REVEREND CHRISTOPHER ANTAL was born in New York and raised together with his sister Jill by their parents, Richard and Susan, on the southern coast of Maine. He attended public schools and received no formal religious education, but compassion and hospitality were family values instilled at a young age. His mom also taught him, "if you can't say something nice don't say it at all," but that was one lesson that never took root.
Chris left Maine at the age of eighteen to enroll in a posh private art school in Rhode Island, but dropped out after two years, preferring instead a life of poverty and spiritual discipline within the Unification Church. It was in that community where Chris met and married his life partner, Mitsuko Ishikawa. A few significant life events led him to discern a call to ministry and reconsider his religious affiliation, so he returned to school in New York and got a couple of degrees that helped him navigate the way ahead.
After graduating seminary, Chris followed his heart to Unitarian Universalism and found the community a good fit. So, at the age of thirty-five, he decided to pursue a career as an ordained minister. Chris made it through the hoops of the Unitarian Universalist Association and they actually granted him ministerial fellowship. He was ordained at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany a few months later.
Since then, Rev. Chris has served the congregation at Rock Tavern, sans a stint as a military chaplain in Afghanistan which came to an abrupt end when the Army officially reprimanded and summarily banished him for preaching a "politically inflammatory" sermon. Undeterred, Rev. Chris kindles fires at Rock Tavern the first and fourth Sundays. He and Mitsuko live with their five children in the Hudson Valley.
Rev. Antal’s Resignation Letter To President Obama
(Editor’s Note: Rev. Antal’s resignation letter to President Obama follows. Please also see, the President’s response to Rev. Antal’s letter him urging him to reject plans to produce the new air-dropped nuclear cruise missile.)
April 12, 2016
MEMORANDUM FOR Commander in Chief, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500 '
THRU U.S. Army Human Resources Command, ATTN: AHRC-OPL-P, 1600 Spearhead Division Ave, Ft Knox, KY 40122
SUBJECT: Resignation in Protest
Dear Mr. President:
I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army.
I resign because I refuse to support U.S. armed drone policy. The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.
I resign because I refuse to support U.S. nuclear weapon policy. The Executive Branch continues to invest billions of dollars into nuclear weapons, which threaten the existence of humankind and the earth. I refuse to support this policy of terror and mutually assured destruction.
I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy, and global power projection. The Executive Branch continues to claim extraconstitutional authority and impunity from international law. I refuse to support this policy of imperial overstretch.
I resign because I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain. I cannot reconcile these policies with either my sworn duty to protect and defend America and our constitutional democracy, or my covenantal commitment to the core principles of my religious faith.
These principles include: justice, equity and compassion in human relations; a free and responsible search for truth; and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Christopher John Antal
My View: In drone warfare we ought not trust
(This is a My View column written by Rev. Chris and published in the Times Herald Record)
By Rev. Chris J. Antal
Less than a month after I deployed to Afghanistan, on Oct. 24, 2012, a grandmother who lived over the hill from our base camp was out gathering okra in a field when she was killed by a U.S. drone strike.
Or was she?
Official sources claimed they killed "militants" that day; I didn't see her, or anyone else, die. All I saw were the drones, taking off, landing, and circling around. I did not even hear the explosion.
Months later I watched the testimony of 13-year-old Zubair Rehman, describing how he saw his grandmother blown to bits by two hellfire missiles on the day in question, asking his American audience: "Why?"
They didn't have an answer.
While deployed, I concluded our drone strikes disproportionately kill innocent people. As a military chaplain, I preached a sermon questioning the morality of such warfare. After my commander read it, he said "the message does not support the mission" and had me investigated, officially reprimanded and released from active duty for "retraining."
The legal scholar and former Obama administration official Rosa Brooks spoke about the so-called Global War on Terror, "We have the Executive Branch making a claim it has the right to kill anyone anywhere on earth at any time for secret reasons based on secret evidence in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials." In short, I do not know what mission I should be retrained to support – the very nature of that mission is secret. When I joined the Army, I did not swear an oath to defend secret and unaccountable killing. I took an oath to defend the Constitution – a set of laws that, I believe, this type of warfare significantly undermines.
From the perspective of both religious wisdom and military values, drone warfare, as conducted by the United States today, is a betrayal of what is right. My faith affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all people, everywhere. I believe Americans who share that affirmation have a responsibility to advocate for a U.S. foreign policy that reflects our regard for human dignity. Military leadership also has a responsibility to advocate for a method of war-fighting consistent with military values like respect, integrity, and personal courage. Too often, I worry, our program of drone warfare falls short of these ideals.
Two years after coming home, I finally got retrained. It came at the nation's first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare that was held at Princeton Theological Seminary in late January. More than 100 faith leaders gathered from across the country united in our moral anguish about drone warfare. I believe the only moral justification for killing is to protect the innocent from certain harm. Killing people we suspect might possibly harm us at some point in the unspecified future can never be morally justified. I fear what has been called "The Moral Hazard of Drones" - they make killing too easy; and just because we can, does not mean we ought.
Out of the Princeton Conference came a call to action: We must call on the administration to immediately halt lethal drone strikes and be transparent and accountable for past harm; we must call on Congress to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that serves as drone warfare's legal justification.
We owe this to Zubair, and the thousands like him. We owe this to our service members who yearn to fight justly. We owe this to the many veterans like myself living in moral pain. Immediately halting lethal drone strikes would be the first step in healing moral injury, reclaiming national honor, and restoring the soul of America.
The Rev. Chris J. Antal is a minister at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern.