Why Religion And Military Don’t Mix

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Military, Religion, Video

It appears as if evangelical Christians inside the military could be urging troops to give out bibles in Afghanistan…which is strictly forbidden by both the military’s code of conduct and Afghan law.

Here’s the report…



Now, the military denies that the bibles were ever distributed, but there’s no way to really prove if they were or weren’t. But what this brings up is the idea that the religiosity of some in the military is starting to get in the way. Because the faithful seem to have way too much influence right now since blatant prosteletyzing has been happening much too often right out in the open.

For instance, take the Mikey Weinstein situation at the Air Force Academy…

In recent years, accusations of evangelical line-crossing have piled up. In 2005, Fisher DeBerry, then the Air Force Academy’s football coach, was ordered to remove a “Team Jesus Christ” banner from the locker room. Senior officers who were filmed in uniform at the Pentagon for a Christian promotional video were reprimanded. Then in February, again at the academy, three professed exterrorists and reformed Christians were accused of putting a “Jesus saves”
message in a presentation to cadets. Richardson, quoted three years ago in The New York Times as saying chaplains “reserve the right to evangelize the unchurched,” was cited in a lawsuit against the Air Force that claimed there was widespread proselytizing at the academy.

The suit was brought by Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force attorney and longtime critic of alleged coercive Christianity within the military. (As a result of the suit, a private chaplain association’s code of ethics retaining the “right to evangelize those who are not affiliated” is no longer passed out at Air Force Chaplain’s School.)

And let’s not forget the seriously mixed messages our former POTUS sent…

Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”

Mr Bush went on: “And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East’. And, by God, I’m gonna do it.”

Listen, I have nothing against religion in general or members of the military practicing their faith responsibly. That’s their business.

But strict lines between religion and military must be maintained so our armed forces are not seen as Christian forces. And if that means harsh punishments for those who violate these rules, so be it. Because we can’t allow a cadre of the faithful to undermine our credibility.

What do you think?


This entry was posted on Monday, May 4th, 2009 and is filed under Military, Religion, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

53 Responses to “Why Religion And Military Don’t Mix”

  1. BonnieGlick Says:

    What do I think? I have tried several times to write a measured response to this and I just can’t do it. This hurts to the pit of my stomach, its just wrong, wrong, wrong, for anyone in our military to force their particular religion on ANYONE ANYWHERE. That’s all I can say and still be civil.

  2. Kevin Says:

    Some might say. How could it have ended up anywhere else. Bigot or realist.

  3. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Did the UN have it wrong in their universal declaration of human rights? “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”

    So, the question really is this: Does military service require one to put aside her or his religious beliefs? The answer very well may be, “Yes,” in which case there are certainly provisions for conscientious objectors. But if the answer is “no,” if the UN had it right, then people in the military should be welcome to share their beliefs with others, and those people receiving that message have every right to reject or accept what’s presented.

    Or do we need to be more sensitive to cultures that don’t believe in, according to the UN, a fundamental human right?

    Thoughts?

  4. Kevin Says:

    Exiled-

    Let me know how you think sending an armed group of Muslims or atheists or Hindus or?? into red states telling the people there they are wrong and that they should change their way of thinking? How well do you think that would play out? (Ever seen a group of atheists outside a church trying to convert anyone inside? NO)

    As to the broader point, everyone should have the right to believe what they wish. That isn’t really the question here though. They apparently disobeyed two sets of laws that they were supposed to follow.

    I think everyone has the right to believe what they wish. Those beliefs however should not be beyond the same scrutiny of every other belief from any other person. By giving religious views a unique pass, I think you are on a really dangerous slope. No one would accept no reasoning to back up beliefs anywhere else. Why should we accept it here? Most people are atheists about every other persons god or religion. It’s a bit contemptuous and hypocritical for some to say only one form is not acceptable.

  5. WurzelSchitzel Says:

    Sorry to be pedantic, but you used ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ after ‘Listen…’

    Otherwise excellent article. Military professionalism – not to mention diplomatic sensitivity – demands that our personal beliefs take a back seat in these operations.

  6. Justin Gardner Says:

    @WurzelSchitzel, thanks for the catch. Fixed! :-)

  7. TerenceC Says:

    Of course it’s wrong – and that level of prostelizing should be treated as a UCMJ crime just like any other infraction. I spent a long time in the military and one of the things I noticed was the base Chaplain could have been Catholic, Jew, Protestant, Muslim (Buddhists and Hindu’s are typically pacifists so I wouldn’t expect to see them in that environment)- but they were called the “chaplain” and you went to services in the Chapel. No denominations were overtly mentioned, and the chaplain always had their military rank displayed when in uniform.

    Respect the rank not the person was a common saying in the military and it should also apply to religious choice (as well as other choices not subject to this post). Respect God, but not the denomination since everyone is entitled to their belief. The rank structure in the military makes it very likely that one bad evaluation could derail a career – and it does happen. Religious choice or sexual orientation are just a couple of the personal behaviors that could be used against someone in a restrictive military culture.

