10/6/16 MRFF Demands Public Admonishment of Lt. Col. Michael Kersten due to Official Sectarian Christian Statements at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey
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Thursday, October 6, 2016
Col. John C. Walker
Commander, 39th Air Base Wing
Incirlik Air Base
5th SOK Street
Dear Colonel John C. Walker:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has recently been retained by over 100 Incirlik Air Base personnel following the widely disseminated, internet publication of an article, on September 15, 2016, just 3 weeks ago today, by your very own Public Affairs office entitled, “Meet your leadership: Lt. Col. Michael Kersten, 39th MDSS commander”.
Most of these MRFF clients are under your direct command at the 39th Air Base Wing and include active duty USAF officers, enlisted and civilian personnel of many varied religious faiths (the majority of whom are practicing Christians) and no faith. Additionally, a number of Turkish military personnel and related Turkish nationals, the majority of whom are practitioners of the Islamic faith, also assigned at Incirlik were, like their fellow American/USAF MRFF allies, extremely offended and, consequently, very concerned about the ramifications from the following specific Q&A passage from this article:
Q: Is there a leader from your career that influenced you the most? If so, who, and how did they affect the way you lead?
A: There’s no ONE in particular. As a Christian, my example is to be like Christ. He is my guide and affects all of my decisions. He teaches to do all things as unto the Lord and I believe this is synonymous with integrity first and excellence in all we do.
While MRFF strongly supports and would effusively defend Lt. Col. Kersten’s personal right to believe as he chooses, we’re also confident that you, as the 39th Air Base Wing Commander, see the improper, coercive nature of these very public comments as to the obvious unconstitutional time, place, and manner of their unfortunate expression—which is exactly what prompted our new Incirlik clients to contact us. Specifically, Colonel Walker, let me reference an excerpt from Air Force Instruction (AFI) 1-1 (paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12, respectively) which states:
“Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment.” (emphasis added).
“They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.” (emphasis added).
Lt. Col. Kersten willfully and definitively violated AFI 1-1 with his sectarian Christian proselytizing statement. He has proclaimed to the entire Incirlik Air Base community that ALL of his decisions are based upon his Christian faith. Moreover, and perhaps even more outrageously, he claims that his exclusivist Christian faith is synonymous with two of the three Air Force official core values.
In point of fact, sir, ALL of Lt. Col. Kersten’s decisions SHOULD be based upon his oath of office and allegiance to the United States Constitution to which he has sworn to protect and defend. By unequivocally stating to the world that ALL of his decisions are based upon his Christian faith, he has broadcast to his otherwise helpless subordinates, and the multitudes of other military and civilian members which the Air Force Squadron he now commands directly and indirectly serves, that he will, in a professional setting, place decision-making primacy on his personal version of his Christian religious faith over his official military duty. One has to wonder how that sits with those who don’t share his religious views. Will he (and by extension, his organization) treat non-believers, Jews or Muslims differently than Christians? He’s certainly planted that all-too-substantial seed of doubt with our MRFF client complainants and that, in itself, violates AFI 1-1. He has essentially stated that Christianity (or his particular interpretation/denomination of same) is the guiding policy of HIS command. He has VERY publicly endorsed his singular view of Christian faith supremacy and it is not unreasonable or irrational to think that this widespread endorsement in an official Air Force internet publication could and/or would lead to preferential treatment of those subordinates who share his views.
On behalf of our many MRFF clients, MRFF wonders if his foregoing statement of Christian triumphalism is the curious reason that Lt. Col. Kersten deliberately excluded a third official USAF core value, “Service Before Self”, in his Public Affairs interview statement? That particularly glaring omission seems, in fact, to state that his PERSONAL beliefs trump the service-motivated value of prioritizing duty to the Constitution (and mission).
