Place in a War Zone

This episode of ‘Humankind on Public Radio’ is part of a special series, ‘The Spiritual Care Podcast’. For more episodes exploring the role of spiritual caregivers helping those in need, look for ‘The Spiritual Care Podcast’ on your preferred podcast platform.

Rev. Chris Antal, a Unitarian Universalist minister in the town of Rock Tavern, New York, was drawn to service in response to the attacks of 9/11. He entered military chaplaincy partially as a way to help soldiers who are prone to harming themselves in the wake of war. He also wanted to bring a “liberal voice into a very conservative chaplaincy,” consistent with the commitment of his tradition of acceptance for people representing different faiths and sexual orientation backgrounds.

In this profile, Rev. Antal explores how he was drawn to faith-based engagement with indigenous religious leaders, where he was stationed at Kandahar Air Base.  “I was uniquely equipped to engage in interfaith dialogue” with Muslims. But what’s it like to be a spiritual presence in a war zone? What’s the duty to honor the lives of human beings who die in war, whether from your side or the “enemy”? Rev. Antal grew disenchanted with the U.S. military policy of deploying unmanned aircraft (drones), which are often associated with civilian casualties. In 2016, he resigned in protest from his commission as a chaplain in the Army Reserve and, after a Congressional inquiry, received an honorable discharge. We end this episode with an excerpt of Rev. Antal’s moving sermon about modern war.