    I saw a lot of people in the military who just didn’t have the means to attend college at the age of 18 due to economic circumstances in the towns they come from. This is a direct result of young people having no choice except to borrow heavily to attend college or join the military – it isn’t fair but that’s the reality we have created with the all volunteer force.

    “Religion ruins everything” – have your religion, enjoy it – and keep it to yourself. There are billions of people who don’t believe in the superstition anymore then we believe in Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin. When was the last time you heard someone say “I swear to God”…..or “I swear to Santa”…or “I swear to the Great Pumpkin”.

    The subtle influence of social messages in the military is very destructive and manipulative. I remember the annual NCO Association drive. All of the Senior NCO’s on base would be sent out to the lower rank enlisted groups to “fund raise”. They would look at you eye to eye, with their rank displayed and their “salad” of medals from 20 plus years of service and they would ask the lowest rank people for donations…what the hell were these newbies going to say, NO? Not likely, it was pure intimidation and I’m almost certain it is going on with religion and religious services as well because that’s how it works in the military.

  8. Chris Says:

    I just can’t get over the irony of being a christian and having a job killing people.

  9. Paul Says:

    All religions have followers who kill people and that is sad, but isn’t it strange that Christian soldiers cannot give out Bibles in Afghanistan ? If Islam is the religion of peace why would it matter if Christians are indeed people of the book ? Is the information contained in those Bibles that dangerous to Muslims ?

  10. kranky kritter Says:

    In theory, I don’t have a problem with any evangelical sharing his or her beliefs as matter of their faith, so long as it is done on their own time. But when they are on the clock, they shouldn’t be doing it. And there is also the problem that they are seen as proxies for our nation at all times when they are overseas.

    The biggest problem is that religious proseltyzing is likely to be counterproductive to waging an effective counterinsurgency campaign. If you believe in the tenets for fighting 4th generation warfare, then you know that a substantial component of fighting a counterinsurgency is to be, well, as mayoral as possible. Or maybe municipal. You deliver needed services without favoritism or attaching religious strings. That way, you come to be know for how you helped make everyday life for everyone better in terms of simple basic things like food, shelter, water, electricity, school.
    Now that I think of it, parts of the counterinsurgency model are like missionary work without the religion.

    Anyway, I understand why some folks want to hand out bible, and I respect the faith of those who feel its their duty to spread the word, but it just doesn’t seem like a good idea under the circumstances.

  11. Rich Says:

    Chris,
    Spoken like a fool who believes the military is full of murderers.

    You are pathetic.

  12. J. Harden Says:

    How far do you want to take it? I own a sizable percentage of a company that makes camo-colored Rosaries for combat troops — durability being the key factor. It has been a tremendous success — we literally can’t keep up with demand. I hope that they are getting distributed to the Iraqi and Afgan people. Should our troops be allowed to pray in the fox hole, Justin? Probably not, maybe we should have them recite some pledge to Obama.

    We provided Korans and prayer rugs to the terrorists at Gitmo and I see no problem in returning the ecumenical favor. I really think Justin that with the number of problems you have with our military, you would best serve your country by joining the military. You’ve got to be the change you want to see. Otherwise, it looks like you are just whining about the people that provide security to our country. Try to take a lesson from the past generations and don’t spit on them when they come home.

  13. MIke A Says:

    J. Harden – “Should our troops be allowed to pray in the fox hole, Justin? Probably not, maybe we should have them recite some pledge to Obama.”

    Guess that’s what Jesus would say.

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  15. V Says:

    J. Harden: What an unconstructive response. The little Obama pot shot was just classic, and irrelevant. Why don’t you join the rest of the mindless sheep and go back to watching Faux news and playing armchair commander-in-chief?

    I, however, agree that anyone representing our country and/or military should not be peddling their beliefs to others. I think disciplinary action is in order.

  16. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Let’s also keep in mind that conservative Muslim’s don’t revile Christianity. What is genuinely offensive are “immoral” acts such as homosexuality, promiscuity outside of marriage, consumption of alcohol, women who don’t behave in traditional roles, etc. In fact, conservative Christians and conservative Muslims have a lot of cultural common ground. So while it’s true that attempting to convert a Muslim is typically a crime, so is having sex with someone of your same gender.

    So let’s not get too wrapped up in worrying about being a “Christian” army. What they really don’t like is that we’re an “American” army. How, exactly, would we change that?

  17. Paul Says:

    Three thoughts:

    1. If you deny a person the right to share their faith then you deny them the freedom of religion. The New Testament commands its followers to share their faith, so to tell them they can’t would be a violation of them following their religion

    2. Are the soldiers doing this in their free time or while they’re on duty? If they were in the States and sharing their faith after hours no one would care.

    3. The Koran tells Muslims to read the Bible. “He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong),” – The Koran, Surah 3:3 So there isn’t really a conflict here.

  18. Dave Says:

    Ok, here is my take…

    First of all, I am an agnostic, practically an atheist. I do see religion as dangerous. Too many people do too many bad things (like killing others and justifying hate and discrimination) in the name of religion.

    I served in the Army 20 years ago. My experiences were different. Now, it could have been that it was because I was in a Military Intelligence unit, filled with college grads or people who were planning on using the GI Bill to go to college (like myself).

    I knew lots of Mormons in the military. There are a lot of Mormons in the military. I consider this a good thing, simply because they live what they “preach”, that being service to others. I had good friends who were Mormons. They *never* tried to convert me. NEVER. I knew other people who were also religious. One sergeant in particular never brought any book but the bible to the field with him. However, he never discussed religion with me.

    Today’s military is much different. When you have to recruit anyone you can, you get lots of ignorant, uneducated people. And the churches in the South are full of the ignorant and uneducated. I live in New England now, where I grew up, but I spent 7 years living in Texas. And even liberal Austin has lots of religious people.

    Believe it or not, but this bad economic climate may actually improve the military. I’ve read and heard that the military is no longer having a hard time recruiting people, and they no longer have to accept the bottom-of-the-barrel people they had been accepting.

  19. kranky kritter Says:

    JH, I think a pretty clear and defensible line can be drawn between personal practice and proseltyzing. You seem determined to obscure it. To suggest that this has anything to do with the personal religious feelings of our soldiers in foxholes is just distracting nonsense.

    The question I have to ask myself is whether or not I think allowing our soldiers to evangelize is ultimately productive or counterproductive to our counterinsurgency efforts.

    Presumably, most evangelical christians are strongly predisposed to assuming that evangelizing for Christ is always useful and productive. Under current circumstances I think it’s highly likely to be counterproductive given that our official position is that our conflict is not with Islam. If we want to look like we accept islam as a viable religion of peace, we ought not to be marketing alternatives. It plays far too strongly for the likely propaganda initiatives of the enemy. We ought not to make it so easy for the Bin Laden crowd to show us a speaking with forked tongues.

    We just can’t say we have no conflict with Islam and then hand out bibles, for the same reason good practicing catholics don’t hand out condoms.

  20. Nero Says:

    >>Rich
    Instead of having a temper tantrum, maybe you could actually make a contribution to the discussion. Killing other soldiers is every soldier in the world’s primary function. Nobody said a thing about murder.

    >>J.Harden
    Get off your high horse. You are profiteering off of your religion. And you cannot tell the difference between giving prisoners access to items of there faith, and trying to convert people to your faith in uniform. The US government has some pretty clear rules about its role in religion.

    As far as I know the military has never hampered, and is often very supportive of its personnel’s beliefs. Nobody is suggesting this should change. Your comment about praying in fox holes is way out in left field. Just like your comment about Obama. You sound like a Fox New mouthpiece.

  21. Tom Says:

    Free time or not, you are a soldier and you belong to the government. If the rules state you are not to do something, you do not do it or you face charges.

    “Sharing” your religious point of view (let’s be correct here, PUSHING your religion on someone) is as tacky and unwelcome as it gets. You may believe that you are saving their souls but they may believe the exact opposite, but just because you believe you are right does not automatically mean they are wrong.

    Christianity is a business, and you are the salesmen. Problem is you are working for free while the pastor is collecting the tithe.

  22. J. Harden Says:

    Nero –

    Get your evil right: I’m profiteering off of war. We’ve been profiteering off of religion for centuries now. What, you think the bobble headed popes & dashboard Jesus’ in every cab south of the border just dropped out of the sky? We also make a soccerball Rosaries just for Catholic soccermoms and their kids. I was all in favor a making an ornamental soap-dispenser fashioned like Padre Pio stigmata hands — I was severly voted down on that one, though. Anyway, God wants us to use the free market and cheaply-made merchandise to spread his Word and Salvation throughout Christendom and beyond, including Afganistan and Iraq.

    To suggest that this has anything to do with the personal religious feelings of our soldiers in foxholes is just distracting nonsense.

    Really, Kranky. Should soldiers be allowed to mention their beliefs to anyone? If yes, to whom? What about particular religious values (such as charity, generosity, courage) – can they speak about those? Or are they just forbidden to speak the name of their God or denomination? Should they be allowed to carry religious items – Bible, rosary, religious pictures, etc.? After all, they could be killed or captured in battle, in which case the enemy might be able to decipher the fact that they are not Muslims.

    You seem to think it is easy to spiritually bifurcate oneself from closely held religious beliefs — particularly in combat. I would suggest that it is not as easy or desirable as you may think.

    But look, since you seem to think the line is so bright, why don’t you draw it for me?

  23. Chris Says:

    Paul, if those soldiers were in the states trying to convert people to their religion, this article wouldn’t have been written about them. You are completely missing the point.

    The cultural impedance on the people of Afghanistan, by means of evangelists passing out bibles and preaching about god, COUPLED with the military occupation of their country, amounts to no less than a CRUSADE. Nobody has the right, regardless of what their religion tells them, to forcefully enter into a persons home and try to get them to believe in your book.

