Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sermon 26 April 2015: The Third Sunday After Easter

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 26 April 2015, the Third Sunday After Easter. The texts were 1 St. Peter 2:11-17 and St. John 16:16-22.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Red Shoe Strut: The Emasculation of the Warrior Class

CDR Salimander, one of the better mil-bloggers out there, has an excellent discussion of recent data showing that Army morale is low despite a six-year, $287million dollar campaign to make soldiers more optimistic. In the midst of this he also brings in a discussion of allegations that Army ROTC Cadets at Arizona State University were pressured to participate in "Walk A Mile In Her Shoes"  events earlier this month that involved shedding their issued combat boots and donning red high heels -- in uniform -- to combat rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. One cadet alleged that he and others had been told that failure to participate would result in a negative counseling statement and possible ramifications for failing to support the battalion's mission in the packets that are used to assess cadets for branch selection and active duty -- no idle threat, particularly in an Army that is projected to shrink. It turns out that the Army supported this campaign last year but that in 2015 there was an increased emphasis to participate, especially in Army Cadet Command. I've received word that there was some participation at The Citadel and my source is himself a Citadel graduate -- not someone who likely would say that that had happened if it were not the case.

It should go without saying that no sane or decent person is for rape, sexual assault, or gender violence, but having men dress like women -- especially when in the case of ROTC cadets those men are young, eager to get positive recommendations, and doing so under pressure, is not the way to do it. 

On 29 September 1988, while a senior in high school, I enlisted in the South Carolina Army National Guard and was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1-263rd Armor in Mullins. Not a few of the older soldiers were Vietnam veterans -- including a few officers who'd either had a break in service or attended OCS later in their careers -- and 1SG Charlie Lee, who could often be seen puffing on a Falcon System pipe and retired shortly after I joined the unit had a Combat Infantryman's Badge from service in the Korean War. On 5 June 1989, a few days after graduating from high school, I reported to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Basic Training, and while practically none of my drill sergeants were Vietnam veterans the Company First Sergeant was as was the Brigade Commander and most of the Sergeants Major. After a hot and harried summer I reported to Georgia Military College, in Milledgeville, Georgia (and in the interest of full-disclosure I am not sure whether or not the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes even was promoted there or not), where I was in the Corps of Cadets and the Early Commissioning Program, being commissioned in Armor in December of 1991 and attending the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky the following year.

I didn't appreciate it at the time but those were interesting times. Many of the senior leaders and even a few of the mid-level ones in the Army that I joined had been through Vietnam or had entered the Army following the hollowing out that followed and had rebuilt the service into the force that I joined that was able to perform so magnificently in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm -- the immediate aftermath of which was clear at Fort Knox in the Spring and Summer of 1992. These were the guys who made do with less in lean times and enjoyed and took advantage of the Reagan buildup and our nation is in their debt. 

My intention had been to make the Army a career but while at Fort Knox, to no ones surprise more than my own, I began sensing a call to ordained ministry and so after returning home and serving as a tank platoon leader while finishing my undergraduate work I went instead to seminary while remaining in the Army Reserve in various capacities for a while. Serving in a Training Support Brigade and later a Corps-level Engineer Brigade, both of which were co-ed, was a different experience than the all-male Armor units I'd been used to, but I enjoyed my service and got to serve alongside some great soldiers, male and female. My service was unremarkable, but I am thankful to have served.

When I enlisted and later prior to being commissioned I was asked if I'd ever even had thoughts that indicated homosexual inclination; I hadn't and said so -- these were the days before Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and those were standard questions. In 1992 Bill Clinton was elected President and had said that he'd lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the military -- as a new platoon leader I listened to a lot of grumbling from my soldiers before the compromise of DADT was reached. Before and after that if I served with any homosexual soldiers I was unaware of it -- but as a convinced heterosexual I didn't go around announcing my own activities and inclinations either.

Now, of course, that policy has been lifted to the relief of some and the concern of others. I would imagine that in almost all if not all units the troops will drive on because that's what they do, but pressuring male cadets and soldiers to don high heels is promoting an agenda and that kind of social engineering isn't going to help matters one iota and those that are imbibed with the warrior ethos are likely to be repelled rather than attracted by it.