We find Lt. Col. Kersten’s statement of Christian exceptionalism to be extremely egregious, defiant and violative of Constitutional, judicial and DoD regulatory mandates. Please keep well in mind, Colonel Walker, that Lt. Col. Kersten made these statements in an Islamic-allied country to boot! And, while others might think that it was a simple “personal statement”, the enormous flood of complaints emanating from Incirlik Air Base to our office testifies to a VERY different reality. USAF airmen/civilians and allied Turkish military personnel and civilians at your international military installation are now hesitant to deal with the 39th MDSS because of the commander’s declared Christian bias. Junior airmen who might not share Lt. Col. Kersten’s beliefs cannot be confident that they will be treated fairly based upon their performance—and not on their religion or lack thereof. More insidiously, since this article was published completely without subsequent repercussion by Lt. Col. Kersten’s chain of command, they cannot be assured that you and your subordinate commanders do not share the precisely same beliefs and priorities, thus creating a toxic environment in which preferential treatment for “appropriately declared Christians” and overt Christian proselytization are common place.
AFI 1-1 was written precisely for situations like this—to preserve a command environment in which all airmen, regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof, are treated fairly and perceive that their leaders are judging them based upon mission accomplishment and not extraneous, private issues. Just as we have absolute restrictions on the political activity of active duty members—and I’m sure that you’d agree that a similar statement by Lt. Col. Kersten extolling the leadership characteristics of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and expressing support for ONLY one of the presidential candidates in this forum would be improper and illegal—AFI 1-1 serves ALL of our airmen.
Colonel Walker, sir, in light of the extensively published article and the damage already caused, we at MRFF, representing our American and Turkish military and civilian clients, demand that you act swiftly to enforce AFI 1-1. To this end, MRFF demands that you (1) expeditiously and publicly rebuke Lt. Col. Kersten’s official statement—as contrasted with his private Christian faith belief which is not MRFF’s concern—(2) appropriately and visibly punish Lt. Col. Kersten for his unconstitutional and UCMJ-violating behavior; (3) apologize to your airmen and our Turkish allies, and; (4) reaffirm an inclusive 39th Air Base Wing command climate in which ALL USAF airmen/civilians and Turkish military/civilian members, regardless of their respective religion, race, gender, sexual preference, national origin, or political leanings are treated with equal and mutual respect and dignity. All individuals under your command, sir, must be made to feel welcomed and valued, and judged SOLELY on merit and mission accomplishment. Only through actions such as these can the good order, morale, discipline, military readiness, and unit cohesion of an effective military organization be restored.
We look forward to your timely response.
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq.
Founder and President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
- March 21, 2023 | No comments
- March 20, 2023 | No comments
Once more the Fundamentalist crowd will use this letter to show you as some sort of an Atheist and anti-Christian. For some reasons many of the extreme Christians think their belief gives them the right to ignore the law and the Constitution of the United States.
People need to understand that the military is a unique environment. I wouldn’t want to put MY life on the line serving under someone with so much power over his subordinates who lets his strong belief that when you’re saved, being dead is awesome, “affect all of his decisions.
A personal savior who CAME BACK when HE died is about a little more than integrity and excellence, isn’t it? That’s his own business, but *I* want leadership with a WALL between risking lives to protect the Church and risking lives to protect the State.
The specific words used by Lt. Col Kersten are Domionist code for I’m a Christian first and American second. This prioritization is in direct conflict with the oath taken when entering the military. And when MRFF gets justice, the fact upper leadership had to be prodded means to me this issue may cause waves to be dealt with down the road.
It is very telling the Lt Col left out service above self. I know there is tons of snarky things I could say about a Domionist Christian supremacist not following the practice of their holy person but why???
There is a hurricane ready to slam the US. A conservative entertainer is tweeting the storm isn’t as bad as it is because ‘conspiracy’!!!!! This is real and people will die.
How are the two linked? Here is a rare look into Connie logic (trademark refused everywhere).
The Lt Col represents all of the USA. The words used tell our allies we don’t respect them, we believe ‘our’ ways are the only ways.
I understand the Lt Col clearly as I view the “I’m a Christian first” as fighting words – especially in the military. If the conversation was in dog the Lt Col just came into the dog park and pissed in everyone’s face.
The conservative entertainer says the national weather service (who is charged with the task of keeping people informed about storms like this) has a political motive. In dog he just took a large dump on the kitchen table. Total disrespect.