  24. cantbelivewhatimhearing Says:

    Here is my take, I was in the Army in the 80′s, and they pushed religeon like you wouldn’t belive. I am an athiest, and when the dog tags were made, I asked the drill sargeant that there was no area on the form for an athiest, just “no preference”. My only preference is not to have any preacher, of any type, spout his beliefs over my dead body, how dare he/she? When I brought this us, I was in deep shit for the entire time, myself and one other. They had me talk to a “chaplin” major, who ripped me a new one in front of all the others with me in Basic. They forced me to pray at certain times, then when xmas came around in the middle of basic, they tried to force everyone to church to pray. They made it very very clear that anyone who did not go would be in deep shit, and myself and one other said “go for it”. It turns out they did thier best, but he and I just laughed it off.
    Most of the people above are right, the rules say that we cannot force our beliefs on others, and when your carrying an m16, and you tell someone to believe your faith, you have a captive audience to say the least. Also, when you are in uniform, you represent the United States, plain and simple. You have no right to tell others what they should believe, under any circumstances.
    As far as the mission, trying to convert the Muslims or any others in a foriegn country, is against the mission of why we are there. They will use the conversion as another excuse to fight us, and they are right. We have no right to try to change thier beliefs or culture. If we try this while in uniform, with or without guns, we are no better than the terrorists we are there to fight.
    Religeon of any type does not belong in the military. There will always be those who “force” others like myself to go to church, and believe me when I say they go nuts when you tell them your an athiest, they don’t care what you believe, as long as you believe in something.
    I don’t belive in the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, the great pumpkin, or that my father is in heaven now, I do belive in the bill of rights, the constitution, the ucmj, and all other laws in our great country.
    These people, including the chaplin, obviously are using thier postions to try to convert others, which is counter productive to our mission there.
    It is so typical of religeous people that they do one thing and say another. Why join the military, if you believe in the bible? In every military contract that we all signed, it states “if all else, you can and will be called to combat arms and or infantry when needed”. What this means is that no matter what job you have in the military, no matter what branch, no matter what rank, if a war and or fighting breaks out, they hand you a m16 and point you towards the killing. Anyone who says different didn’t read the contract they signed. I did, very carefully for one day before signing it.
    Get religeon out of the military!

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  26. Mike Perkins Says:

    Here’s your line Hardin, the bible is fiction made up by men trying to keep their power and controll over others,Jesus wrote nothing down, your moral authority and supposed religious belief is laid bare by your claim to be a war profiteer, according to my uncle the Franciscan, profiteering from war & death is a sin.

  27. Lizard_King Says:

    I’ve included the link (in my website tab) to this month’s Harper’s cover story on Christianity in the modern US military. It won’t be available to non-subscribers until the next issue comes out, but it covers in detail the extent and origins of the problems you are describing here.

  28. let's play telephone Says:

    Chris says “kill”, Rich hears “murder”. The law makes a distinction, but I’m not sure Jesus does. His cranky-pants father is all over the map on this one.

  29. Chris Says:

    Rich,
    so you’re denying that soldiers kill people? If so you’re a fool. There’s no denying that killing people IS WRONG according to God as given in the 10 commandments. Amazing how christians can pick and choose what rules they support.

    Homosexuality is a sin! All will go to hell! But hey, we support our murders in uniform. lol. See what I did there? Turned your words against you.

  30. rob Says:

    The problem with the practice is not the desire to share on the part of the evangelicals.

    It’s the perception of authority in the eyes of those in their charge or care and the potential for it’s abuse intended or not.

    It’s the perception of them as proxies for America by everyone with whom they come into contact.

    Both these issues cut at the credibility of the nation as a whole and since we cannot control, negate or otherwise effectively mitigate those two real problems, the best course of action is to not to allow proselytizing.

  31. archer Says:

    oh! the horror! you’ve got to be kidding. you christophobes are so amusing.

    rich, thanks for the moment of sanity.

  32. Vast Says:

    Regardless of if we like their laws or not Afghanistan is not our country. We have to respect their laws and way of life.

  33. Chris Says:

    And we can respect it the most by invading.

  34. Pete Says:

    J Harden,
    You wrote:
    “God wants us to use the free market and cheaply-made merchandise to spread his Word and Salvation throughout Christendom and beyond, including Afghanistan and Iraq.”
    Without going into your confused belief that God wants you and your military-themed trinkets to spread Christianity throughout the Muslim world, this does not change the LEGAL and relevant fact that if you feel inclined to do missionary work abroad, you have the right to do so, but under no circumstances may you do so while wearing a military uniform. These aren’t the Crusades, Harden. As much as you’d like the troops to push evangelical Christianity on people with equally respectable beliefs, the troops are abroad on official business, and they must obey both military regulations AND the Constitution, both of which make it perfectly clear that religion has no place in the official functions of the US government. Here are the first 10 words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” That, my friend, is the Supreme law of the land (Article 6).
    P.S. I agree with Dave that evangelical Christians are the ones who are giving the world a massive headache. As Dave pointed out, Mormons (and most other Christian off-shoots for that matter) tend to be more educated, and as a result they understand the importance of respecting their legal and professional boundaries. I have the utmost respect for true Christians; i.e., those who live a moral life, love others, and respect their beliefs.

