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

Tag Archives: Military

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation — Sermon by Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on May 25th, 2014 As both a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and as a Reserve Military Chaplain, I have conducted over a dozen military funerals    and memorial services. They were all for veterans of WWII, of Korea, and of Vietnam… I’ve never been called upon to lead a memorial Read more →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

To Live Like Jesus

Last week and this week, I have been attending some military chaplaincy training in San Antonio Texas, as a part of my continuing education as both a UU Minister and an Army Reserve Chaplain.  The first week was a wonderful course, put on by the Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker and 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 3: A Tale of Two GA’s…

I remember my first General Assembly many moons ago.  I was so excited for the opportunity for all the workshops I could ever dream of on every aspect of church life, of theology, and of our ecclesiological history.  I packed each moment full of engaging panel discussions, of plenary sessions, 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 →

General Assembly Day 1: Unitarian Universalists of the Holy Spirit

As I sat in the second row, center aisle of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 General Assembly of the UUA, next to my military chaplain colleagues, what struck me most about the service was how many times the word “Spirit” came into the ceremony/celebration/worship service.  By the time I Read more →

Blogging the UUA General Assembly

As I did last year, I once again intend to write an article here at Celestial Lands for each day of the General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Sandy and I are here in Charlotte, checked into the hotel suite of rooms we annually share with the Rev. Katie Norris Read more →

A Tribute to the Rev. Barbara Pescan

The following were my words at the Tribute and Celebration of the ministry of Rev. Barbara Pescan, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, on June 4th, 2011… I remember a day at General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale in 2008.  A few weeks after Barbara had sprinkled some pixie dust on 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 →

Staycation and Mr. Bean

This week is Candidating Week for the congregation that I am serving as an Interim Minister.  Now, by all indications Candidating Week has gone well, and the congregation will vote tomorrow on whether to call Jeff Liebmann as their new settled minister.  What will be with that will be… and 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 →

The Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how 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 →

Happy Birthday Dad…

This is a repost of an article from each of the last two years. This is a hard time of year for me. I guess we all have these times of the year, where the past experiences of our lives fill up the time we spend living today… times in 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 →

The Journey from Conservative to Liberal

I remember a day in seventh grade when I came home all excited to tell my parents that I had discovered that I was a Liberal. We had been studying the American political system in social studies class, and in our textbook was a little box that showed the typical 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 →

Joy and Sorrow are Woven Fine

There is something about the way congregations come together, to support one another, to grieve with one another, to celebrate with one another, to laugh with one another… often all at the same time… that amazes me. Something in the way a disparate group of people, brought together by belief, 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 →

“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 →

The Torch May Pass From Me

Why I may not be becoming an Army Chaplain anytime soon, and thanks to all of the friends and collegues who have sent us support over the last week or so. Read more →

My Essay on “Why I Want to be an Army Chaplain”

I am currently putting together my packet to accession as a U.S. Army Chaplain, and part of that packet is a 1-page essay titled “Why I want to be a U.S. Army Chaplain”.  Now, the regular denziens of the Celestial Lands can probably guess that what has been difficult has been getting it Read more →

Sermon “Let Us Dare” by David Pyle

I do not often post my sermons directly to the Blog here at Celestial Lands, but something is moving me to share this one here this morning.  Perhaps because I have been so disappointed and depressed over some recent events in American Political History that this sermon, written a year ago, Read more →

You Want to Join the Military? But We’re UU’s!!!

Over the last several years, I have had the privilege to be with several Unitarian Universalist families as they struggled through the complex emotions that arise around a loved one deciding to join the military. Recently, some ministers have even referred such families to me, and I thought it would Read more →

Please put the Government between me and my Health Care!

I have been debating whether or not to talk about this, because in one respect it is a little embarrassing. No one wants to admit that there are times in their lives where they were living not only paycheck to paycheck, but sometimes day to day… and even with that Read more →

No Atheists in Foxholes?

I came across this article reference while reading a 1946 Master’s thesis on the effect War has on religious and moral beliefs, and I fell in love. The Power of this tendency to create myths has recently been demonstrated in the famous assurance that “there are no atheists in foxholes”. Read more →

My Reticence to Support UU Congregational Outreach to Veterans

Every few weeks I get an email or a call from someone in leadership of one of our Unitarian Universalist congregations asking how they can set up an outreach program to military veterans, servicemembers, and families. For a long while, I would send them the information I have on the Read more →

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