Archive for April 26th, 2007|Daily archive page

Mr. President? God, Line One.

All those “Secular Humanists” have been complaining for years that President Bush thinks he has a direct line to God. Might I point out that if the people in the Pentagon think the same thing, that might not be such a bad thing?

In a recent book With God On Our Side, Michael L. Weinstein and Davin Seay illustrate the serious inroads made in the American military and specifically in the leadership of the Air Force Academy by evangelical Christians. Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, Air Force Academy graduate and father of two former cadets and one son currently attending the academy, is head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The MRFF is lobbying to try to prevent further evangelical Christian proselytizing in the military. (The rather annoyingly loud homepage can be found here. You have been warned.)

An excellent summary of the history of how evangelical Christians have targeted the military and specifically chaplains and officers is given in an excerpt of the book.

The most effective wedge for the insertion of evangelicals into every rung of military life was the NAE [National Association of Evangelicals] and its influential chaplain-endorsing agency, the Commission on Chaplains, which worked tirelessly as a liaison for a wide array of fundamentalist denominations, from the Assemblies of God to the Southern Baptist Convention to the full index of offshoot and splinter congregations. Notwithstanding the military’s policy of allotting chaplaincies on a quota system designed to roughly reflect the religious affiliations of society as a whole, by the late ’60s evangelical denominations were regularly exceeding their allotments.

The phenomenon mirrored, in part, the explosive growth of fundamentalist Christianity in America and, in part, the assiduous efforts of the NAE and its Commission on Chaplains to fill posts left empty by the Catholics, Jews, Orthodox, and others who were regularly failing to meet their allocations. In what Loveland terms a “quota juggling act,” the NAE and others aggressively lobbied to fill chaplaincies left vacant by other denominations, resulting in a marked shift in the selection process weighted more and more to religious demographics within the military itself, where evangelical numbers continued to swell. This consolidation of power would result, by the late eighties, in the NAE Chaplains Commission’s acting as the endorsing agent not only for established denominations but for hundreds of non-aligned individual churches.

This proselytizing has been surprisingly effective and I have blogged about Mikey Weinstein before, but in light of John McCains ‘official’ presidential candidacy there are a couple of points I’d like to extend..

First. There was the mini-scandal of the Christian Embassy video that came out last December. You remember that?

The Christian Embassy is a Washington based organisation who “provide safe places and practical resources to help national and international leaders working in D.C., their spouses and staffs integrate their faith and their work. [Their text]”

One of the safe places they provide is in the Pentagon and until it got exposed, they had a promotional video on their website displaying nine senior Pentagon officers, in uniform, in the Pentagon, praising the work the ‘Embassy’ has been doing. Uncovered by the MRFF and leaked to the Washington Post. It made a minor kurfuffle in December,

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military

“I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. “And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I’m an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am.” [my emphasis]

After the issue broke, the video was removed from the official CE website but not from those pesky little watchdog organisations. It is a good watch and well worth the ten minutes. (If you have the stomach)

The bit about God, family and country in the quote should worry you. It should be said that the official Oath of Enlistment sworn by all members of the US Armed Forces follows,

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

That last sentence is optional and is a plea for assistance and not a justification for ignoring the rest as Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. seems to think.

As an aside, I’d also like to point out that the Christian Embassy does not only target the Pentagon but any powermaker in Washington; several congressmen are also featured in the video. One, John Carter, R-TX (who would have guessed), while discussing a ‘fact finding’ trip to Ethiopia is on tape saying “We’re congressmen going over to represent the Lord, and our message is very simple. ‘We are here to tell you about Jesus of Nazareth and what he teaches and we are not here to talk about religion. We’re here to talk about the love and demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ.’ And that’s it.”

This pretty much shows how these people tick. Talking about Jesus isn’t talking about religion. Religion means whether you are Baptist or Catholic; religion is not what you believe as long as there is this J-C guy involved. That’s why they aren’t establishing a religion. Get it?

Anyway. The leak led to a kurfuffle which led to an investigation, which, as far as I can tell, isn’t finished yet. I will keep you up to date if I find anything.The next thing came at the end of March when the Air Force back-pedalled on new guidelines limiting the amount of proselytizing by senior officers. From an editorial in the Washington Post,

Unfortunately, facing a barrage of complaints from evangelical Christian groups and pressure from members of Congress, the Air Force backed down. It has issued a revised set of rules that pose the potential for inappropriate religious pressure on cadets and service members. This pushes the balance in the wrong direction, especially in light of disturbing reports from the Air Force Academy about religious intolerance and inappropriate proselytizing.