  35. John Burke Says:

    What do I think? I think this started with a piece of al Jazeera propaganda that some clown at the HP took seriously for reasons that escape me and should escape everyone. It’s preposterous to treat al Jazeera as if it were an objective, neutral or fair news source, particularly with respect to anything having to do with the US military.

    I see no reason to doubt the military’s response or its version of these events, including its assertion that the translated bibles were the brainchild of a single soldier and were confiscated by the Army.

    I mean, really, just how stupid or self-destructive do some of you think American soldiers and their officers are that you think they would dream of proselytizing Christianity in frigging Afghanistan?

    As propaganda, though, it works really well. If a bunch of gullible American bloggers take the story seriously, you can imagine how well it works with Muslim audiences.

  36. let's play telephone Says:

    john I think you are ignoring the well-known problem (i suppose that’s subjective) of evangelism in the ranks. this isn’t about one soldier who decided to print up a bunch of translated bibles all by himself, this is a pervasive problem throughout the organization.

  37. Kevin Says:

    And a problem with evangelism in general. Remember the girls a few years back who knowing the laws went there with their conversion plans and were caught and then asked the world for their release. They simply don’t care and don’t respect the culture or the laws.

    I’d have to go with the members of the military who say it was likely this happened and the videotape pushing it.

    I do like how absent any evidence to the contrary this is somehow a blogger’s fault.

  38. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Kevin, I think the fault-finding regarding bloggers like Justin (and most of the posters here) is that the source is biased and there is no conclusive proof one way or another that anything illegal happened. But due to an anti-Christian frame of reference, the assumption is immediately made that members of the US military did something wrong and hey, let’s put Christianity (and religion as a whole) on trial while we’re at it. I’m sure the logical part of your brain can see how those very large mental leaps come from the writer, not the facts.

    And I’m going to call foul on the concept that all cultures are worthy of our reverential respect. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a great starting point (as well as a great reminder to ourselves, as a nation, when we start coloring outside the lines). When a culture is blatantly aberrant in regards to core human rights, there isn’t much to respect. We can certainly respect the people as fellow human beings, but to tip-toe around a culture of oppression strikes me as dishonest.

  39. Kevin Jackson Says:

    Exiled

    Sorry but why is the source biased? It’s a video of the people saying it. The fact that it was on Al Jazeera could just as easily show a hands off approach to criticizing Christianity here. I think in fairness, that every source of news is seen as biased and the bias is just as often on the observer as it is the source. So with that starting point, nothing should ever be discussed? Blow off everything that the commentator says and listen only to the Evangelicals and it is troubling. You don’t have to listen to the filter at all to come to that conclusion.

    The difference in secular programming I saw in England recently is striking. They routinely discuss science and yes even atheism. I don’t know we will see that anytime soon in the US. I see the blatant bias and my guess is you don’t.

    You said
    there is no conclusive proof one way or another that anything illegal happened.

    This is painfully close to Bush speak. Anything goes as long as it’s technically legal. It appears that it likely isn’t according to their rules and regs, but assuming it was. Is it productive? Does it help the actual mission? Does it put our soldiers more at risk? Does it make the case harder to make that it is not a clash of religions? Should our military mission take a back seat to the beliefs of these people? Those are the kind of questions that should be asked always. Not just, can we get away with it.

    You said
    But due to an anti-Christian frame of reference,

    This line is the one that bothers me. I think all religion is delusional and not helpful, but unlike this type of Christian I don’t feel compelled to convert anyone. The concern is that they were doing something that according to the military veterans on here was something they knew they weren’t supposed to be doing and was counterproductive to the mission.

    If we lived in a world where reality was valued and gays could serve openly, do you think that these same people would be saying it would be wise for them to have a gay pride parade in Afghanistan? Of course not. … and why can’t gays live their lives the way they feel is right. Again, the same people think they deserve to do things outside the rules they agreed to but no one else can. It’s the rank hypocrisy that bothers me and I am sure many others. The vast majority of Christians, Atheists, Gays and all others serve honorably, it’s the people who put themselves above the rules that bothers (and outrages) us.

    Your appeal to the UN is interesting. While I would agree with the Declaration, I do find it interesting that many see the UN as everything wrong with the world until they cherry pick something they agree with. We and Somalia are the only
    countries not to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child for instance. Oh and guess who led the opposition to that too.

    You then said
    When a culture is blatantly aberrant in regards to core human rights, there isn’t much to respect. We can certainly respect the people as fellow human beings, but to tip-toe around a culture of oppression strikes me as dishonest.

    I’d agree with you there. I said to our former Senator that our policies should reflect our values, but so-called pragmatists of both parties always choose to compromise our principles. Bottom line here though is that the country we are in has rules and the military does as well and it appears that these people feel the rules don’t apply to them. The issue is with the behavior not the belief system.

  40. Vast Says:

    The Muslim faith itself is not a culture of oppression any more than Christianity is. Laws prohibiting the expansion of one religion over another are also not new nor are they solely an invention of non-christian nations.

  41. Kevin Jackson Says:

    Oh and Exiled one more thing

    When a culture is blatantly aberrant in regards to core human rights, there isn’t much to respect. We can certainly respect the people as fellow human beings, but to tip-toe around a culture of oppression strikes me as dishonest.

