Seeing this issue come up on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday first sparked my interest. It sparked it enough that I decided to go on a hunt for more information to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, so to speak. Sad to say, it goes tremendously deep indeed and I thank Bill for calling this to people's attention. It is indeed a shocking situation and if you haven't paid it any attention before, I suggest you start now for this may pose the biggest threat to our national security and Middle Eastern/Islamic views of the United States of any issue we currently face.
The issue I'm speaking of is the enormous influx of evangelical Christians into the United States Armed Forces, seeking to spread the word of Jesus - at gunpoint if need be. Religious discrimination has been an issue for a while in the US military, enough of an issue that Mike Weinstein felt the need to create the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to help combat what is becoming more and more of a widespread issue throughout all the military branches and especially in the Air Force.
A report on Al-Jazeera Sunday, May 4 has shed light on the fact that calling the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Holy Wars" is becoming less of a jab at former President George Bush's religiosity and more of a reality. The story covered a US church which collected money to send Bibles, printed in Pashtu and Dari (the native languages of Afghanistan), to US soldiers based in Afghanistan. It is against military rules to proselytize but the religious nuts in our own military have side-stepped General Order Number One by claiming they are giving the people "gifts", it just so happens that those "gifts" are miniature copies of the New Testament written in their native tongue. They're not looking to convert anyone, just trying to make friends. Riiiiight.
Even more damning was the video footage of a military preacher urging parishioners to "hunt people for Jesus."
"The Special Forces guys, they hunt men. Basically, we do the same things as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the Kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business"
A defense official told The Huffington Post that the preacher didn't mean soldiers should hunt for Afghani souls but was speaking in general terms. No further comment was possible because the overload of bureaucratic bullshit fried the telephone wiring at The Huff. I guess he missed the second half of that quote that pretty much shoots his canned non-apology to shit -
"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."
Yeah, sure doesn't sound like they're aiming to convert anyone to me. Open mouth, insert foot. Next time research the topic before talking to the press and making a jackass out of yourself.
Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai rightly called the report "very damaging" to diplomatic relations between the United States and Afghanistan. Not only will it serve as confirmation for the jaded masses in the Middle East that America is fighting a War on Islam but it is a DIRECT violation of not only our own military code but the Afghan constitution itself which prohibits attempts to convert Muslims in the country to any other religion. Not to mention it could literally get people killed - Afghanistan is still an EXTREMELY conservative, fundamentalist Muslim nation. They've come a long way from the days of the Taliban but leaving Islam for another religion is punishable by death.
This is just another in a long line of stories about Christian proselytizing both within the American military itself and to Muslims. President George W. Dipshit, himself, famously called the War On Terror a "Crusade." Despite that term's extremely dangerous implications it remains a popular term for the war amongst Christian conservatives.
It goes back even further though, such as the 2003 case of Lt. General William Boykin who claimed during speeches to prayer groups and breakfasts that Muslims hate America "because we're a Christian nation" and that Muslims worship an "idol" and not "a real god." President Bush's response was two-faced as usual - publicly he claimed to disagree with Boykin and that Boykin's view "doesn't reflect what the government thinks." Yet not only did William Boykin retain his position at the time, he was later made deputy under secretary of defense.
In 2004 cadets of the US Air Force Academy of Colorado Springs distributed pamphlets at diner settings for a screening of "The Passion Of The Christ", football coach Fisher Deberry prominently displayed a sign proclaiming "I am a Christian first and last. I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." 2005 saw Lutheran minister and captain MeLinda Morton was removed from her post after warning evangelicals were trying to "subvert the system" in their quest to win converts. A June 2005 study by the USAFA uncovered a shocking number of cases of religious intolerance, insensitivity and inappropriate proselytizing. Read about the full report here. In October 2005, in the wake of that report and a mountain of complaints from the MRFF the Air Force moved to withdraw a "code of ethics" document that allowed chaplains to evangelize military personnel unaffiliated with any faith. Even that was met with a mountain of opposition from the fundies claiming that it somehow restricted chaplains from praying according to their faith. In 2007 an inspector general's report exposed ethics violations by current and former officers including two high ranking generals who appeared in uniform in a promotional and fundraising video for the evangelical group Christian Embassy. Last year, Specialist Jeremy Hall sued the Army after a superior officer interrupted his meeting for atheists and freethinkers, berating Specialist Hall and another soldier stating "People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!"