Both the conservative entertainer and the Domionist Lt Col lack empathy; they can’t see outside their own bubble. They embody If it’s not a problem for me it doesn’t exist for thee. And because both people are in positions of power, people – other people, not “their” people -but people will die. It’s historical.
Most of you who are not Christian do not understand how important it is for us to put Jesus first in our daily lives. We are supposed to spread the gospel to the world. We seek the Lord’s blessing on all people, atheists, Muslims, Hindus. We turn to the Lord in prayer for help in specific situations. It doesn’t mean that Ltd. Col.Kersten is going to publicly admonish non believers and not follow policy and procedures in his work. He simply asks the Lord for guidance and protection in different and difficult situations. Didn’t Jesus eat with the “sinners “? Didnt He heal the sick and raise the dead? Didn’t He forgive the thief on the cross next to Him? Don’t punish him for letting his fellow airforce comrades know he’s Christian. By putting God first, he’s letting them know that he’s going to do his very best in all situations to get his days work accomplished. I would rather be in the care of a true Christian than anyone else. If he is reprimanded for his simple statement of faith, as a Christian, he will be the first to forgive you whether you are deserving or not. Most people would hold a grudge for a long time. That’s what being a Christian is about.
Coastieswife: thanks for one of the best “Freudian Typo-Slips” I’ve ever read (Ltd Col). He clearly is a Limited Colonel.
I get your point about your (and his) belief in a Christian duty. That’s fine–both of you can fulfill your duty BUT NOT IN UNIFORM DIRECTED AT YOUR SUBORDINATES. If the Limited Colonel wants to put on civilian clothes and go door-to-door on his off-duty time and proselytize, I’m cool with that–so long as he doesn’t visit the house of anyone who works for him. YOU would rather be “in the care of a true Christian than anyone else.” That’s fine, too. But that’s YOU, not ME, and the Limited Colonel has no right to impose that desire on anyone who works for him.
“Didn’t Jesus eat with the “sinners “? Didnt He heal the sick and raise the dead? Didn’t He forgive the thief on the cross next to Him?” No, I don’t think he did, and BILLIONS of others don’t think so either. BILLIONS. I haven’t even seen convincing evidence that “he” lived or (if he did) was anything more than a street-preacher with a great marketing agency and publicist.
Coastieswife – your words would mean more if me and mine haven’t already experienced the focus of the Religion First crowd. Let’s just say their attention was less like Jesus and more like Herod if you get my drift.
In the military your religion is to stay inside you where it’s supposed to guide your decisions and help you to be a better person.
The uniform worn signifies your vow to serve the Constituion. It is the binding feature with those who serve with you. When a person wears the uniform they put their country first and religion second. At least they do if they want to uphold their vow to uphold the constitution.
How is it you don’t know this?
According to all Bible versions…
If a god wrote or inspired biblical scripture, then came to earth as a human man and was crucified in accordance with his own prophecy, then it follows that he was a victim of himself.
“The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.” – VOLTAIRE
“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” – MARK TWAIN
Colonel Kersten just said that Jesus was the One who had influenced him most. In other words, Kersten answered a direct question with a direct answer. He never said that anybody has to be a Christian or imply that others were less important. Just because a Christian in a leadership position talks about Christ’s influence in their life, that doesn’t mean that they are telling others what to do. Speaking as a civilian, if those under his command can’t tell the difference between an honest answer that’s not an order and a direct order, then all Americans – not just the MRFF and other atheists – should be worried about them, not Colonel Kersten.
Let’s take the discussion a step further. How would you react, Coastieswife and Douglas, if Kersten was Muslim, said to all his subordinates that Mohammed influenced him most, preaching that his faith was his guiding light, and came first, before country?
If he even barely suggested that he was a Muslim first and a military officer second, the same people defending their Christian brother now would be jumping up and down, outraged, screaming about Shariah law and “the Judeo-Christian origins of this country”, like they always do. (And never mind that “Judeo-Christian” is a made up word that vaguely insults all Jews, becaude that’s just icing on the cake.)
