Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Category Archives: Military

“Letter from Col. Dubois” by Robert Heinlein

The following is a reading from a fictional story. It is a part of a letter that an old teacher and retired Infantry Colonel sent to a young recruit who had once been his student. The story was written by Robert Heinlein. “You are now going through the hardest part Read more →

“A Veteran’s Prayer in Time of War” by the Rev. Marie E. deYoung

On this somber day, Spirit of Life, Teach us how to honor our veterans of war. Teach us how to care for those who bear arms to protect our lives. Teach us how to reverence those who sacrifice their dreams to secure freedom for unknown peoples. Teach us how to Read more →

“A Prayer for Memorial Day” by David Pyle

Spirit of Life, To you we consecrate our silent tears, For the memory of all of those who have fallen in war, For the lives of families broken by loss, For the spirits of those who live with the memories every day, For the loss of our innocence. Spirit of Read more →

“A Soldier’s Christmas” by Michael Marks

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight; My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter beside me, angelic in rest. Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white, Transforming the yard to a winter delight; Read more →

“Shifty” by Chuck Yeager

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you’ve seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is Read more →

George Amoitte

“A Warrior loves life so much that they would give their own life in defending it.”

Clara Barton

“I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.”

John Adams

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, Read more →

Douglas MacArthur

“I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.”

Dwight Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its Read more →

Thich Nhat Hanh

“We may think of peace as the absence of war, that if the great powers would reduce their weapons arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we will see our own minds – our own prejudices, fears, and ignorance.”

Creating the “End Times” in Religion and in Politics

Today, I read an email from the leader of a right-wing Patriot group, known as “Oath Keepers” that the group was planning to “go operational”.   I’ve paid attention to “Oath Keepers” for some time, because of their interpretation of the Oath of a Federal Officer that I have also taken… the Read more →

My Hobby

Do you know someone who has a passionate love of fishing?  Or perhaps golf?  Maybe amateur motorcycle racing? Or sailing?  You know the kind of person I mean… the person who has a “hobby” that they are so passionate about that it encompasses much of their soul?  The fisherman who Read more →

Give Them Not Hell — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on December 30th, 2012 Reading        excerpt from “Bring them Hope, Not Hell” by Carl G. Seaburg This reading is from the essay “Give them Hope, Not Hell” by Rev. Carl G. Seaburg, in the book, “Salted with Fire: Unitarian Universalist Strategies for Sharing Faith and Growing Congregations”.  “Although Read more →

War Changes Us All

(Part 1 of Sermon “Trauma and Transformation” with the Rev. Jan Christian at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura on Sunday, November 11th, 2012) When I came home from Bosnia, a VA psychologist gave me two books to read… books that have since become part of what I think of Read more →

Silent Tears — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on May 27th, 2012 I was seven years old the only time I ever saw my father cry. I did not understand it, and though it scared me, I knew somehow that his tears were sacred. The tears that fell from his eyes were silent tears, and I Read more →

Beyond Military Borders — Homily at PSWD-UUA District Assembly 2012

I have received multiple requests for copies of the homily that I presented at the UUA Pacific Southwest District Assembly this year, and instead of continuing to email it out, I thought I would publish it here at Celestial Lands.  The task was to reflect on what “Beyond Borders” meant Read more →

Beyond Borders — PSWD District Assembly — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on April 28th, 2012   One of my first forays into District lay-leadership after I became a Unitarian Universalist was to an event celebrating the kickoff of a campaign of billboards and radio advertisements for Unitarian Universalism, being sponsored by the UU Congregations of the Greater Houston area. Read more →

I’m Sick Unto Death of Hearing about Protecting the Religious Liberty of Military Chaplains

I remember something that my Drill Sergeant said to me, my first day of Basic Training some 20 years ago, when I was an 18 year old private at Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri.  We were all in one of our first formations, and he asked us if any of us Read more →

War, Young Kids, and a Professional Military

Last week, a video surfaced on the internet that shows several young U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.  Immediately, there were calls for an investigation.  World leaders talked of their disgust.  U.S. Military leaders promised that they would get to the bottom of the Read more →

UU Military Chaplains and the Cross

Unitarian Universalists are almost always surprised when they see me wearing the Christian Cross on my Army Chaplain uniform.  Perhaps they should not be, given the Christian ancestry of our two founding denominations, but they are.  Reactions have ranged from mild curiosity to outrage to some deep pastoral need.  On Read more →

How Can You “Come Home” When You Are Homeless? — 2011 Veteran’s Day Reflection

When I reflect on the few years after “coming home” from Bosnia, the years before some friends and a veteran counselor helped me to “get my head back on straight”, I realize that I had more than my share of luck.  I was lucky to be in a university that Read more →

Is the Constitutionality of Military Chaplaincy in Danger?

This week, I received an email from an organization I track, known as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  It is an organization that advocates both legally and in the media, for the protection of the Free Exercise of Religion in the military, often with more passion than restraint. Yet, over Read more →

Must Not Fear — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on July 17th, 2011   Yogi Berra once said that “The Key is authenticity… once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!”   As I was thinking and feeling about this sermon, I kept coming back to that intentionally funny quote from the baseball legend… no, not Read more →

My Seminary Graduation Gift: A Year with Honor Harrington

I was determined to give myself a gift at the end of 5 years of seminary, church internship, military chaplain basic training, hospital internship and hospice residency… and I did not know what I wanted.  Could I be craving a vacation on a beach in the Caribbean?  Well, always… but Read more →

I’m a Liberal and I’m a Patriot who Loves God… Deal with It!