One troubling issue in the revised guidelines concerns the ability of superior officers to proselytize or otherwise promote their faith. The original guidelines emphasized that “individuals need to be sensitive to the potential that personal expressions may appear to be official expressions,” adding, “the more senior the individual, the more likely that personal expressions may be perceived to be official statements.”

The new guidelines move away from this common-sense approach and emphasize superior officers’ rights over the dangers of coercion. For example, the guidelines say, “Nothing in this guidance should be understood to limit the substance of voluntary discussions of religion . . . where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and they can be reasonably free of the potential for, or appearance of, coercion.” But reasonably clear to whom? What looks uncoercive to an officer can look awfully official to a cadet.

The final straw is John McCain’s absolute embrace of the TheoCon position which to some (Ted Haggard perhaps?) seems to involve McCain taking a strong grip on his ankles.

The visible McCain move to the dark side began last year when he agreed to give the much reported commencement address last year at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Going from the frying pan into the fire (or perhaps the ejector seat into the cloud), McCain started meeting with the crème de la crème of the religious right including John Hagee. Who is John Hagee? From the BBC

John Hagee is the pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and a long-time fervent supporter of Israel.
His latest book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, interprets the Bible to predict that Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God.

This will set up a confrontation over Israel between China and the West, led by the anti-Christ, who will be the head of the European Union, Pastor Hagee writes.

That final battle between East and West – at Armageddon, as the actual Israeli location of Meggido is known in English – will precipitate the second coming of Christ, he concludes.

Then McCain goes on Meet the Press and says things like this

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iran. You said this to the Financial Times.

“‘Everyone knows we’re not going to have two wars (at once),’ [McCain] said…

“‘I do not think [using force against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities] would be successful. There is no guarantee we would get all those facilities. If you have a strike and leave them with nuclear capability, you have got a hell of a challenge on your hands.’”

SEN. McCAIN: I also said that there’s only one thing worse than using the option of military action, and that is the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons. And we must, as the president has very correctly stated, not removed the military option from the table. We cannot remove that option.

MR. RUSSERT: But The Washington Post said it would unleash Iranian agents already here in the United States and bring on terrorist attacks here and worldwide.

SEN. McCAIN: The president of Iran went to the United Nations and announced his dedication to the extinction of the state of Israel. The—they are in clear violation of the NPT, which they were signatories to. This is one of the most dangerous challenges we’ve faced since the end of the Cold War. And put yourself in, in the position of the government of the state of Israel: a near neighbor who has announced his—their desire to put you out, into extinction, and they have the capability to do so. This is one—a very serious challenge. And for us to say under no circumstances will we use the military option would be the height of foolishness in my view. And again, I want to applaud the president’s handling of this issue, keeping our European allies with us.

MR. RUSSERT: So we could have two wars at once?

SEN. McCAIN: I think we could have Armageddon. [My emphasis. Note: further blathering snipped, he has set the context. Israel and Armageddon.]

Lastly there was the McCain “Bomb Iran” um bomb (bomb bomb).

For those not taking notes: we now have an overly evangelized military; an Air Force officially refusing to produce balanced guidelines; John McCain’s religious right pandering; his overtures to evangelicals including hard core Armageddon hopefuls like John Hagee; and finally McCain’s spouting of absolute idiocy on Meet the Press and his public singing engagements.

All this culminates in McCain’s appearance on the Daily Show last night in an attempt to relive past approval and his spinning the occupation of Iraq for what it’s worth. Because if you ‘lose’ Iraq, it gets difficult to start more wars in the Middle East thus Armageddon moves into the slightly more distant future it’s just really, really bad.

So. You choose.

You have an army of Christian soldiers overly evangelized military with people on the Joint Chiefs of Staff claiming allegiance to God first, country third and no mention of the constitution.

You have a candidate for the Republican Party who is also starting to get those pesky little ‘God Calls.’

And on the other hand, you have Clinton, Obama or Edwards.

Which would you prefer?

(Hat Tip: Bruce Wilson aka Troutfishing/dailykos )