It’s called “Christian Nationalism”. It’s a thing. We all know what “Muslim Nationalism” is (it’s USUALLY considered a bad thing), and India is leaning towards “Hindu Nationalism” (Hindutva, look it up), so please reconsider if you think this is not a big deal and it doesn’t have huge implications. And in TURKEY, of all places… please try to expand your consciousness towards the geo-political and see this for the mess it is.
But that said, I almost can’t blame him, because when you move through your career and there’s usually a guy with a cross on his uniform at EVERY staff brief, and every military ceremony, telling you and showing you that this kind of thing is normal, you probably start to think it’s normal.
“If he is reprimanded for his simple statement of faith, as a Christian, he will be the first to forgive you whether you are deserving or not. Most people would hold a grudge for a long time. That’s what being a Christian is about.”
I have met a lot of evil Christians who have hold grudges against good people (whether they believed in God or not) even though they go to church on Sunday and continue to hold grudges on Monday.
“We are supposed to spread the gospel to the world. We seek the Lord’s blessing on all people, atheists, Muslims, Hindus. We turn to the Lord in prayer for help in specific situations.”
We have all seen how Christians spread the gospel. Pray for heathens’ sins on Sunday while you lied, cheat, steal, and kill them on Monday. You should watch George Carlin’s view on prayer and God’s will and his divine plan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r-e2NDSTuE
“But that said, I almost can’t blame him, because when you move through your career and there’s usually a guy with a cross on his uniform at EVERY staff brief, and every military ceremony, telling you and showing you that this kind of thing is normal, you probably start to think it’s normal.”
Yeah, and having few or no women and minorities in the military plus not given them opportunities in the military in the various jobs and letting them moving up the ranks was considered normal 50 years ago.
When I was attending a service academy I would have gladly loved and supported an organization such as this! I even used my speeches and papers in classes to speak out against Christians as a student of philosophy and humanities major.
I am not offended at this commander’s comments, nor do I call into question his ability to lead and serve under the constitution. After 33 years of atheism, I began to realize that the people I aligned with in my anger against Christianity were the very people who were the greatest enemies to freedom and humanity in the world – the leaders of communist parties in the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea to name a few who have killed upwards of 100 million people collectively.
At that point I decided that I needed to read the bible for myself to have a more educated opinion. I did not want to go to church to hear some Christian opinion or read other people’s books about it, but read it for myself. I got a bible in a modern translation (understanding Shakespeare was never my strong-suit!) and started on page 1 of Genesis with the open mind I always criticized Christians for not having. Frankly, I was surprised.
I recommend that anyone with a strong opinion on any subject spend time studying it in order to make an informed decision. The bible asks for nothing more than that – a decision for or against Jesus. Nobody wants to force anybody into something they don’t believe, even this Commander, because that simply is not the point. I think he would be at least as trustworthy as any other leader whose motivations you are not aware of.
“When I was attending a service academy I would have gladly loved and supported an organization such as this! I even used my speeches and papers in classes to speak out against Christians as a student of philosophy and humanities major.”
***MRFF defends the divide between religion and government. They don’t hate Christians. They don’t hate anyone although people often project that emotion on them. You may want to take another look at the MRFF mission statement.
“Nobody wants to force anybody into something they don’t believe, even this Commander, because that simply is not the point.”
***Then why bring up faith at all to answer a question about this world? And you personally can guarantee the ‘fairness’ of the Lt Col based on the flavor of faith? I am glad your faith has never been betrayed. Not everyone is so blessed.
Bottom line? It’s not about offending, it’s about rules, regulations, and maintaining a sense of respect when living in a foreign country. It’s about not swearing an oath to protect the constitution if one lives their life as a Christian first and an American second. At least that’s how I see these events.
“I began to realize that the people I aligned with in my anger against Christianity were the very people who were the greatest enemies to freedom and humanity in the world – the leaders of communist parties in the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea to name a few who have killed upwards of 100 million people collectively.”
