Monday, September 26, 2005

Freedom to Worship

This is an article I found a while ago that embodies my "fear" of the Christian right. I do not fear Christians, or Christianity. I am a Christian, so that point is kind of moot. My fear, as many on the left have, is the Christian Evangelicals who see no other valid option in belief other than "their" beliefs. It does not matter how much I assure them that I do not want to change their beliefs, or restrict their religious practice, it never seems good enough until I believe the same way they do.

There is a growing divide in this country. Some call it the "culture gap." I tend to view it more as a "tolerance gap." The growing gap is to be found on both ends of the political spectrum. There are those on the left that believe any and all organized religion is bad. If you believe in a higher power, you are an idiot. Then, there are those on the right that believe that there is one, and only one way to believe in a higher power. That is their way and only their way.

This is highlighted in this article about religion and the Air Force. As you may have recently read, the Air Force has had to re-evaluate religion in the Service and what kind of role it plays. The Air Force had to take dramatic steps to quell the growing evangelical fervor found in its chaplains and officer ranks.

Chaplains play a vital role in the military. It would be inconceivable to ask a young man to go into combat, to kill, and to see your fellow soldier be killed without religious support and guidance. But at the same time, the nations military is made up of all religions and it is unfair and unwise to push any religion on a soldier. The most effective military is a unified military. If the same intolerance that creates division in civilian America is starting to happen in the military, it needs to be ended immediately. Otherwise, we will find two militaries, just the same as we are starting to see two Americas.

Military Wrestles With Disharmony Among Chaplains

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 30, 2005; Page A01

The growing influence of evangelical Protestants is roiling the military chaplain corps, where their desire to preach their faith more openly is colliding with long-held military traditions of pluralism and diversity.

After accusations this summer that evangelical chaplains, faculty and coaches were pressuring cadets at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force yesterday issued new guidelines on respect for religious minorities. In the Navy, evangelical Protestant chaplains are fighting what they say is a legacy of discrimination in hiring and promotions, and they are bridling at suggestions they not pray publicly "in the name of Jesus."

Much of the conflict is in two areas that, until now, have been nearly invisible to civilians: how the military hires its ministers and how they word their public prayers. Evangelical chaplains -- who are rising in numbers and clout amid a decline in Catholic priests and mainline Protestant ministers -- are challenging the status quo on both questions, causing even some evangelical commanders to worry about the impact on morale.

"There is a polarization that is beginning to set up that I don't think is helpful. Us versus them," said Air Force Col. Richard K. Hum, an Evangelical Free Church minister who is the executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board. "I don't know whether it's an overflow of what's happening in society. But this sort of thing is so detrimental to what we are trying to do in the chaplaincy."

The Rev. MeLinda S. Morton, a Lutheran minister who resigned in June as an Air Force chaplain after criticizing the religious atmosphere at the Air Force Academy, said there has been a palpable rise in evangelical fervor not just among chaplains but also among the officer corps in general since she joined the military in 1982, originally as a launch officer in a nuclear missile silo.

"When we were coneheads -- missile officers -- I would never, ever have engaged in conversations with subordinates aligning my power and position as an officer with my views on faith matters," she said. Today, "I've heard of people being made incredibly uncomfortable by certain wing commanders who engage in sectarian devotions at staff meetings."
"Could there possibly be a worse time for this fundamentalist Christianity to be pushed in our military, when we're in a war and the people we are fighting are recruiting their members by saying we're Christian crusaders?" asked Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate and former Reagan White House official.

His complaints over the past 18 months about religious intolerance led to a Pentagon investigation in June that found "a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs."

Among other incidents, the academy commandant had urged cadets to use the "J for Jesus" hand signal with the thumb and index finger, the head football coach had told players that he expected to see them in church, and Jewish cadets had experienced anti-Semitic slurs after students were urged to see the Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ."

(Full Story)

And for those of you who think, "oh, well, they are just trying to be good Christians." After they are done with the Jews and Muslims, they will find something wrong with your version of Christianity also.


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Good post. I'm not sure it's the 'massive crisis' it is made out to be, but there is validity to the point that care must be taken.

All in all, there hasn't been a wholesale religious revolt at the AF Academy, so perspective does still count.

Dingo said...

no, not whole sale revolt. But there were many complaints about "religious persecution," including physical abuse.