Friends of mine who are more connected with the military than I am -- some of whom are still serving, some of whom are recently retired -- tell me we seem to be replicating the hollowing out that took place in the years that followed Vietnam. I hope I'm wrong, but I worry that we may not be able to bounce back from it this time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sermon 19 April 2015: The Second Sunday After Easter

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 19 April 2015, The Second Sunday After Easter. The texts were 1 St. Peter 2:19-25 and St. John 10:11:16.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sermon 12 April 2015: The First Sunday After Easter

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 12 April 2015, The First Sunday After Easter. The texts were 1 St. John 5:4-12, and St. John 20:19-23.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sad Day in North Charleston

North Charleston, South Carolina, is in the national news today as the result of a fatal shooting this past weekend. On Saturday morning North Charleston Police Patrolman 1st Class Thomas Slager, a 33 year-old, five year veteran of the Department who had previously served in the Coast Guard stopped Walter Scott, a 50 year-old Coast Guard veteran, for a malfunctioning tail light in the parking lot of Advance Auto Parts on the corner of Craig Street and Remount Road. Although Mr. Scott had had some previous run-ins with the law his only current issue was an outstanding warrant for delinquent child support -- according to his family he did not want to be arrested, a reasonable sentiment. A struggle purportedly ensued with Mr. Scott charging Officer Slager and the officer reaching for his Taser, announcing that he'd deployed it, and that Mr. Scott had tried to wrest the Taser from him.Shots were fired and Mr. Scott fell; although first aid and CPR were administered prior to the arrival of EMS, he was pronounced dead on the scene.

When I discovered the location of the incident my attention was immediately piqued. In late 2002 I returned to South Carolina after a couple of years living in Texas and first moved to the city of Hanahan -- not at all far from that location. I passed by it daily and have shopped in that Auto Zone store. Remount Road is known as a fairly high crime area although when living in Hanahan I rode a bicycle there in the daytime and didn't feel threatened. I have also been stopped in that area -- without incident -- for a burned out headlight.

The story of Officer Slager, who had an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard and a clean record with the North Charleston Police Department except for two complaints, the most serious one of which was dismissed after it was investigated, began to unravel. A video was released (which is graphic) showing Mr. Scott running from Officer Slager and the officer drawing his pistol and shooting Mr. Scott in the back eight times with something -- presumably his Taser -- at own feet. On Tuesday the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which has responsibility for the investigation, announced that Officer Slager would be charged with murder and at the press conference dealing with the situation Mayor Keith Summey and particularly Chief  Eddie Driggers were palpably distressed at the situation. In a later press conference with Mr. Scott's family their pain was, understandably, clear.

Several points:

--Whether or not race was a factor in this incident is not clear. While some have drawn comparisons to incidents in, among other places, Ferguson, Missouri -- a case in which investigations repeatedly cleared the officer -- race as a motivation has yet to be proven.

--While the video is damning and it is hard to imagine preceding actions that would've justified shooting Mr. Scott in that manner, Officer Slager has not been convicted by a jury. It is essential that the case be tried by the proper means -- not in the court of public opinion.

--Assuming that Officer Slager is as guilty as he appears to be, he's violated a sacred trust and dishonored a profession in which the vast majority of officers serve honorably. He should be severely punished and one would hope that the state will aggressively prosecute. 

--Thankfully calm has prevailed. Pray that that will continue.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sermon 5 April 2015 (Easter Day)

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 5 April 2015, Easter Day. The texts were Colossians 3-14 and St. John 20:1-10.

Sermon: 4 April 2015 (Easter Vigil)

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 4 April 2015, Easter Vigil. The texts were Genesis 1:1-2:2, Exodus 14:10-15:1, 1 Corinthians 5;6b-8, and St. Mark 16:1-6.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sermon: 2 April 2015 (Maundy Thursday)

Sermon preached by the Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr. SBR, UE, at the Church of the Atonement in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on 2 April 2015, Maundy Thursday. The texts were 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 and St. Luke 23:1-49.