Oh really? What about all those millions of people who were killed in the name of Christianity during those religious wars in Europe. What about all those people who were killed collectively by Western Christians colonial leaders,Western Christian imperialist leaders, Western Christian nationalist leaders, Western Christian leaders of democracy, and Western Christian leaders of capitalism. You add up the death of what those leaders have done, it would add up to 100 million or more people. Explain to me why half of the world’s population is trying to live on anywhere from $2 to $10 per day. Or why 50% of Americans are living at or below the poverty level? Or why the Walton family who run Walmart have a wealth that equals 44% of the lower/poor class population of the USA?
Connie – thank you so much for your respectful and civilized comment. I didn’t know what to expect, and I really appreciate it.
I am sorry to hear that you may have had a problem with your faith being betrayed. Obviously I am in no position to discuss this issue with you. Unfortunately all people are flawed in one way or another, and by no means are Christians excluded from this fact of life! This is exactly why I had to study the bible on my own – I never felt like I could just trust what other people said about it without knowing it for myself. In fact, the main factor convincing me of my atheism for years was so-called “Christians!” But eventually it was for that same reason, people, that I could not continue in my atheism without at least studying the other point of view.
As for the MRFF intentions, when I review the headlines on the main page of this website it appears to me that all of them are headlines about removing bibles from people’s desks and things of that nature. If this organization is really about enforcing article 1 of the constitution (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”), then I am all for it. I will march on Washington with you if congress attempts to make a law establishing a national religion, provided they don’t first amend article 1. That said, I do not see how a bible sitting on someone’s desk or an honest answer to an interview question is akin to Congress establishing a national religion. In fact, I see petitioning for a bible’s removal from a desk or a commander’s removal from his office for saying he is a Christian is more of a prohibition of free exercise. I realize that we have a vastly different point of view on this, but truly I do not understand what is so threatening about a book being on someone’s desk or someone suggesting that Jesus is a good role model. Even Muslims and Jews would largely agree on that point.
As for him bringing up his faith, personally I am happy to see anyone answer a question honestly. I suppose he should have lied and given a more political answer/non-answer ala Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but at least now you know where he stands. There is even an advantage for the non-Christians in his command because he has shown his cards. If he shows even the slightest favoritism for people based on their religious beliefs (i.e. only Christians in his command get promoted), then this will be an extremely easy lawsuit for those who are disenfranchised. I will always take the truth over lies. I may not like it, but at least I know where people stand when they are allowed to speak the truth. Of note, I do not know this man, nor did I intend to suggest he would be a better leader than someone else. I only said that he would probably be equally trustworthy to someone who is hiding their motivation from us.
Thank you again for your response. Respectful and thoughtful dialogue is rare in this day and age, and I really appreciate it. I sincerely hope you find mine to be the same.
“This is exactly why I had to study the bible on my own – I never felt like I could just trust what other people said about it without knowing it for myself.”
Well, unfortunately, many of us had the Bible and religion shove down our throats and when we during about the Bible and the existence of God, many of us were threatened physically and/or mentally for daring to question those items and for a lot of us, it took years to heal from the damage that was done to us.
“There is even an advantage for the non-Christians in his command because he has shown his cards. If he shows even the slightest favoritism for people based on their religious beliefs (i.e. only Christians in his command get promoted), then this will be an extremely easy lawsuit for those who are disenfranchised.”
If the colonel and I were in his office alone, and he said that to me, it would be his word against my word since high-ranking officers and NCOs tend to be believed more than junior officers and enlisted men not to mention trying to get solid evidence to prove your case.
G – thank you for replying. I can clearly see that you have a heart for the poor, and I for one am thankful for it. The world needs more of that.
I’m not sure about the numbers, but I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment that so-called “Christians” have done horrible things in the name of religion. In fact, this is another reason why I was so against Christianity as an atheist. Unfortunately, their “religion” is not Christianity. Anybody can label their group a “church,” but if we look at what Jesus taught in the first century, it was the opposite of massacring people, forcing conversions, American Civil War-era slavery, etc. In fact, he railed against hypocrites and their “religious” actions in his day as they ignored the poor, and he supporting those who were being persecuted! One could make a strong argument that those who massacred in the Crusades or perpetuated other brutal movements were not actually Christians at all — the fruit of their lives certainly doesn’t indicate a Christian nature according to the bible’s teachings. You could see that clearly by reading any of 4 well-known accounts of Jesus’ life that have been preserved for nearly 2000 years.
