Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ambassadors for Christ in uniform

Here's a very important post at This Week in Christian Nationalism which shows the problem - one problem - with aggressive Christian proselytizing in our military.

An excerpt:
For the past three years, an atheist Army sergeant has had to remain silent as lie after lie was told about him by an Air Force Major named Jonathan Dowty. Major Dowty, a.k.a. JD the Christian Fighter Pilot, is a Christian officer who belongs to the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization that thinks the real duty of a military officer is to raise up “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

As a devout Christian officer, Major Dowty has made it a practice to publicly attack and defame atheist and other non-Christian enlisted service members by name, knowing that they can’t respond to defend themselves because he’s an active duty officer, so it would be insubordinate for them to respond to him. ...

Well, one of the soldiers Major Dowty has been lying about on his blog, SGT Dustin Chalker, just got out of the Army, and is now free to fight back against this Christian bully who has dogged him for the last three years.

Dustin’s “first order of business” upon becoming a civilian was to go straight to Major Dowty’s blog and post a little comment on a post that Dowty wrote about him just this week. Dustin’s comment, submitted last night, has not yet shown up on Major Dowty’s blog, where the comments are, of course, “moderated,” so I thought I would post it here.
You should be ashamed of yourself, JD. For years you’ve made a hobby of publicly attacking subordinate lower enlisted and NCO’s who can’t defend themselves against your constant defamation. The last time I engaged you on this website, I found out that you are still an active duty field grade officer and had to end the conversation. You, clearly, have no such reservations about good order and discipline, and seem to enjoy dragging your subordinates’ names through the mud. What do you think is the effect when the leaders, peers, and subordinates of your targets come across the unprofessional and inappropriate public attacks you launch against your subordinates? How does it make you feel smearing subordinates who can’t say a word back to you? You get to blast out all of the defamation you want from behind the cover of that little oak leaf. ...

Jonathan Dowty wants the government to force his religion on other people. Being present IS participation. Being forced to stand in silent respect IS participation. The closest thing I have to a “religious practice” is to LEAVE when people do things I find intellectually absurd and irrational. Why can’t I “practice my religion” and leave? Forcing me to stand there is forcing my participation, especially when the soldiers assembled are very often the subject of the prayer. If you’re praying about me, and forcing me to stand there, that is forcing my participation, Dowty. If a Wiccan forces you to stand silently on a parade field in a position of respect so he can cast a spell on you, would you mind? Would you comply? Or would you say, “hey, I don’t want to participate in this hogwash”? ...

Preference is shown when one group is given the podium and a captive audience, gagged and forced to listen to the other group’s rituals or opinion. Preference to religion is shown when troops are forced to stand there for your prayers. Preference to non-religious people would be shown if you were forced to stand there and listen silently while a philosopher explains that there is no reason to believe in god and you’d be better off sleeping in on Sunday. This isn’t a simple dichotomy of religion vs. non-religion. Jonathan Dowty is a demagogue and propagandist who uses these deliberate fallacies to construct a narrative painting neutrality as being anti-religious, when in fact neutrality is ::gasp:: neutral.

There's much more, but that will give you the general idea. We're supposed to have a nation with a strict separation between church and state. Your religious beliefs, if any, are your own business and not the government's.

Christians, as the majority in this country, have been fighting against this basic freedom of religion for more than 200 years. Oh, not all of them. Indeed, only a small minority. But they've got the rest of America buffaloed (witness the recent debate in the House of Representatives to "reaffirm" In God We Trust).

From what I hear, the military is particularly bad, with organized Christian officers determined to make this an explicitly "Christian" military fighting a holy war against the Muslims (exactly how our terrorist enemies want to present it, too). Atheists and agnostics in the military - and members of minority religions, too - face deliberate discrimination.

And in the military, subordinates can't criticize their superiors. Officers are free to say and do anything they want to subordinate officers and enlisted personnel, unless their superiors object. But since their superiors are generally Christian, too, the fanatics often have a pretty free rein to push Christianity.

Only publicity helps. Public outcry is not something any superior officer wants, and they will rein in these fundamentalists if they start seeing public criticism.

Of course, this depends on America's civilian leadership, too. If next year we elect as president a right-wing loon who wants to make this an explicitly Christian nation, all bets are off. (Note that such a president will also choose federal judges - and Supreme Court justices - who agree with him, so even lawsuits might be a useless defense.)

In the end, it boils down to ordinary American citizens being smart enough and concerned enough to vote against this vision of an American theocracy. Unfortunately, American theocrats have made common cause with American oligarchs, both in firm control of the Republican Party.

Of course, both think that they have good reason for what they're doing. And the end justifies the means, right? Unfortunately, the worst harm in our world is almost always done by people who think they're doing good. Even Hitler and Stalin thought they were doing the right thing, and slave-owners in America's South felt fully justified in what they were doing, too.

We have to be smart enough to see why this is wrong, and then we have to do something about it. Ignorance or apathy, either one, will destroy us.

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