Until Sunday, April 21, 2013, I had never heard of Rev. Chris Antal. ?I also didn’t know that what started out as just another Unitarian Universalist service would have such a moving, powerful impact on me.
Rev. Chris was the guest speaker for this particular Sunday service, and he had just come back from a tour as a chaplain in Afghanistan. During his tenure there, he volunteered at a an Afghan school, a school at which there were no girls. He taught the children a song and got to know them. We witnessed his natural knack for working with children as he sat them in a circle at the service around him, like a story-telling circle, and told them about the children in the Afghan school. It was truly a pleasure to watch.
The greater pleasure came from Rev. Chris’s description of war as “sin.” Now, keep in mind, the concept of “sin” in Unitarian Universalism barely exists; in fact, Rev. Chris acknowledged that most Unitarians recoil at the word and the concepts it brings with it from mainstream organized religion and Christianity in particular. However, “sin” in this context seemed to mean something entirely different. It meant moral transgressions against our fellow man, and Rev. Chris spoke of said transgressions beautifully in a blog post entitled?A Veteran’s Day Confession for America.?The title is a link to the actual post and I encourage you to read it. I cannot imagine any liberal, regardless of faith or lack thereof, not agreeing with what he has to say there.
I found his use of “confession” odd as well, and he must have sensed that many would, because he mentioned that there were alumni of the Catholic Church in the audience; there were likely many knee- jerk reactions to the use of that word. ?Nonetheless, as he read the piece aloud, I realized that “confession” was certainly an appropriate word here, no matter its religious origins, and the way it has the power to make many ex-Christians, and especially ex- Catholics, recoil. Rev. Chris, as a member of the U.S. Army, is, in that blog post, confesses for all of us. He speaks truths of how we have sanitized killing and violence, and turn these horrors into games and a way of life.
His blog post speaks volumes to me, as I have long since been sickened by the way our culture worships guns, blood, gore, killing, and power. It is almost like a blood lust, and it is revolting. It is, in fact, sin, no matter your understanding of the word.
Rev. Chris did, unfortunately, pay the price for bravely stating what any good steward of Unitarian Universalism, and, indeed, any good liberal, and anyone opposed to human suffering, would think of war. He was ousted from active duty, though he is still in the Reserves – for now. However, he could still be in deeper trouble for his perceived transgressions against the Unites States Army. This deeply troubles me, because, in the end, all he did was speak his truth, and, indeed, the?truth about what he had been charged with doing as a member of the Armed Forces.
I just have to give a huge salute to this man for his bravery in the face of this fire. He said what needed to be said. He also put a great foot forward, and a great face for those who might shun Unitarians and similar groups for our secular ways. There can be goodness and morality without religious dogma, and, no matter my atheistic beliefs, good people like the Reverend Chris J. Antal are the reason I am proud to call myself a Unitarian Universalist.
Shannon Barber is a self- described queer feminist and activist for LGBT rights, women’s rights, and
secular rights in America. She is a lifelong lover of words, though her educational background is in
computer science. She currently writes for 3 liberal websites, and keeps her own humor blog for
lesbians. She hopes to change the world, one mind at a time.