    Our support for executions and torture would make us blatantly aberrant so what is it you are saying here?

  42. John Burke Says:

    I warched the al Jazeera story with the eye of a former journalist. There is nothing — nothing — in the video or the voiceover that demonstrates that even one US soldier proselytized any Afghan or even attempted to proselytize any Afghan.

    It is a flimsy conflation of three elements woven together to create a narrative that the facts, as al Jazeera presenst them, simply do not support:

    (1) The discussion group of US soldiers with a chaplain in which one soldier indicates that he’s got himself some Pashto bibles “from my church” and the chaplain points out to him that distributing them would violate General Order One. Nothing and no one on that video subsequently indicates that they were distributed or even that any soldiers in the group disagreed with the chaplain. All we have is the clever suggestion that there was something really wrong going on by the al Jazeera reporter with his ominous invocation of the US Constitution. etc. The “documentary film maker” who shot this video chimes in vague charges that echo this concern, but has nothing further to say about any proselytizing that actually took place.

    (2) Next up, the story shifts to a well-attended Protestant church service (deemed “evangelical” by al Jazeera) where the preacher — a high-ranking chaplain — is, heaven help us all, preaching! Right there in Baghram!

    But that’s why there are chaplains in the military. On Sunday, they hold Protestant and Catholic services (other days for other services). Want to bet there was a well-attended Mass on that very same day at Baghram. But taping the RC’s wouldn’t get the all that active “testifying” and reminding the faithful to spread the Word that some folks find creepy. The simple fact is that this is what preachers preach about, as you’d know if you’d ever seen such a service before.

    In the voice over, the al Jazeera guy tells us that a lot of soldiers at Baghram are “evangelicals” and a lot of chaplains are too. But so what? Most Americans and one presumes most US soldiers are at least nominally one kind of Protestant Christian or another. The church-going among them tend to be disproportionately “evangelicals” or one sort or another, so that’s who you’d expect to see at church on Sunday at Baghram. But so what? What has any of that to do with the charge being made that soldiers are preaching to Afghans — or even planning to preach to Afghans. Are the soldeirs not entitled to practice their own faiths and go to church in Afghanistan?

    (3) Then we get a focus on one chaplain who visits hospitals to comfort civilians who are sick or injured. Here, al Jazeera is straining to find some way to make the connection between the charge of proselytizing and some proof of it. Gloss over this quickly — or simply be gullible enough — and you’ll get the feeling that the chaplain is doing something he shouldn’t be doing. But it’s the reporter’s narrative that evokes that feeling. The chaplain actually doesn’t proselytize anyone in that segment. He says he’ll “pray for you,” which is what you’d expect a chaplain to say to someone in a hospital. If this is al Jazeera’s proof of evangelizing, then it’s mighty thin gruel to come up with after so much effort. (Anyway, we don’t even know who these people he’s visiting are. If you were looking for proof of evangelizing, wouldn’t you ask them!)

    This is a not-very-artful piece of al Jazeera propaganda. And it DOES matter what the source is. If this were a generally more reliable and elss suspect news source (say, CNN or NBC), you’d have to start by crediting it a bit more. Even so, the exact same piece by CNN would have the same easy-to-see flaws. So much so that CNN would not have authored or broadcast such a story in the first place.

  43. Kevin Jackson Says:

    John

    I read your review and watched the video again and I have to say your review was at least as biased as Al Jazeera.

    1) You failed to mention that it was a former military guy who filmed a documentary that indicated he saw it is a problem. That is at least germaine to your criticism. The other question I have is what other possible purpose would getting a supply of bibles in a local language sent to Afghanistan, unpackaged and then discussing what we can and can’t do with them—- “HINT HINT” gift. What would any reasonable person wonder? (If they had been sent cases of Playboy in the local language what would you think they’d be for?) They may very likely have not distributed them but an unbiased viewer would certainly think they had planned to and wanted to. The question is what the rest of the footage in the documentary showed. At the very least it showed they had not been well instructed if they knew the first rule and still had boxes of bibles.

    you then said
    (2) Next up, the story shifts to a well-attended Protestant church service (deemed “evangelical” by al Jazeera) where the preacher — a high-ranking chaplain — is, heaven help us all, preaching! Right there in Baghram!

    He did more than preach, He urged people to “hunt people for Jesus” Perhaps he meant that it was for the military people to go after each other but then why have Bibles in the local language? It just doesn’t pass the smell test.

    I would agree that the commentator doesn’t think prosletyzing is a good idea. (As would probably the people who support the troops since it makes the job harder)

    Many of your complaints are that a 4:25 clip doesn’t tell the whole story and yet we haven’t heard anything about it in the American press. Wouldn’t you think someone would look into whether there was something there or not. Or are they too busy covering American Idol? or Natalie Holloway?

    When Pat Tillman was sent to Iraq, he was used as a prop for the war. When he was killed his last words were “Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God’s not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling …“ he was then shot from 10 yards away. If an atheist had killed an evangelical I think Fox would run it every night and Republicans would show how evil the godless Liberals are. Been painfully quiet on the other side of the coin. But of course there is no bias.

