By Nina Burleigh, New York Times best-selling author and journalist
“What they need to be reminded of is that separation of the church and the state’s military is the main difference between us and our enemies. If we fight, that is what we fight for. As a culturally Christian American, who grew up hearing about Christ’s message of peace and nonviolence, I am horrified by the braiding together of spirit and sword. This holiday season, I am donating a little something to the MRFF, a voice of reason howling into the wind.”
Selected Article Excerpts:
- Last week, a cadet publicly quit the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, citing forced prayer and churchgoing. Republican strategist Shirley Husar, in a debate on HuffPost Live, asserted that West Point is “a religious institute.”Merry Christmas, Shirley, but West Point is not a religious institute—though that’s not for want of trying on the Christian right’s part.The cadet in question is 24-year-old Blake Page, who described being “severely punished” for not going to church while in basic training…Mr. Page said prayer is routine at mandatory cadet events, and that students who participate in religious retreats are awarded with off-campus passes and academic credit. He said evangelical professors would challenge him on how morality could exist without God.
- Up until Mr. Page’s resignation, nobody had ever described the pervasive religiosity inside the nation’s premier military academy…The notion that cadets less than 100 miles from New York City who don’t go to church are punished for their personal beliefs while the believers are in the pews—as Mr. Page described—is shocking.But why should it be? Creepy, crazy guns-and-prayer fanatics were colonizing the U.S. armed forces even before 9/11.
- The only reason we know about these affronts is that atheists like Mr. Page, along with a group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), have the guts to stand up to what the latter’s founder calls a “fundamentalist Christian, para-church, military, corporate, congressional proselytizing complex of literally Jovian proportions.”MRFF was founded in 2006 by lawyer and retired officer Mike “Mikey” Weinstein, a Jewish graduate of the Air Force Academy who claims he has since heard from 30,000 active-duty servicemen and women complaining about forced churchgoing and prayer. “I’m sorry to have to report that fundamentalist Christianity or ‘Dominionism’ is inextricably intertwined into the very DNA of our United States armed forces today,” Mr. Weinstein told the website Truthout earlier this year.Dominionists believe that Christianity should be the law of the nation and the world. They also believe that the messiah will not return until nonbelievers are subdued or converted.
- In one of the organs of the movement, a magazine called Command, Lt. Jonathan Carl penned an article explaining how Christians might get around the commandment most problematic for a soldier, the one about not killing. He found spiritual succor in the fire and brimstone pages of the Old Testament, particularly the genocidal Book of Joshua, in which God supposedly ordered his chosen people to eradicate the indigenous inhabitants of Canaan in a manner that the Rwandan mass killers would understand.“So what is it like to kill the enemy?” Lt. Carl writes in the magazine, published by the Dominionist-affiliated Officers Christian Fellowship. “Killing is not hard but is a very sobering experience, happening very quickly and when done, you’re just happy you and your soldiers are still alive. Killing causes you to question why the enemy is so ready and willing to die for their cause. Are they brainwashed by religious or fanatical propaganda … ?”
- Dominionists can be found at all levels of the military, from the academies to Washington prayer breakfasts.
What they need to be reminded of is that separation of the church and the state’s military is the main difference between us and our enemies. If we fight, that is what we fight for. As a culturally Christian American, who grew up hearing about Christ’s message of peace and nonviolence, I am horrified by the braiding together of spirit and sword. This holiday season, I am donating a little something to the MRFF, a voice of reason howling into the wind.