Thursday, February 24, 2005

GI Jesus

For anyone who regularly reads my blog, you know that I am anything but anti-military. A strong and efficient military is vital to the defense of our nation and interests around the world. I even almost ended up in the Air Force 2 different times, but this goes too far for me. Now the US military is promoting "men's night out" events at churches and using them as recruitment functions. Invading places of worship that teach peace and love is no place to recruit for war. Even more disturbing was that the recruiters used images of Jesus Christ in their presentation. This is an attack on my religion and faith.

See the picture show for yourself at shlonkom bakazay


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

I'm not sure what you describe qualifies as the disaster you say.

We expect our religious institutions to take a stand- certainly, many have spoken out for and against the war.

If indeed clergy can call for service members to leave the military, surely they can, on the other side, endorse the military. In WW2, religious institutions played a large role in supporting the military. Of course, there were many that didn't- Quakers, etc. They weren't chastised for taking an opposite view from the vast majority of the American religious establishment.

Boomr said...

The objection isn't whether THE CHURCH should be allowed to voice an opinion, but whether THE STATE should be using churches as recruiting centers. And that at least qualifies as the disaster Dingo mentioned, if not worse.

First, it's absolutely wrong for a military event to use ANY religious themes. The mere fact that a military recruitment program was going on at the same time as images of Jesus on the cross were being displayed is enough to show that this little show of religion and patriotism crossed the constitutional boundaries -- and the boundaries of good taste.

Second, the fact that the event was held at a Christian church and exploited Christian images in its sales pitch, shows that the government, through the military, is endorsing one specific religion over others, which again crosses the constitutional boundaries into the realm of official establishment of religion. Are these programs going on in temples, mosques, and other religious centers not tied to one of the Christian faiths? I have a hard time believing that's true.

Third, in terms of religion's support of war and the military, nothing is preventing religion as a whole, or individual churches, from supporting or opposing the military. They can shout from their pulpits all day, all night, and you'll never hear me try to deny them that right. BUT, when the government uses religion's support to further its own ends, then the line between government and religion becomes blurred, and pretty soon one religion becomes state-sponsored while the others become fringe groups in the eyes of the administration.

Fourth, as a matter of religious theory, I think it should be incredibly scary for most people that this particular President is using the church as a military recruitment tool. There have been reports of President Bush's fundamentalist beliefs, some of which concern the alleged approach of the "end times" and the "rapture." Some rumors accuse the President of trying to hurry those "end times" along. I don't know whether these reports and rumors are true, but if there's even the POSSIBILITY that our President harbors a belief that involves the end of the world brought about by a great religious cataclysm, then his use of religion as a tool for military indoctrination is one of my worst fears brought to light.

Fifth, and what should be obvious to everyone outside of the US, what makes the President's use of religion as a tool for military recruitment any different from the mullahs in the madrases in Pakistan or Iran? When you use religious ideology as a tool for military action, then you create instant enemies of those who hold an opposing religious view. And because the central beliefs of religion are insusceptible of PROOF, then there is no way to avert religious warfare through diplomacy and compromise.

It looks to me like the event depicted in the pictures is a modern-day version of the arguments put forth by various Popes to garner support for the Crusades. Since those wars officially lasted approximately 200 years (1095-1270), and since some scholars say they actually lasted an additional 400 years (until 1669), it should scare the hell out of all of us that religion is being used in this manner again.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Boomr, excellent rebuttal, with some provisos.

Nevertheless, as long as religion plays a role in public life (and it always has, whether we acknowledge that or not), we have to be prepared for the fact that the 'state' can and will influence religious doctine- as the religious establishment has influenced state doctrine, by it's vey mandate.

That said, it is not just this President- but every President that has 'used' the church to it's own ends.

For example, churches regularly endorese candidates, with the expectation that those candidates, if elected, will push their agenda.

Now, in reality, it seems that you object to the agenda in question- not the activity.

In any event, those realities aside, the fact that there is tension, I think, is a good thing.

Boomr said...

I agree that religion plays a role in public life, and that churches regularly endorse certain political agendas -- and I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing (although tax-exempt organizations like churches are supposed to refrain from political speech/contributions, so technically they don't "regularly endorse candidates"). Churches have 1st Amendment rights just like everyone else. However, the reverse system is not true: the state does not regularly endorse a religious doctrine.