    Atheists are in the same percentage of the population to Evangelicals in the US according to the most recent polls. Who do you think has more influence in the US and certainly in government? The fact that they have been given special influence is what causes these kinds of problems. At the very least, the minister could have said, “You absolutely can not do this. Let me be clear.” He didn’t.

    The question remains what the commentator asked and what Justin asked. Should we do this? Is it helpful?

  44. John Burke Says:

    Glad you brought up the documentarian. The footage he shot is the whole story. Without it, there is nothing for al Jazeera to work with.

    Here are the most obvious problems with it:

    – He was allowed or invited to tape the discussion group — but where is the rest of it? We’re fed a couple of snippets of conversation — notably the chaplain referring to general order one and video (repeated) of the bibles on the floor. But where did the discussion lead? Did anyone contest the chaplain’s point? Did the chaplain go on to flesh it out? Did the discussion simply turn to other matters? Did any of the soldiers remark further on the bibles? Did they throw the documentarian out? What happened? The guy was there — but he doesn’t tell us what happened.

    – After the meeting, why didn’t he ask some of the participants questions, conspicuously the chaplain and the guy with the bibles? Where is that footage? What journalist or “documentary film maker” would sense that he had a story and just walk away without asking the obvious questions? Are you going to pass out the bibles? What are you going to do with them? Do you ever preach to Afghans? When, where, why, who? how? If he was not allowed to ask questions on camera, wouldn’t you think he’d have said so in the al Jazeera piece? In any case, he could have asked without the camera and born witness to the responses.

    – What is the relationship in time, space and personalities beween the discussion group and the bibles and the church service. For all we know, the service was a month later…three months later…earlier. And again, if the sermon at that service was so alarming, why didn’t this guy ask some questions after the service of the chaplain and/or the congregants – like, what did you mean about “hunting” souls and what did you take away from the sermon and do you think it’s OK to proselytize among the Afghans? Not incidentally, the military metaphor about hunting men vs. hunting souls would be an obvious one for a sermon to a group of soldiers. You must realize that evangelical sermons are ALWAYS about witnessing for Christ and carrying the Word. This does not mean the chaplain is urging people to go out and convert Afghans. In any case, why didn’t our documentarian ASK the man what he meant?

    – Same thing with the scene at the hospital. Again, the documentarian was there to shoot — and we get some snippets. He had an even better chance to as the chaplain what he thought he was doing and why — or ask the Afghans the chaplain was talking to anything he felt like asking. He didn’t.

    And with respect to the questioning issue, if the film maker had constraints placed on him by the military, he would have said so. If he did, he still could have asked some of these people questions, promising them anonymity (every journalist in the war zone does). I don’t know if he did or didn’t ask questions or what answers he got. What I do know is that the AJ story had no interviews with anyone except the “documenarian” himself.

    There enough holes in this story to suspect that it’s a deliberate piece of propaganda. Al Jazeera might have paid the guy for his footage, too (it has no ethical prohibition to doing so, as CNN or NBC does), so that his ensorsement and cooperation would be suspect (did the HP ask that question?). At a minimum, it’s totally crap journalism

    There are a lot of things going on in the world to worry about. This is not one of them.

  45. Kevin Jackson Says:

    John-

    My guess is that no amount of evidence is going to change it for you but you said
    Glad you brought up the documentarian. The footage he shot is the whole story. Without it, there is nothing for al Jazeera to work with.

    Hughes produced the documentary and has only a rough cut. He was asked to produce the segment from the rough cut. He has the rough cut up on the site below

    http://enduringamerica.com/tag/brian-hughes/

    They prepared, planned, were delivered Bibles in the native languages and obviously delivered them based on the whole video. The video shows them trying to figure out how to do it without getting in trouble. Obviously for these people it was putting lipstick on a pig. Their whole goal is to convert people. Unless there is a different definition of prosletyze than I am aware of I think it is pretty clear.

    The documentarian was a former military guy who himself believed it was wrong. So you are questioning his judgement and integrity. You are free to do that but you should have something to back it up.

    In the comments there is a post from Josh Mull on the military helping a Christian Reality show. I think they are/were way too cozy with the religious right and these things happen because the people know “I get that we aren’t supposed to do this but how can we do it so we can get away with it anyway.” Knowing you have the higher ups covering your back is how this (and Abu Gharaib) happened. If you can’t do something out in the open, you probably shouldn’t be doing it

    http://www.pubrecord.org/religion/565-military-deeply-involved-in-christian-reality-television-show.html

    For a christian perhaps this never crosses the line, I am bothered but it’s because of the answers to the questions that were never addressed

    Here were the questions I asked earlier
    Is it productive? Does it help the actual mission? Does it put our soldiers more at risk? Does it make the case harder to make that it is not a clash of religions? Should our military mission take a back seat to the beliefs of these people? Those are the kind of questions that should be asked always. Not just, can we get away with it.