I think this topic is becoming a regular 4th of July weekend tradition of mine, mainly because I have had it with the idea that unless someone is a Fox News watching, gun toting Tea-Party Republican they are not a “Real American”.  Beyond the fact that such definitions of “Real Read more →

General Assembly Day 2: Lions, Tigers, and Ministerial Authority, Oh My!

One of the things that always amazes me about my time at a General Assembly is how different my experience is depending on what I wear.  Now, for most people this might not be literally true, but it my case it is.  Let’s take the first and second days of Read more →

Soldiers and War Memorials

This Sunday, I preached a “sermon-in-dialog” with Roy Wedge, a member of the UU Fellowship of Midland, a Vietnam era Air Force Veteran, and a singer/songwriter.  Below is the final section of that sermon, written and preached by myself, telling the story of the last time I visited the National Read more →

Osama bin Laden and Unrealistic Hopes

These last few days, I have been on a trip to attend a U.S. Army Chaplains training conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I have been in hotels, airports, and restaurants in my military uniform, sometimes with other Army Chaplains, but often on my own.  For these several days, I have had Read more →

Embedded War — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on March 27th, 2011   Reading    A Collection of Quotes on War “We say we love peace, but it doesn’t excite us. Even pacifists talk more about the horrors of war than about the glories of peace.”– Jerry Pournelle, from the novel “West of Honor”, said by the Read more →

Is Libya a “Growing-Up Moment” for the United States?

For all our power in the world, the United States is still a very young nation. Unlike the modern states in Europe, in Asia, and in the Middle East, we do not stand upon thousands of years of history in the location where our nation is. Because of our youth Read more →

Why Even Good Militaries Do Not Make Good Governments

Hidden amidst all the celebration and joy these last 24 hours in Egypt, and in those who support democratic movements around the world, is a piece that seems to have been lost… and that is that, contrary to the Egyptian Constitution, President Mubarak ceded power not to the leader of Read more →

A “Real” Chaplain

The next person who even hints to me that, because I am a reservist I am not a “real” military chaplain, I might just scream at them. Fair warning. I’ve been somewhat defensive about this for awhile, and quite frankly I’ve moved beyond defensive to feeling darned angry. I’m not Read more →

Gun Control, Militias, and the Second Amendment

I have chosen never to carry or use a firearm ever again. I made that choice not because of a fundamentalist attitude toward guns, but rather because I am entirely too good with them. I reached a place in my faith journey where I realized that I would rather die Read more →

Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq

This is a repost of an Article from last year. Today makes it four years since my friend Travis was killed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. I wear his memory bracelet through November and December. Rest in Peace, Trav. On December 6th, 2006, a friend, military partner, former Read more →

Decline, Denial, and an 8K Ruck March

This weekend was a military drill / Battle Assembly for me, and it taught me something… that I’m not as young as I once was. Nor am I as young as I would like to be. Nor am I as young as I like to think I am. I was Read more →

They Just Fade Away — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached November 14th, 2010 Two and a half years ago, I had the honor and privilege to attend the retirement ceremony of the senior military chaplain of our Unitarian Universalist faith, Chaplain Colonel, the Reverend Vernon Chandler. After over 32 years as a military Chaplain, with time in Bosnia, Read more →

“Government-Paid Missionaries for Christ”

Recently I received a letter from a fellow Unitarian Universalist who is very concerned by incidents and attitudes he perceives among some military chaplains, where they seem to understand themselves as “government-paid missionaries for Christ”. The letter details some of his own research into the issue of some chaplains who Read more →

Generations of Veterans

Our common conception of how Veterans share a the same experinece of combat is belied by the way that combat actions and environments have evolved over the last 70 years. There is no generalized understanding of what a Veteran is. Read more →

Military Chaplaincy, Congregational Ministry, and a Year of Discernment

I’ve written before about liminality, and about living in liminal spaces. To live in a liminal space is to live without certainty… to live without knowing what the outcomes of life will be, and to allow that creative not-knowing to develop new patterns and new possibilities. We humans are not Read more →

Civilian Control and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue

As a military chaplain, the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” does not apply directly to how I relate to soldiers. Any soldier can tell me anything in confidence, and I am bound by a level of confidentiality that is equivalent to the seal of the Catholic Confessional. In Read more →

A Salute to Chaplain Dale Goetz, KIA

It has happened many times, where a fellow UU or a ministerial colleague takes me aside and asks me if this military chaplaincy “thing” is really something I want to do. When I explore it with them, where their anxiety is coming from, it almost always centers around their concern Read more →

Customized Military ID Tags

I was reading through the stories on Military.com this evening, and came across a story on the young soldier, now facing a court martial, who leaked classified information to Wikileaks.com. The story made me sad in so many ways… sad that this young man felt he had to do this, Read more →

Moving out of Liminality, and Into New Ministries

As I move out of my space of liminality and into the ministries I will carry in the coming year, the expeirence of intentional creative not-knowing has been incredible. Read more →

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