As for modern times, today I see Communists and others killing and/or imprisoning Christians all over the world. As an atheist, this led me to ask why. If Christianity is some silly man-made product, then what is the threat to these regimes? And why do people follow Jesus even when it means certain death?
You are correct that Christians should be ashamed as a whole for not doing more around the globe to help the poor. That said, I see no other group of people doing more around the world to help people less fortunate than themselves in places nobody else cares about. Of course when they do, people argue that they are just pushing their religion on other cultures. It’s a no-win situation in terms of public opinion.
And just to be clear, anyone making more than $34,000 in 2012, is in the top 1% of wage earners in the world. Half of that top 1% live in the US. So what is the “poverty level?” Who is the 99%? Shame on us all for not doing more!
Back to the topic at hand, this Lt Col in question is a commander of a small medical support squadron. Frankly, he has very little influence outside of what the MRFF has given him. He certainly doesn’t have the means to bring about some new crusade (he doesn’t even command armed troops!), nor do I think it would be fair to indite him on the actions of others hundreds or thousands of years ago unless he cited those people as his inspiration. If he messes up, he’ll be fired. For now, can we give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he is just trying his best to be a good leader? If he has ulterior motives, then his actions will eventually show it and he will be fired and/or prosecuted.
G – regarding your later posts. If he has an ulterior motive (i.e. promoting Christians and not others), then wouldn’t it stand to reason that he would keep his religious views hidden? If he intends to do something criminal then it would be moronic to tell everyone about it beforehand in a public, recorded setting.
Hey, does anyone else remember the internet 10 or 15 years ago, when conversations on forums felt more open, like it was really a place where people developed ideas, and like MINDS could really MEET each other, and you still really expected that maybe opinions could change?
And even when you argued about something, at the end you felt like you MADE AN IMPACT and said what you had to say, instead feeling like “ugh, why do I bother?”
Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that’s RELATED to why evangelicals in high places can run their mouths off *in allied Muslim countries* and not see anything weird about that.
Scientists should study this.
G – also please excuse me if I seem insensitive to whatever mental/physical abuse you suffered as a non-Christian. As you know, it is difficult to carry on a conversation and relay tone through posts, especially with the timing of when they post for each of us. That kind of treatment is completely inexcusable, and I am sad that people have tainted your view of God. I wish people didn’t make mistakes so often, and I can only hope that I am not added to the list of those who have discouraged you.
You are right about the Internet being a place where people can get together and learn from each other. However, nowadays, the Internet is being used where people used it to make their vile opinions, throw insults, and/or sending emails of death threats. There is a female computer software developer who had to disconnect herself from the Internet because she is receiving racist, sexist remarks and death threats from her male computer software counterparts because she is a woman.
Funny how those male computer nerds and geeks were shunned and ostracized by other people because they were so smart and now that they are successful, they feel that they can now display their various prejudices. How quickly people forget what it was like to be discriminated and oppressed.
If Christians were being killed all over the world, I am sure that it would have been front page on the newspapers, being broadcast on the mainstream media, the Christian media, and even by the Christian organizations.
The colonel may not have the means to start a crusade; however, he would have gotten support from the Dominionist Christians military personnel since I heard that there are about 15,000 of them in the military and many of them are high ranking officers and NCOs in very powerful positions. Otherwise, organizations like the MRFF would not exist to challenge them.
If the colonel gets fired or prosecuted, he will probably be allowed to retire and collect his pension. Military justice system usually goes very lightly on high ranking officers and NCOs.
As I have said before, if the colonel and I were alone in his office, it would be his word against mind if I had reported his remarks plus trying to get solid evidence to prove my case.
It is not just non-Christians that had the Bible and religion shove down their throats. It also happens to Christians as well considering the fact that almost all of them had no choice when they were babies/young people to decide whether they wanted to go to church, read the Bible, and believe in God or not. If they tried to question whether God existed or not and not want to go to church, their parents and the religious leaders would come down on them like a ton of bricks.
