THE ADVOCATE – War on religion in military a phony one

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During a lull in the fighting, a Pfc. faced a serious allegation.

“Have you been proselytizing?”

“No, Sarge. I know I could be court-martialed for that. I was just exercising my right to evangelize.”

The sergeant opened a desk drawer and took a surreptitious look at a dictionary, but he still couldn’t figure out where to draw the line between proselytizing and evangelizing. Nothing to be ashamed of there. No mortal could negotiate such a linguistic minefield.

The sergeant sent the godly Pfc. on his way and turned to Google for the Pentagon’s idea of the distinction. A spokesman had explained that members of the armed forces are free to “share their faith,” but not to make “intrusive attempts to convert others.” But this did not help the sergeant much, for he did not think it possible to share faith without recommending it in the strongest terms. Indeed, if evangelism does not involve saving the souls of others, he could not see the point of it and neither, in his experience, could barrack-room believers.

He did not envy the military judges who, one of these days, would have to rule on an evangelism defense in a proselytizing case.

Such scenes may be imaginary, but they are a possibility as the law stands. They could never happen, however, under legislation that is being pushed by the Christian right. We have always called the right evangelical, but now we see that the term is too feeble; they are full-fledged proselytizers. If they have their way, the law will protect not only religious freedom but grant immunity to service members preaching the gospel. That should really make for a disciplined fighting force.

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