Theo Pleizier – Do Military Chaplains Preach? Exploring Sermons for Soldiers by Protestant Military Chaplains in the Dutch Army

In: Int Journal of Homiletics, volume 4 (2019) 02 Jan 2020

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The practice of Military Chaplains has been studied from various angles (sociological, historical, ethical) except from an empirical homiletical perspective. What do military chaplains do when they preach, if ‘preaching’ is the correct label for their (religious) speeches. This paper provides a first introduction to study the actual sermons of military chaplains in order to contribute to homiletical theory. It presents the outline of a research design and presents some of its initial results. The paper is based upon 10 sermons by army and naval chaplains within the context of peacekeeping missions. Three concepts emerge from these data, focussing upon the homiletical activity of military chaplains. They redefine the liturgical conditions for preaching, they witness to sources of wisdom, and they dignify the individual soldier in the presence of Christ. The paper closes with a proposal to understand religious discourse in the military context by presenting a tentative typology that is based upon the ceremonial setting of discourse and its religious referentiality.