This new situation is just another in a long list of them. Al-Jazeera isn't alone in its reporting, though, the May issue of Harper's Magazine contains an in-depth investigative report on the growing Crusader-movement in the US military. Here are some excerpts from the MRFF press release:
The May issue of Harper’s Magazine (www.harpers.org) reveals the continued practice of Christian evangelical proselytization in the American military and a lack of recourse within the Obama administration, according to a leading civil rights watchdog group prominently featured in the magazine’s cover story. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org) and its founder and president Mikey Weinstein were profiled by Jeff Sharlet in his piece for Harper’s Magazine, “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military.” Mr. Weinstein is the nation’s leading advocate for the protection of individual soldiers’ constitutional rights to religious freedom and a frequent critic of the U.S. military hierarchy’s blind eye to efforts to evolve the nation’s military into a modern day band of Christian crusaders.
“Every man and woman who joins our military swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and it is unforgiveable that many continue to dictate how, when and to whom a soldier can pray while in uniform,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). “The Harper’s Magazine report by Jeff Sharlet exposes shocking new instances of bigotry and evangelical proselytization within our nation’s military that emboldens our enemies, endangers our soldiers on the battlefield and threatens the core of our country. Equally disturbing is Mr. Sharlet’s revelation that despite President Obama’s well-publicized efforts to show the Muslim world that this is not a war against Islam, numerous offending officers and military professionals responsible for these actions continue to serve in high-ranking and influential positions, and many of them stand to be promoted.”
The Harper’s article (and the MRFF press release) delineated a few choice examples of illegal proselytizing:
An Easter Sunday raid on Iraqi insurgents in 2004. Special Forces Officers, inspired by a showing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, wrote the words “Jesus Killed Mohammed” in Arabic on their Bradley Fighting Vehicle and shouted the saying in both English and Arabic to entice Muslim soldiers into the open before embarking on an attack to put down the insurgency.
A meeting of an underground all-male, cadet-led prayer group at the U.S. Air Force Academy where members discuss, among other things, the deceptions necessary for missionary work in China. The author attended the group’s meeting under the promise that he would not publish the group’s name out of fear that: “Those who do believe in separation of church and state might interfere with its goal of turning the world’s most elite war college into its most holy one, a seminary with courses in carpet bombing.”
Interviews with Lieutenant Colonel Bob Young in which he defends and shows no remorse for stating that it would be better for a black to be a slave in America and know Christ, than to be free and not know Christ.
A speech given by Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg Metzgar before the Officers Christian Fellowship – a group with 15,000 active members at 80 percent of military bases – in which he stressed: “Christian soldiers must always consider themselves behind enemy lines, even within the ranks, because every unsaved member of the military is a potential agent of ‘spiritual terrorism.’”
Excerpts from a book published in 2005 by Lieutenant Colonel William McCoy, Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, which describes an “anti-Christian bias” in this country he seeks to counter by making the case for the “necessity of Christianity for a properly functioning military.” McCoy’s book was endorsed by General David Petraeus, who said: “Under Orders should be in every rucksack for those moments when soldiers need spiritual energy.” General Petraeus, while claiming his statement was not meant for the public, has never recanted his statement.
The deeper you dig the more extreme and shocking it becomes, take a look at the Campus Crusade For Christ's Strategic Objectives and tell me it doesn't sound like the main objective is a complete take over of the United States military by Evangelicals.
This is something that can not continue to be ignored by the Pentagon and DoD, it needs to be addressed. Evangelism is becoming widespread in the United States military and their outright refusal to abide by regulations regarding proselytizing. These type of actions not only hurt our reputation in the middle east but will serve as the strongest recruitment tool the very terrorists we're supposed to be over their fighting could ever ask for. It is a violation of our constitution, the Afghan constitution, and the rules and regulations of the US military and the government can not afford to keep turning a blind eye to the growing problem. Something must be done, American's need to speak out and make it known that we will not stand for a bunch of radical Christian fundamentalists turning our army into a corps of armed Christian missionaries. This goes directly against everything we stand for as a country and everything we're supposed to be fighting for in the Middle East. If Barack Obama really wants to change the view of America that most Muslims have then he needs to tackle this issue head-on, it needs to be addressed, there needs to be an investigation. The regulations must be reformed and strengthened, the chaplains guilty of undermining the current regulations removed from their positions, and a strong statement sent that the American army is *NOT* a tool for fundamentalist Christians to spread their bile. Ignoring this issue and hoping for it to go away will only further strengthen the now stronger-than-ever belief in the Muslim world that America's "War On Terror" is really just a loosely disguised, modern-day version of the Crusades. You want to reach out to the Muslim world, Obama? Start by showing them that we are NOT a "Christian Nation" and this kind of proselytizing will not be allowed in our military.