Michael L. Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has an opinion piece published in the L.A. Times in which his fear of Christians infiltrating the military is the central theme.
In “Not so fast, Christian soldiers,” Weinstein despises how anyone partnering with our government could even think of sending care packages to our military abroad that include, of all things, Bibles!
His other beef is that evangelical groups visiting our troops with permission from the U.S. government is wrong.
The fear in the hearts of these separation-of-church-and-state extremists is palatable, just as you can feel Weinstein’s anxiety in his opinion piece. And yes, I say “extremists,” because these people have taken our founder’s desire not to have a people ruled by religious oppressors and contorted the law to mean keep your personal expression of your belief in God out of our every day lives.
What are these people really afraid of?
One thing I know is that they confuse “religion” with “faith”. Religion does have the possibility of really screwing things up, while faith in the Lord can do no wrong, only to be challenged by man and evil.
Not so fast, Christian soldiers
The Pentagon has a disturbing relationship with private evangelical groups.
By Michael L. Weinstein and Reza Aslan August 22, 2007
Maybe what the war in Iraq needs is not more troops but more religion. At least that’s the message the Department of Defense seems to be sending.
Last week, after an investigation spurred by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Pentagon abruptly announced that it would not be delivering “freedom packages” to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.
Oh…my…God! Discussion of end times and putting the U.N. in a (God forbid) bad light…
What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which “soldiers for Christ” hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.
Apparently, Weinstein draws the line when it comes to USO-type tours by well-wishers at Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock. Christians are over the line…
The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU. Headed by former kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU is an official member of the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin. But thanks in part to the support of the Pentagon, Operation Straight Up has now begun focusing on Iraq, where, according to its website (on pages taken down last week), it planned an entertainment tour called the “Military Crusade.”
Apparently the wonks at the Pentagon forgot that Muslims tend to bristle at the word “crusade” and thought that what the Iraq war lacked was a dose of end-times theology.
Are you disturbed? I’m not. How about you?
In the end, the Defense Department realized the folly of participating in any Operation Straight Up crusade. But the episode is just another example of increasingly disturbing, and indeed unconstitutional, relationships being forged between the U.S. military and private evangelical groups.
Take, for instance, the recent scandal involving Christian Embassy, a group whose expressed purpose is to proselytize to military personnel, diplomats, Capitol Hill staffers and political appointees. In a shocking breach of security, Defense Department officials allowed a Christian Embassy film crew to roam the corridors of the Pentagon unescorted while making a promotional video featuring high-ranking officers and political appointees. (Christian Embassy, which holds prayer meetings weekly at the Pentagon, is so entrenched that Air Force Maj. Gen. John J. Catton Jr. said he’d assumed the organization was a “quasi-federal entity.”)
You can get this type of mis-labeling in the U.S. too!
The extent to which such relationships have damaged international goodwill toward the U.S. is beyond measure. As the inspector general noted, a leading Turkish newspaper, Sabah, published an article on Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Sutton, who is the U.S. liaison to the Turkish military — and who appeared in the Christian Embassy video. The article described Christian Embassy as a “radical fundamentalist sect,” perhaps irreparably damaging Sutton’s primary job objective of building closer ties to the Turkish General Staff, which has expressed alarm at the influence of fundamentalist Christian groups inside the U.S. military.
The Bible is bad…so very, very baaaaad…
Our military personnel swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not the Bible. Yet by turning a blind eye to OSU and Christian Embassy activities, the Pentagon is, in essence, endorsing their proselytizing.
Crusade rhetoric? How about good, old-fashioned truth?
American military and political officials must, at the very least, have the foresight not to promote crusade rhetoric in the midst of an already religion-tinged war. Many of our enemies in the Mideast already believe that the world is locked in a contest between Christianity and Islam. Why are our military officials validating this ludicrous claim with their own fiery religious rhetoric?
Great! One side will call it a crusade…and we’ll just keep mum. Claim ignorance, don’t educate, don’t talk about faith, and just worry about real issues…like how to stop terrible Christians from living their faith!
It’s time to actively strip the so-called war on terror of its religious connotations, not add to them. Because religious wars are not just ugly, they are unwinnable. And despite what Operation Straight Up and its supporters in the Pentagon may think is taking place in Iraq, the Rapture is not a viable exit strategy.
From the L.A. Times story: Michael L. Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote “With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military.” Reza Aslan, author of “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam,” is on the MRFF advisory board.