Book cover of 'Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger,' by Army chaplain John McDougall
Book cover of 'Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger,' by Army chaplain John McDougall. Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House books.

Chaplain violated Army rule in promoting Christian book

Book cover of 'Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger,' by Army chaplain John McDougall

Book cover of 'Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger,' by Army chaplain John McDougall. Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House books.

WASHINGTON — An active-duty Army chaplain with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment has published a book titled "Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger" and appeared in a promotional video in uniform to promote it, raising questions about the service endorsing Christianity as the Pentagon wages wars in Muslim countries.

Chaplain John McDougall recently returned from Afghanistan where he served as chaplain for the 75th Ranger Regiment. He wrote the book, he told the Army in a story published on its website, because "the Jesus of many churches is a weakling -- someone our Rangers cannot relate to."

The video was taken down Thursday by the book's publisher, said Charlene Guzman, senior publicist for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. McDougall regrets having appeared in uniform and was not speaking on behalf of the military, she said. He had cleared writing the book with military lawyers but not the video. McDougall, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, could not be reached immediately for comment.

"It's a regrettable action and we were happy to take it down," Guzman said.

The Army's story carries a disclaimer at the end, saying, it "is not an official U.S. Army or Department of Defense endorsement of the book, Jesus Was An Airborne Ranger. The book reflects the views of the author and not those of the U.S. Government, DoD, or the Army."

The video had no disclaimer. With theatrical piano and string music, it features sharp cut-away views of McDougall's Army uniform, focusing on his U.S. Army patch, his 75th Ranger Regiment tab and the American flag, signifying his deployment to war zones.

McDougall's appearance in uniform endorsing a commercial or political venture violates military rules, said Tatjana Christian, an Army spokeswoman.

After they were contacted about the video by USA TODAY, the Army reached out to McDougall's commanders to inform them about the rule, Christian said.

His comments were not part of his official duty, she said.

"Chaplains are authorized to offer messages endorsing Christianity while in uniform as part of their official faith group religious support duties," Christian said. "This video was not a part of those official duties."

McDougall should face court martial for promoting his book in uniform, said Mikey Weinstein, who leads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group. Beyond violating military regulations, the video is a propaganda coup for Islamic State militants and other religious zealots, he said.

ISIS will use the video to convince followers that the United States is waging a Christian war against Muslims, he said.

"This is propaganda of unparalleled proportions for ISIS," Weinstein said. "This message is going to kill Americans and kill innocents."

McDougall said he wrote the book to counter the notion that Jesus wasn't a fighter.

"We've made him into a soft, gentle -- someone who wouldn't pose a threat to anyone," McDougall says in the video.

He continues: "We've kind of created a Jesus who is nice and friendly and warm. And we told men to pattern their lives after that Jesus. When in reality I can't find that Jesus in scripture. Yet there are moments when he's gentle. There are also moments when he's ferocious. I want to recapture that aspect that has been lost. I think that's what this book is intended to do."

The book's promotional material continues that theme.

"Get ready to see Jesus like you've never seen him before -- a battle-scarred combatant who stared death in the face and won. This is no Sunday-school Jesus, meek and mild. This is the Warrior Christ who has descended from the heavens, defeated the Enemy, and rescued humanity. Now, he calls us to continue his mission and fight for others—our families, our communities, and the world."


  1. There is nothing more tasteless and offensive for active duty military members than to use their uniform for purposes of shameless self-promotion.

    Soldiers in the Army are not soldiers for Christ. They are soldiers for the United States of America. The entire nation, not just one’s faith, all faiths. Such blatant use of the uniform to promote their religion violates the concepts every soldier swears to uphold and protect. Throw the book at him.

  2. Why not? When you make up a super hero, he needs to act like one.

  3. If he was Muslim, the book could be used as propaganda against ISIS and Al Queda. The author would claim that the Army is secretly approving the book for such purposes. Whether true or not..

    He also would have a much tougher time trying to endorse the book on video wearing a uniform. The Army would be far quicker in doing their duty to sanction the author.

