RH REALITY CHECK – Stoking Fire: Ultra-Conservative Doctrine May Be the Reason for Unreported Sexual Crimes in the Military

Selected article excerpts:

  • The cliché tells us that war is hell, but for female enlistees, the war on the domestic front—within their units–trumps that of the battlefield. In fact, a recent Veteran’s Administration survey revealed statistics that should have turned the military on its warmongering head: 30 percent of female vets told the interviewers that they had been assaulted by a male colleague and/or supervisor. Worse, 14 percent reported having been gang raped and 20 percent reported having been raped more than once.Shockingly, these figures may be low since under-reporting of sexual crimes is known to be endemic.Part of the blame for the reluctance to report rests with an unsympathetic military chaplaincy, one of the few places soldiers, sailors, reservists, national guardians, and marines can turn for counseling. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 20 percent of today’s 3000 military chaplains were trained at the ultraconservative Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell and Elmer Towns in 1971, the school bills itself as the world’s largest seminary, something it attributes to its “conservative doctrinal position, its sound grounding in Bible teachings, and its reflection of core Christian essentials.” The school’s website clears up any definitional murkiness: “Liberty is committed to changing the entire world for Jesus Christ, first changing the world with its students, then equipping them to change the world around them.”
  • Rev. John Gundlach served as a United Church of Christ chaplain for 27 years and is now part of the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. He has personally witnessed the evangelical ascension and says that the declining number of mainline Christians—Turner estimates that 90 percent of today’s Christians are fundamentalist—opened the barracks door to them.

    “Some super evangelicals see the military as their own government-paid mission field,” Gundlach begins. “They are there to proselytize; that’s their mandate. Even though proselytizing is prohibited, it takes place all the time.“
    In addition, Gundlach says that many Liberty-trained pastors are incompetent. “They take courses online and don’t get the practical training and hands-on experience they need,” he says.Then there’s the issue of ideology. “Some male pastors lord over women. Some talk about ‘the gay lifestyle,’ which they see as a sin to be condemned. Even though they say they love the sinner and hate the sin, this viewpoint doesn’t help the individual who needs pastoral care and counseling,” Gundlach continues. “They claim it violates their religious freedom to have to provide care for lesbian or gay people, or to offer rites and sacraments to them.”
  • As for rape, groping, or sexually offensive comments, the MCA has been appallingly silent.“Liberty-trained chaplains are just one piece of a larger problem,” Rev. Gundlach concludes. “The evangelical Christian piece is huge. Their influence in the Pentagon and the military academies is enormous and will not be easy to overcome. It’s not just chaplains but senior officials and admirals who have been influenced by these conservative groups.”

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