  46. John Burke Says:

    OK, I watched the whole “raw” video, too. If you think this is further “evidence,” I don’t know what to say except that in this seven minutes of footage, a large part os taken up by the chaplain telling the group explicitly NOT to preach but to show what “good” people they are, and show Afghans the love and caring of Christian people. That’s the “smart” way to spread the Word.

    It’s also a way to spread the Word that would not entail trying to convert anyone.

    In any case, the bibles were not distributed, so what’ the issue — that a discussion took place?

    If this is the best that al Jazeera can come up with from this guy’s taping, I stand by everything I said above.

  47. lordof flies Says:

    So here we are again.
    The sword is inverted, and is called the Cross of God.
    But what it is remains unchanged.
    A tool for killing, for enforcing the King’s will by threat of killing, having no other purpose, is now turned to declaring there is no god but their god, no reality but theirs.
    Do not blame the troops, but do punish those who violate those few laws which protect America from the emergence of a new state, lead by the hymn “Onward CHRISTIAN Soldiers”.
    Start by dishonorably discharging “My god was a real god, and his was an Idol” General Boykin, for disgracing the uniform.

  48. Christian Extremism and Terrorism Is Undermining America's Democracy | Prose Before Hos Says:

    [...] * Evangelical Christians in the military were caught distributing Bibles to Afghanis [source] [...]

  49. Gregory Perrone Says:

    Wow! I can’t believe what I’m reading here. Yes, many people have commited murder in the name of many gods. That does not make religion evil. Many people have murdered for things other than religion. The point here is that religion is not evil. Religion is simply the belief in something larger than yourself. It;s a way to define who you are, where you come from, and what you stand for. It doesn’t take much immagination to see why military members tend to be religious. I mean, the thought of dying at any monent, the belief that you are fighting for something bigger than yourself!

    Yes, the DOD has rules against members trying to influence the religion of others in the battlefield. We are SUPPOSED to be better than the enemy. We should act like it.

    As for you anti-religion types, how about being a little less hypocritical? If I pray within earshot of you, that is violating your rights? What about having me disciplined for praying, isn’t that violating my rights? I’ll tell you what, I won’t try to improve your life if you don’t try to ruin mine, OK?

  50. the Word Says:

    Gregory wrote
    As for you anti-religion types, how about being a little less hypocritical? If I pray within earshot of you, that is violating your rights?

    No-Wouldn’t bother me at all. Unless you are doing it in some official way as a member of the government. If you are a soldier, no issue there either, unless you are prosletyzing to a people who you are prohibited from doing so to.

    Everything you complain about is a red herring. No one is trying to stop private prayer. In fact, the Bible says you should pray in private so I don’t know why you don’t want to honor the directions you were given. It’s a mystery to me.

  51. Spc. King, Tracy,S, US Army, Med. Ret. Says:

    The Uniform Code of Military Justice is very clear on its veiws and limitations imposed; inclueding the proscription on prosthylatizing and converting forgien nationals, within the T.O. (Theater of Operations) Iraq, or T.O. Afghanistan! However; The enlisted and subordinate officers will say “we were just following the orders of a senior officer”. This is not an adequte defence! If a soldier is given an order he knows to be unlawful, it is his duty to respectfully remind the his superior of the overriding SOP (Standard Operating Proccedure) and any known punitive UCMJ actions that could result; inclueding but not limited to, reduction in rank, up to 90 days suspention of pay, Revocation of Pass or Leave privledges, and a trial by Courts Marshal. If the soldiers are covicted by Courts Marshal, they could be inprisoned for the duration of thier inlistment / commission or for a term to be determined by the officiating tribunal, and from under honorable up to full dishonorable discharge from the soldiers parent military agency. Upon entry to T.O. Iraq/Afghanistan, The units undergo intensive briefings on every thing from A to Z on the UCMJ inforced conduct and ROE. (Rules Of Engaugement) The SOP of the subordinate units never overide the legal and binding authority of the UCMJ!

    In closing; I can state for certain that, 1. they were told of the laws conserning attempting to covert Nationals within the respective T.O. they were deployed to, 2. if they did not take notes using the pen and notepad that is a part of every uniform, that is thier own fault and is no excuse. Therefore; It stands to reason that, all of the officers/enlisted personell involved should be tried and convicted, and sentanced jointly to the punishment deemed to be the full extent of the law in question!

    Thankyou!

    Sincerely Spc. King Tracy USA Med.Ret.

  52. NatorBator Says:

    I’m a Christian. Unfortunately, these days that can be seen as both good and bad.

    As to this issue. My my, so many things I want to say, but is it appropriate… ? Yes we should share our religion and beliefs with others, but ONLY IF they come to you and ask for that.

    Don’t be praying aloud in front of everyone, flaunting your beliefs like you’re the most perfect person in the world. Yes pray, but pray in a manner that won’t offend those near you. Just because they do things that may offend you doesn’t give you the right to use time spent on a fake prayer to God getting even with them! It should be a private matter between you and God, not the entire room… unless others are joining you, of course.

  53. Bob Gilmour Says:

    You simply can’t govern religion. Any attempt to do so would violate that religion’s belief system. Now with that said, you also can’t push religion on others as NatorBator said

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