(RNS) — A military religious liberty watchdog has asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper to discipline an Army chaplain for his recent distribution of a new book by Christian author John Piper titled “Coronavirus and Christ.”
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is representing 22 active-duty Catholic and Protestant chaplains who he said objected to receiving an email with a digital attachment of the 114-page book, which connects the coronavirus to God’s judgment.
“Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions,” writes Piper in a chapter as one of six answers to the question “What is God doing through the coronavirus?” He cites as a past example of divine judgment “the sin of homosexual intercourse” discussed in the New Testament Book of Romans.
The prolific author and the leader of Desiring God Ministries adds in the subsequent paragraph that all suffering is not a “specific judgment for specific sins,” but he believes some is.
“The coronavirus is, therefore, never a clear and simple punishment on any person,” Piper writes. “The most loving, Spirit-filled Christians, whose sins are forgiven through Christ, may die of the coronavirus disease. But it is fitting that every one of us search our own heart to discern if our suffering is God’s judgment on the way we live.”
Chaplains from the Army, Navy and Air Force are “horribly aggrieved by the wretchedly illicit and unconstitutional actions of Chaplain (Colonel) Kim at US Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea,” Weinstein said in a statement Monday (May 4) about garrison Chaplain Moon H. Kim.
In an April 29 letter to Esper, Weinstein said the chaplains received the digital version of the book that day from Kim and sought his foundation’s representation. They said they feared reprisal if they did not remain anonymous as they expressed their concern.
“Obviously, his sending of this book was clearly meant as a full-fledged endorsement and validation of what the book espouses and proclaims,” wrote Weinstein to Esper. “Many of the Chaplains who received this unsolicited book from Chaplain (Colonel) Kim are from mainline and Progressive Christian denominations which do not subscribe to the ultraconservative/Reformed/evangelical Christian theology of John Piper.”
Camp Humphreys officials told The Army Times that they knew of the complaint.
“If the content of the internal email is determined to be in violation of any DoD policy or regulation, the command will take appropriate action,” they told the military newspaper in a statement.
The Army Times said Kim’s email did not endorse Piper’s book explicitly.
“Hopefully this small booklet would help you and your Soldiers, their Families and others who you serve,” reads his message, the newspaper said.
Piper has been promoting the book, which was shrink-wrapped with the mailing of the May 9 print issue of the evangelical Christian magazine World. He has tweeted that the book, which can be downloaded for free or purchased in a print edition, is available in numerous languages, including American Sign Language.
Piper, who is chancellor of Minneapolis-based Bethlehem College and Seminary, has drawn criticism in the past for his view that women, who he believes cannot hold the role of pastors, also should not be seminary professors.
He was also cited on Baylor University’s 2018 list of top 12 preachers in the English-speaking world.