Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Complete with dramatic music, the opening narration of this documentary-film has something of The A-Team about it:

"Afghanistan 2009. The front-line in the war against the Taliban. One of the most dangerous environments in the world, and home to 8,300 British troops. For these combat forces, there is the ever-present risk of injury and death. But among the thousands of armed soldiers, there is one group of men whose only weapon is the Bible. These are the Royal Navy Chaplains."

Although the above voice-over is accompanied by shots of helicopters, shooting and explosions, this actually turned out to be a documentary following, as detailed above, two Chaplains within the British armed forces in Afghanistan. Whew – I was starting to wonder where the Cylon was.

"But what has prayer got to do with war? To the Taliban who believe in a Holy war, the answer is obvious. But the British armed forces? Do they need men of God on the front line?"

Far from seeming out-of-place, as the narrator initially seems to suppose above, Nigel Beardsley and Bill Gates appear to have been fully accepted by their comrades, due not just to having trained alongside them for six months, but also because they simply live through it all day to day with them.

Bill: "You'll see a difference here straight away, in that Army Chaplains carry rank and Navy Chaplains don't... In the Royal Navy the Chaplain adopts the rank of who they talk to. That means that the lowest Marine at four-five can talk to me at the same level as the most senior Officer. So no-one can talk down to me and I don't talk up to anyone."

But what do they actually do? Help soldiers feel better about, um, killing people?

Nigel: "I have been asked on many occasions what am I doing in a fighting force in an area where we're killing... I have an understanding I'm not here to fight. I'm here as a spiritual person to give a moral level to those in command, and the guys and girls on the ground. I'm here for them. Not to necessarily condone war, but to try and bring peace and understanding."

Well, there's much more to the answer than I have room to quote here.

Though they make ongoing efforts to build bridges with the local religious leaders too, smoothing the Army's occupation of their territory, Bill and Nigel also find that too much of their job descriptions come looking for them. Some of their parishioners have limbs blown-off. Some of them die. Some of them have a need to just do something to remember friends who fell years ago in the past. That so many men come to talk and take pocket-crosses from them in private suggests that there's a real spiritual side to this conflict.

Bill: "I'd never claim to have all the answers, and as such I think it's quite wrong to come out with trite, simplistic answers... For me God is great, he is vast, and is beyond comprehension... Paul writes, 'At the time it is as if we look through a glass dimly, but when we get to glory, all will be revealed,' and I really believe that. So I don't have all the answers, but for the lads, I do try and listen to what they're saying, and then try and point them in the right direction. But there's no satisfactory, immediate answer to any of their questions... I've found God to be good, and as such I recommend him to the lads."

Review of Revelations: How To Find God here.
Review of Revelations: Muslim School here.
Review of Revelations: The Exhumer here.
Review of Revelations: Muslim and Looking for Love here.
Review of Revelations: Divorce Jewish Style here.
Review of Revelations: Talking to the Dead here.
Review of Revelations: How Do You Know God Exists? here.


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