Thus, I don't agree that the "state can and will influence religious doctrine ... by it[s] very mandate." I think that the express mandate of this government is that it shall not, at any time, influence religious doctrine of any kind. Any violation of this mandate is bad, but it's especially egregious in the military context, where the church is used both to recruit people who may get killed, and to recruit people who may kill -- both of which are, by and large, antithetical to the very concept of religion, but which may be necessary for the government's security.

I respectfully disagree with you that it's the agenda, and not the activity, to which I object. I wholeheartedly believe that this country needs a strong military, and that we will eventually be drawn into certain shooting wars. I don't necessarily object to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (although at least one of their justifications was sorely lacking). The military event depicted in the pictures could have been recruiting during an unprecedented period of international peace, with no shooting wars currently involving the US, and I'd still vehemently object. It is very much the activity that is the subject of my objection, since using the church -- ANY church -- as a means of military recruitment, at any time, is simply an entanglement between government and religion that should not occur, ever.

Apart from the legal argument, it's simply an extremely exploitative means of influencing the average American. Take someone with the most heartfelt beliefs in a higher power -- again, which beliefs are insusceptible of tangible PROOF and require only FAITH -- and then tell that person that his beliefs require not only devotion to God, but to Country, and that devotion to Country requires military service. It's a minor form of brainwashing, to mix beliefs into a new, bastardized religion that melds God and Country into one almighty being. Again, it's the exact same thing that is being done in the madrases all across the near, middle, and far east, to which our administration offers staunch criticism. It's also a tactic often used by white supremacists in this country, and ultra-nationalist elements in other countries -- again, to which our administration offers staunch criticism.

Hypocrisy is not a religion, or a form of government, I endorse.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Once again, Boomr, excellent points. In fact, Im not in that much disagreement with you- save for the reality of the world we live.

All things being equal, I would agree that having the govt attend to it's business in our Houses of Worship makes me uncomfortable- hence my earlier words that I think the tension is a good one.

Now, as to killing being antithetical to religion- well, that is a given. Nevertheless, even in religious philosophies there is such a thing as a 'just war'- and those are fought without reservation. Now, Im not making such a claim at the moment. I mention that for illustrative puposes only- to point out thar religion and politics can intersect.

Anyway, I'd like to pursue this. Forgive me if my responses are spotty and a bit erratic at times.

There is only one thing worse than religion and politics- yup, real life rears it;s ugly head from time to time.

Thanks Dingo, for allowing us the space to hash it all out.

Boomr, we'll pick this up later.

Dingo said...

geesh... I take one day off to move apartments and I miss all of the fun...

Dingo said...

geesh... I take one day off to move apartments and I miss all of the fun...

Boomr said...

Siggy, thanks for keeping the debate alive. This is the type of thread that I enjoy -- an intelligent exchange of ideas, rather than mindless blustering of sound bytes on either side. I hope I'm holding up my end of that intelligent exchange.

OK, as for your comment about a "just war" according to religious philosophy, I'd like you to point out one instance of such in the whole of human history. The biggest example of what most people would call a "religious" war would be the Crusades -- which, I grant you, gained support across political borders through the urgings of the Church. However, the Crusades were much less a war based on religious principles than a war for territory. The area around Jerusalem was an important area for trade routes, apart from being the center of the world's three biggest religions. The history of what happened during and after the Crusades bear this out -- the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians and other "religious" orders of the military became hugely rich, exerting untold POLITICAL influence on the powers of Europe, with nothing so much as a passing thought to religious doctrine. Those institutions morphed into the modern-day Freemasons, who allegedly still wield great POLITICAL and ECONOMIC power without a ready link to religion. (For a great history of the Crusade origins of the Freemasons, read the novel Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco).

I agree that religion and politics do intersect, but the issue I'm pressing is that they SHOULDN'T. Your previous comment about religion's support of the military in WW2 was two-fold: the Church may have supported some of the American military activities, but it also served as a vital pipeline for Nazis and other Axis members to obtain new identities and travel papers, to be smuggled to new homes sympathetic to the Nazi doctrine (mostly in South America). Thus, the mixing of religion and politics is, at most, a disturbing event, and for our country to do so while denouncing other countries' similar efforts is extremely hypocritical.

As I've said before, religion is most concerned with securing the afterlife, while politics is concerned with securing the present life. The two have mutually inconsistent mandates, and such mandates are even more inconsistent in the military arena.

I await your further comments. Again, thanks for keeping this debate alive.