For chaplains helping folks find peace after police deaths, generic religion's the best religion

Forgive me for that clickbait of a post title.

But that's exactly the impression given by a front-page Dallas Morning News story this week on chaplains comforting police and crime victims in their darkest hours:

It's one of those stories that you read and then scratch your head. 

"Something's missing," you tell yourself. "What could it be that I'm not seeing here?" 

Hang with me for a moment, and I bet we can figure it out:

The lede is compelling enough:

Win Brown's heart sinks when his other phone rings.
His ministry phone signals that he'll soon be comforting people on the worst days of their lives.
Across 17 years, the volunteer chaplain has been there -- for search crews scouring East Texas for the seven Columbia astronauts, for Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana, and for police officers as they go to the homes of families shattered by violence.
After a gunman killed five police officers following a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, he and other chaplains rallied for a Thanks-Giving Square prayer service. It was just the beginning of their healing work. 
Some people needed a hug. Many wanted to pray. A few just needed to know that the emotions welling up within them and streaming down their faces were normal reactions to an abnormal event.
“Everyone grieves differently and needs something different,” Brown said. “But I’ve seen the proverbial light bulb go on many times when you say, ‘You’re not going crazy.’ ”

OK, so this scenario involves a "ministry." Hmmmmm ...

And "prayer" seems to be a component of what the chaplains do. Is there a chance — however slight — that religion could be a part of the story?

Keep reading, and the newspaper suggests that chaplains "must trust in their faith," and the Morning News makes a passing reference to Brown "blessing bodies left in flooded New Orleans homes."

Nice, but when will the newspaper dig a little deeper? Or are readers expected to settle for vague references to chaplains uttering kind words and helping folks "find peace?" 

Will a term such as "Christian" or "church" appear even once in this non-religious religion story? (Answer: Nope.)

Near the end, "God" does make a cameo appearance:

But some days, he's not sure how he does it.
“Other than to say I’ve been called by God, I don’t know.”

It's all extremely mysterious. 

I mean, I get a strong feeling that religious beliefs must motivate Brown and the other chaplains. However, the Morning News fails — for whatever reason — to engage that crucial aspect of the story. 

Yes, as I alluded earlier, it's as if the newspaper has decided that generic religion is the best religion. In fact, this kind of approach makes for a terribly hollow, frustrating and incomplete feature.

You may recall my post earlier this year on the St. Louis Cardinals' team chaplain (since fired) "doing awesome, generic religious stuff" with the team. 

This Dallas story is equally haunted by "holy ghosts."



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