Carr on Chaplaincy

By Ruth Limkin

Bob Carr has, perhaps unwittingly, condemned hundreds of thousands of Australian as being unemployable.

Carr, and his thoughts on the National School Chaplaincy Program, were part of an article by journalist David Penberthy on The Punch last week. Carr was quoted as saying, “It is indefensible that all taxpayers are required to support a program that is gradually becoming church evangelism. There is enough feedback now to show that quite understandably chaplains cannot confine their activism. Evangelical work is their lifeblood and it’s naïve to expect them not to pursue it around young people. They can’t because of their training. They can’t approach these matters from any other perspective.”

Carr’s comments indicate a profound and superior disregard for more than just those employed as chaplains. If Carr is suggesting – as he seems to be – that Chaplains are incapable of respecting agreed to boundaries in employment because of their ‘ardent or missionary zeal for a cause’, then his logic would also mean that any devoted Christian is similarly incapable.

His comments would logically mean that every Christian teacher in every public school should be similarly discontinued. After all, if they have a high level of enthusiasm for their faith, they’re probably forcing young people to learn about mass instead of maths.

Christians in the health care system probably refuse to provide medical care and instead just force prayer times on unwilling patients.

Every Christian police officer should be sacked so that wrongdoers get arrested, rather than just forgiven. After all, quite understandably Christian police officers ‘can’t confine their activism and it’s naïve to expect them not to pursue it’ around criminals.

Ridiculous? Of course! But no more ridiculous than the assertion that Chaplains ‘cannot contain their activism’.

Many of the articles attacking chaplaincy (the writers of which seem evangelistic in their fervour) are filled with misinformation or misunderstanding about the role of chaplains. In Penberthy’s article, for instance, many of his complaints about chaplaincy were referring to the activities of completely different program. Chaplains are not employed to provide religious education instruction, and to suggest their work hours are spent doing this is erroneous at best, and deliberatively deceptive at worst.

So what do chaplains do?

A local City Councillor was recently telling me about the school chaplain in one of the flood affected schools in his area. The chaplain’s own recently purchased house was flooded, but he hasn’t got to repair it, yet as he has been helping all the other families in the school. Still another chaplain I know has been working with families affected by flooding, and provides a valuable and needed connection point for those who want to help meet the needs of families in her school.

Just a few weeks ago, a chaplain I know was busy arranging food parcels and other practical assistance for a family in her school. Their young son was dying and they were struggling financially.

Another female chaplain arranged a beautiful morning tea for all the mums at her school, in the lead up to Mothers day, to encourage healthy community relationships and reduce relational isolation.

Perhaps those best placed to comment on the need for, and appropriateness of, chaplaincy are school Principals. A 2009 national survey of principals who currently have a chaplain found 98% of them want government funding for School Chaplaincy to continue.

No school community is forced to have a chaplain. It’s telling that so many of them do.


6 thoughts on “Carr on Chaplaincy

  1. Logic.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Sorry, if you’re an evangelist zealot who can’t keep his proselytising out of school, then you *are* unemployable in a secular system.

    If you can keep control of your rabid desire to spread the gospels, then you’re not.


  2. Comments by Bob Carr on Chaplaincy show great ignorance of school chaplains and their work. Ruth Limkin’s reply is spot on – does it therefore follow that all Christian teachers, etc are not able to “contain their activism”? and do a good “unbiased” job because they are Christians? Let Mr Carr who states he has “enough feedback now to show that chaplains cannot confine their activism” , produce the feedback referred to, and ask Principals about their firsthand experience. I suggest, before people make such comments – invite them into a school for a day with a chaplain. Then let them say what will be a better system to assist and support our children.

  3. footnote to the above: untrained* in the context of this programme usually means someone with 6 hours or so of dedicated training, backed up with possibly hundreds of hours in the “art” of evangelism.

    Guess which tool they’ll reach for in extremis? Is it the principles of the programme, or the indoctrination they received from their church?

  4. As a person who’s worked with a Chaplain in one of our ‘troubled’ schools I would like to state that I’ve seen and been a part of the work that goes on and not once have I heard the words God or Jesus mentioned. Ignorance of adults affects the people these programs were put in place to assist – our children and future leaders of this county. I for one support our children getting positive, loving, edifying suport from caring individuals who inspire the wider communities to take part in schools they otherwise would not have contact with. The alternative is that our children grow up not having the ability to interact with people from different generations and socio-economic groups and therefore are likely to be less effective individuals as adults. Teaching our children to love one another, without an expectation of something in return, by leading by example can only be a positive thing. I wonder if the Muslim community banded together to start a similar program would “the powers that be” have the guts to brandish these programs with comments such as “It is indefensible that all taxpayers are required to support a program that is gradually becoming Muslim evangelism.” I think not, that would be perfectly acceptable as we are such a multi-cultural accepting county. How about you start accepting some of the culture that was the basis for our constitution in the first place. Christianity teaches love, acceptance, forgiveness and equality for all, how can these attributes be anything but positive?

    Jason, your comment on the Chaplains receiveing 6 hours of training only shows your ignorance of what they actually do have to learn.

Comments are closed.