.”If Christianity is some silly man-made product, then what is the threat to these regimes?”
If people think that there is no God and no Devil, don’t believe in the Bible, heaven, and hell, then why are those people considered a threat by our top religious leaders?
I am sorry that you had a poor experience in church when growing up as a child. I know that many people have, and I have helped many through that as they came looking for a better way. Regarding young children, I personally do not agree with baptizing them. There is not necessarily anything “wrong” with it per-se, but it misses the point. Baptism is a public declaration of a decision, therefore the person being baptized has to be capable of making that choice for themselves, in my opinion. It took me about 35 years to make that choice! Outside of molestation and gross misconduct, I think these bad experiences have less to do with ill-will of the leaders and parents and more to do with the fact that they just don’t understand and fear doing something wrong. That is not healthy.
The truth is, God is not afraid of hard questions. Not all questions have simple answers, but they are all worth asking. In the last few years I have helped many people learn how to study scripture and learn that it is okay to question God, be angry with God, and not feel like they have to be lemmings following their leaders without question. In some ways there is just a wide range to the Christian experience, and I think it is unfair to condemn all Christians even if your own experience was poor.
As for deaths, there are websites that document Christians being killed and imprisoned around the world for their beliefs. I even have a close friend who was held at gunpoint and put in a tiger cage in Laos a few years ago by the communist regime. Fortunately he was released, but others are not so lucky. In the mainstream media I think you would find plenty of examples of this going on in Egypt and Syria in recent years.
The fact that these things are not on the front page daily leads to my next point – I would hardly label our media as “Christian.” Have you seen what is on TV, in theaters, and in print these days? Just recently I turned on the History channel to see a show about how things in the bible never could have happened, and then the next shows explained that these events did happen but because of aliens or some deep, dark secret! Perhaps you and I have different understanding of what “Christian media” looks like.
As to your second point, ironically my own military career has done nothing but go downhill ever since I became a Christian. Also, in 20 years I have never seen nor heard of a “Dominionist Christian.” Again, perhaps we have different definitions of what that means. I certainly don’t think having a bible on one’s desk or saying you look to Jesus as an example to follow is equal to wanting to overthrow the government and institute some sort of religious law. In my opinion, those people are not called “Christians.” They are called “kooks.” And I would gladly fight them for your freedom.
Also, I don’t know of any atheists that are feared or considered a threat by so-called “religious leaders” simply for their beliefs. The threat comes from those who want to imprison, kill, or ruin the livelihood of those who share a different opinion, or prevent them from assembling and freely exercising their beliefs.
I cannot stress enough that biblical Christianity is not about forcing anything on anybody. From Genesis to Revelation (beginning to end) in the bible, people are allowed to make choices. Go ahead and check – you will not find one person whom Jesus forced to follow him. By the way, I think is a great example for a leader to follow. All any Christian I know wants is to help people make an informed choice, whichever way that may be. God honors your choice, and so will I.
Thank you for your honest dialogue. I sincerely appreciate it.
All I am saying that as babies and kids did not have a say in the matter in whether they want to believe in God and religion. That choice was made for them by their parents and the religious leaders.
If bibical Christianity is not forcing anything on anyone, then I beg to differ because we were never taught that and Christianity has been used to justified enslaving and colonzing people plus getting new recruits to give money to the church. In addition, we were told if we didn’t eat fish on Fish Fridays or not to drink water during some Christain event, we would be condemn.
The Christain media does existed. After Clinton de-regulated the TV and radio industry, you had Christain leaders and organizations were snapping up them left and right. In my city, almost all the radio stations have belong to the Fox network or to a Christain organization.
With the mainstream media going after Obama for the last several years, I doubt you would find stories about Christians being killed or imprison. The last few times I heard about Christians being persecuted was Bill O’Reilly making a big stink about Christmas not being respected anymore, or earlier this year, Christians and Republicans were proclaiming how Christians were being persecuted in the USA when it was the Christians doing the persecuting.
