Humanism in Action through Nonbeliever Chaplaincy

Humanism in Action through Nonbeliever Chaplaincy

This post, written by Jason Callahan, originally appeared on TheHumanist.com. September 2, 2008. That’s the day I first arrived in Richmond, Virginia, from New York City to embark on a journey that didn’t have a specific destination. The financial crisis was underway and the immediacy of my need to figure something out led me to one of the only people who’d ever supported me up until that point: my former pastor. How ironic that a clear atheist would call upon someone who works for the church for advice. This was a relationship between two human beings interested in having and promoting wholeness. I attended seminary on what was called a “trial year” enrollment that was for learners the church wasn’t sure it could own. After my first year, I just wanted to leave. I was disgusted after observing how the beliefs and the norms of the community actually contributed to an increase in mental health issues around campus. I couldn’t go back to New York because things had already gotten worse economically, so I decided to stick it out. The lack of community engagement and compassion for those in need who visited the campus forced me to reach outside of that community in order to put my skills to use. I stumbled upon chaplaincy after graduation. My pastor had always stated that she got into ministry in order to be a chaplain, because people in hospitals have real needs that transcend any theology. She admitted that going to seminary and working in the church was nothing more than getting her “union card” from the only place that had the...
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