“The world has made a distinction between spirituality and religion,” Chaplain Mendy Coen, director-general of the United States Chaplain Corps says. “Chaplains are able to connect with people where religious leaders cannot.“
By Menachem BenShabat
Studies show that people are uninterested in talking to religious leaders or mentors because they perceive a religious agenda.
As a Rabbi or religious leader, many people won’t be open to your outreach overtures.
Marcus, a resident of Los Angeles, refuses to converse with a reform or orthodox rabbi, claiming that he is not interested in religious proselytizing. “I am a spiritual but not a religious member of society,” says Marcus, “and religious agendas don’t interest me.”
However, Marcus has met with a local chaplain to discuss, among other topics, how religion helps people live a better life.
Modern chaplains promote the idea of spiritual wellbeing over a strict religious agenda. Chaplain Mendy Coen, director-general of the United States Chaplain Corps (USCC), an agency which recruits, trains, and operates a large network of chaplains nationwide, explains this phenomenon: “The world has made a distinction between spirituality and religion. Many perceive religion as a manipulative dictatorship (thanks to all the advertised scandals amongst religious leaders in the last two decades); it has been tainted. People are afraid of tasting the flare of religious wellbeing, even though studies show clearly the health benefits of prayers and religious beliefs. On the other hand, chaplains promote spirituality, and are perceived as non-threatening and an unintimidating option to bridge people’s relationship to religious dialogue.”
According to the USCC, many Chabad rabbis have trained to be certified as chaplains since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the US. Coen has directed many of them to initiate new relationships with local, city, and state agencies; local organizations; and other entities around the US by promoting a chaplain agenda, which the public has greatly welcomed.
Chaplain Coen concludes, “This is a life-changer for all segments of society. Chaplains are able to connect with people where religious leaders cannot. This is good news for America. I urge every religious leader to train and get certified as chaplains in order to heal a fractured society that needs desperately to integrate spiritual values into our day-to-day lives.”