“Also, I don’t know of any atheists that are feared or considered a threat by so-called “religious leaders” simply for their beliefs. The threat comes from those who want to imprison, kill, or ruin the livelihood of those who share a different opinion, or prevent them from assembling and freely exercising their beliefs.
Well you have some extreme Christian religious leaders wanting to put gays, transgenders, and liberals being put to death in this countrry and if they had their way, they would and then would use the bibical scriptures in a twisted way to show that God would not tolerate these groups. In addition, you have right wing evanglists trying to purge the Bible of word that smacks of compassion, progressivism, empathy, etc., for poor, the sick, the hungry, the elderly, the young people, and other groups. Furthermore, they tried to twisted the scriptures around that if you are poor, the you need to blame yourself and that it was God’s will that you are poor. The Calvinists had that kind of religious philosphey that if you were pre-ordained by God to become rich, well then so be it, and if you pre-ordained not to be rich even though you busted your tail off, well then too bad, it was God’s will.
“The truth is, God is not afraid of hard questions. Not all questions have simple answers, but they are all worth asking. In the last few years I have helped many people learn how to study scripture and learn that it is okay to question God, be angry with God, and not feel like they have to be lemmings following their leaders without question. In some ways there is just a wide range to the Christian experience, and I think it is unfair to condemn all Christians even if your own experience was poor.”
Where did I say I condemm all Christians? Are you blaming the people that you help out because their experience with Christianity was poor when it not their fault for having it? I would not blame them at all because they were powerless at the time to do something about it especially when they are kids and the fear of God was put into them.
If you haven’t seen or heard a Dominist Christian in the military, considered yourself lucky. However, they are there in the military according to Mr. Weinstein and are a danger to other religious groups in the military: https://mrff2.local/press-releases/hustler.html
I am very sorry for your experiences. I wish we could have a real conversation about this because posting here just won’t do it justice. “Religion” is what I call the things you describe, such as being condemned if you eat fish on Fridays and things of that nature. “Religion” is foolish, a waste of time, empty, and dead. Jesus likened this kind of practice to “whitewashing a tomb.” A possible Mark Twain quote fits – “In the beginning, God created man in His image. Ever since then we have been returning the favor.” In my opinion, “religion” is the greatest barrier to knowing God. That is exactly why I, as a student of philosophy and humanities, decided to study scripture on my own when I finally decided to intellectually challenge the atheist beliefs that I grew up with.
I vehemently disagree with those religions that suggest people have to have someone else teach them the bible, or that it can only be read in 1 language (ironically not even its original language) or 1 translation. Unfortunately, I think you were introduced to this way of thinking as a child. The most cruel thing is that none of these traditions that are treated as God’s word (fish on Friday, if you are poor it is because God doesn’t like you, etc) are spelled out in the bible, and in many cases, the bible clearly states the opposite! And to be clear, Jesus never made anybody fix themselves before they came to him – it was always “come as you are.” If you think I am wrong then please show me an example.
So what does that mean in relation to this squadron commander saying he looks to Jesus as a leadership example? Personally, I think we have to look at who history says Jesus was before we can say this commander is out to get everyone who disagrees with him. This is why I suggested that you are condemning all Christians – you have no personal knowledge of this man, nor any evidence of wrongdoing on his part, yet you support this organization demanding his public admonishment (aka ending his career). If this is not condemnation based simply on your knowledge that he is a Christian, then I do not know what it is.
In any case, let’s take God out of the equation. What if this commander instead said he took his leadership example from someone who was arguably the most influential person of the last 2,000 years. Someone so influential that we even count our calendar by the years when he lived. Someone who changed the world despite being born to a poor family in an obscure village and never writing a book, owning a business, or holding public office. Someone who spent spent most of his time with the “untouchables” of his day, challenging the ruling class who oppressed them until he was executed after a mockery of a trial. Someone who exemplified what it means to serve the ones you lead, putting yourself beneath them, with integrity and excellence. Would that have been an okay answer? Until this commander actually does something wrong in the performance of his duties, then that is what I hear him saying and why I do not think we need to be afraid that he summed that up in the name “Jesus.”
It’s a shame what the world has gone to. This is your problem with everything that has/ is going on in this world. That’s crazy