  4. If there’s an opportunity to bash a Christian, Larry, you and your fellow-fanatics don’t miss the opportunity.

    Interesting that your side continues to charge Christians as the hateful ones when your actions define what hate actually is and how it is implemented.

    But I realize the duped can hardly understand their minds anymore. That may be an shoddy excuse for your actions, but not a justification.

  5. “But I realize the duped can hardly understand their minds anymore.”
    Duped by skepticism? How does that work exactly?

  6. Wow…I’m stunned,to say the least.At the very least,this Ranger SHOULD be sanctioned; he had NO BUSINESS re-making Jesus in the image of an Army Ranger,as admirable as they are. The Scriptures do a perfect job of portraying Our Saviour exactly as He should be; He needs no embellishments. This soldier,as well-intentioned as he may have thought he was,should have stuck to what he knows,which,apparently,is “rangering”,NOT Biblical apologetics.—PEACE IN CHRIST.

  7. Larry,

    Yes, soldiers of Christ do NOT engage in literal warfare against other humans. Jesus said that “those who use the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). He never promoted killing our fellowmen, but loving them, including our enemies and those persecuting us (Matthew 5:43,44; 22:39).

    Jesus constantly showed compassion to the common people in his days on earth, which is not weakness but a strong quality that compelled him to take decisive action on their behalf. He healed them of many of their illnesses and diseases, and even resurrected the dead.

    As a spokesperson for God, Jesus preached about God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44; Isaiah 11:1-9; Matthew 4:17) as the only source of true peace for mankind (Isaiah 9:6,7; Micah 4:3,4).

    Soldiers serving in any military organization are only serving a “god of war,” and not the only true God, Jehovah (Psalm 83:18), who does not condone man killing his fellowman, as His son taught.

  8. As a veteran of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, I agree that the chaplain, though well-intentioned, was out of line! And he’s a West Pointer, too! (“Duty, honor, country.”)
    Christianity and the Savior, is not to be portrayed as warlike! On the contrary! “Love your enemies!” That statement is the furthest thing from war that can be imagined.
    While I don’t believe the chaplain should be punished, he should be reprimanded.

  9. Another moronic step taken by our politically correct society. Now just what is a chaplain in the army supposed to represent? If he can’t reach all military personnel, why can’t he reach them via a book? Is that not his duty? If the military is so strangled then get rid of all religious jobs and chapels and synagogues and mosques. Be more like North Korea or China.Peace will certainly reign then.

  10. So the objection is on theological grounds?

    Not that he violated his duty to the military with blatant proselytizing efforts and misuse of the uniform for personal aggrandizement?

    That is some set of priorities you guys got. As long as people are being “scripturally correct” one can get away with any sort of obnoxious acts or disregard duties to anyone else.

  11. If he were a Muslim he probably never would have received his position, since the US Armed Forces are very hostile towards nonChristians.

  12. This isn’t about what theology he espoused. It’s about breaking military code to endorse a religion outside his duties. He should absolutely be punished- what message does it send to soldiers that chaplains get away with violating military regulations just because it’s about their religion?

  13. @JR,
    “Now just what is a chaplain in the army supposed to represent?”
    Indeed! Excellent question. Perhaps that question should be seriously addressed.

  14. JR, the book was fine and was approved by the Army. The problem was the publicity tour in which he did a video appearing in uniform. You can’t appear in uniform to raise money, profit or non-profit. That’s why, for example, it’s tricky for faith groups in the military to solicit funds for extra supplies not already supplied by the DoD.

  15. Well, that makes sense….in this litigious world…..but, hey, it’s not really a bad thing.

  16. All the Way! As a former Army Ranger officer – Hoorah! for a Chaplain who’s not afraid of the PC police or rabid skeptics. Jesus Christ was and is THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE! An Army that is ashamed of a Christian Chaplain that champions Christ as the ultimate leader and Ranger is a pathetic excuse for a fighting entity. If skeptics don’t like what a Christian chaplains says about Christ, skeptics can make the case that their Gaia, random chance, or whatever is superior to Jesus. Weinstein and his ilk obviously are up for the debate and shouldn’t try to gag a Chaplain – get a grip you nasty legs!

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