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In the Line of Fire: Military Chaplains on Campus

As an NROTC cadet at the University of Virginia, I wrote a comment on one question in the military science class.

The question (multiple choice, of course) asked if the main concern for a military commander would be to take the objective at any cost.

My remarks were: Objectives do not justify the means whereby they are obtained. Sometimes good objectives can be so corrupted by the means used to achieve them that the objectives are never met.

An example, freedom and equality for all people cannot be obtained by a dictatorship. The Soviet Union is one example of this truth.

I was promptly thrown out of the NROTC scholarship program for insubordination. The captain believed that all members of the military should obey orders without question.

That’s before I came to Duke in 1953.

I am glad to hear that chaplains now have the option to look at military values through the lens of Christian values. I certainly could not do so in the NROTC.

William P. Hall Jr. D’56
Retired Prison Chaplain
Nashville, Tenn.

Don't Rule Out TV

As I sat watching “Thursday Night Must See TV,” I couldn’t help but flip through the latest issue of the Divinity magazine. Grateful not to have another church meeting, I greatly anticipated the next elimination on Survivor and the return of Dr. Kovac on ER. I was struck by the opening article “Caring for the Words.” As a preacher in a small congregation, I carry the weight and magnitude of the weekly sermon. Although preparation for the sermon begins at least by Tuesday morning, the weightiness of the task of bringing the Word of God to the people I serve follows me every minute until delivery on Sunday morning. In the article, a quote from Ellen Davis immediately caught my attention. “Don’t read rot. Any time spent on TV is costing you good reading time, or sleep. Isn’t it better to go to sleep and wake up refreshed?”

Reading is terribly important for the sermon and I do in fact find my preaching enhanced through my reading material, but I challenge Professor Davis that as preachers we should not read rot and spend no time on television.

Back to my Thursday evening activities. I watched a show in which a wealthy American doctor found his life on the line in the rebel-torn Congo. As the show progressed, I watched this atheist doctor move to agnostic and finally fall back on the only faith he knew. Surrounded by rebel forces with guns killing all in sight, this doctor rolled onto his knees and began reciting the prayers he learned in church as a child in his native language.

Moved by these prayers, the rebels spared his life and fell to their own knees. The show ended with another character who had witnessed this miracle saying, “I once was lost, but now am found.”

Although merely a television show, ER’s characters embodied narrative theology and illustrated that the faith we learn as a child can indeed point us towards our Creator and Savior. That, Professor Davis, will preach!

Jennifer H. Williams D’99
Harrisburg, Pa.
Christ UMC, Rutherford

History Worth Saving

I recently came across the Divinity News & Notes dated Spring 2001. On page 30, the period 1926-1951 is remembered as the “Struggle for Integration.” It tells of faculty efforts beginning in the late ’30s, the divinity student petition in 1948, and integration of the university in 1960.

During the years 1940-42, when I was Methodist student chaplain, our Methodist Young People’s Group met on the second floor of East Duke on Sunday evenings and hosted groups either monthly or quarterly from the North Carolina College of Negroes. Their faculty sponsor was Dr. A. Henningberg, as I recall. A letter dated November 9, 1941, to my mother, which she saved, reported: “Last night at our MYPG we had our largest group ever, with 179 present, though some were Episcopalians—about 20 of them. It was an interracial meeting. I wish you could have been there. The subject: “Learning the Ways of Democracy.” These were mostly undergraduates who happened to be black.

This is a small bit of history that I believe is worth saving.

Donald M. Mackay D’42
Jacksonville, Fla.


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