Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Update from Iraq

Hi everyone!

I'm just finishing up my 2nd month here in Iraq. I'm down in the southern portion of the country, Basra Province, which fortunately has been (comparatively) quiet. As a result, I've got a lot of down time, so I've been trying to do as much reading as possible. I've just recently finished Buddhism: A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith & Phillip Novak which I found to be an excellent primer on Buddhism. I'm a member of my congregation's book club, and I'm currently reading on of the club's selections - 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann which is absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in American history. I've also picked up a translation of the Qu'ran which I'm going to start reading as well (a bit at a time I expect, it seems a little daunting).

I'm finding that being a UU on active duty was a bit more challenging than I had expected. I wasn't a UU during the 8 years I spent on active duty, and I think I had forgotten how much the attitudes of most soldiers is at odds with the UU outlook on most social issues. There have been more than a few times that I've found myself biting my tongue on hearing a particularly unpleasant comment on homosexuals or women. On one hand I know I should say something - but on the other hand I have to work and live in close proximity with some of the individuals making the remarks, and I'm reluctant to jeopardize good relations with people whom my life very well may depend on. It's a very awkward position, and I'm honestly not sure how best to deal with it. I love the Army and I am proud of my service and the service of my comrades, but at the same time I am reminded on almost a daily basis on why there are so few UUs (or just "progressives" in general) in the military. (I am perfectly open on my positions regarding the environment however, and I was quickly dubbed the unit "tree-hugger" which I consider to be something of a badge of honor.)

I'm curious on how UU Chaplains address the issues of homophobia and sexism in the military - or if they even do address them. Both in many ways are endemic in military culture (especially the former) and while officially they are not tolerated, everyone knows how most people feel about the subjects. I think sexism is much less of a problem than in the past, and has become more "underground", but few people even attempt to hide their homophobia - and given the fact that homosexuals are not allowed to serve openly, there really is no-one to complain and file charges of harassment or discrimination. Are social justice issues things that can be addressed in a UU Chaplains sermon? Or are they too "political" for a Chaplain?

Does anyone know if there are any UU Chaplains deployed over here currently?

Yours truly,

SGT Adrian Gunn
Camp Bucca, Iraq

P.S. I've attached a photo of my team and I - I'm the short bald guy in the middle!