Terrific Statement from Ret. USAF Rabbi and MRFF Supporter

Hi Mikey:

Toward the end of my Air Force career (1998), I had begun seeing the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) as a type of Trojan Horse. In the belly of this beast came denominational expressions whether in the form of prayer or in song. (It was often from the hymns that were sung that partisan, religious and theological language came pouring forth). 

There were basically two different approaches to handling sectarian language that always (ALWAYS!) crept into the program, for how could any organizer vet the prayers of volunteer laypersons? The first was to tell all participants that they could pray in their own style using their own rubric. This ensured that those who could not seem to understand and utilize generic terms for God would not be subject to doing so. There also were those who maintained that they, indeed, could not pray but in the specific name of Jesus Christ. This, then, left the organizer of the NPB either to exclude these people or to bow to sectarian language.

The second approach involved a “civil religious” modality where everyone agreed (or were led to agree) to use generic language and not to utilize into their particularistic, sectarian verbiage. This second approach never worked. There was always a prayer or two or a hymn or two that wound up utilizing specific theological or sectarian language. Again, it was logistically not practical to vet the entirety of the program. Practices were never held at any of these program during the near quarter century of my chaplaincy.

The fact that NPB observances were held on bases made it certain that these commander-backed programs involved a certain spoken or unspoken level of coercion. Those who professed no religion or who were avowed atheists were compromised by the very underlying premise of the occasion which involved praying for our nation. That base level funds and chapel money including (government provided) Appropriated Funds might be used entangled the military in possible Establishment Clause violations.

The whole concept of a NPB foisted religion on service members. That they might or might not choose to attend is not the issue. The offering of religious services ought not ever to be subject to coercion of any sort. That these occasions broke down into sectarian language each and every time (sic!) belied any notion of inclusivity. As such, they became advertisements for religious doctrine and observance. I would also add that for certain religious adherents like Jews, the whole approach as a “service” was foreign, forcing Jewish chaplains like myself and my fellow religious co-travelers to compromise what constitutes a truly Jewish service and adopt a wholly different approach to prayer and observance. We did this in order to “fit in,” but the structure and substance of any NPB was, at best, a sham exercise in light of Jewish liturgical tradition. That these observances were based upon and always devolved to forms of Christian (specifically, Protestant) worship made them all the more difficult to attend and participate in.

Were it my decision, I would opt to exclude the NPB (or any other form thereof) from military bases. If military members and their families wish to participate in religious services and observances, then let them do so off base or at specific, denominational and “general” services, like the “General Protestant” service that is inclusive of most Protestants, sponsored and led by the military chaplaincy at their bases. Any other programs and services like the annual NPB ought be done away with because they ultimately and always wind up promulgating religion and clearly involve pressures to which no military member ought to be subjected.

Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman, Chaplain, Colonel, (Ret), USAF

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  1. Joshua Rownd

    Well Rabbi, I will pray that God opens your eyes to see that Jesus is the one and true Jewish Messiah. I may also give your name over to Chosen People Ministries and that they send you a free copy of their book “Isaiah 53 Explained” showing that Jesus is the Messiah foretold in that chapter.

  2. G

    JR, what does your statement have to do with the price of rice in China?

  3. Connie

    Theocrat throws shade,
    Rape of the Spirit is rape
    Jesus would be proud?

  4. Joshua Rownd

    Rabbi Schwartzman and Mikey may want to listen to this message by Rabbi Cahn on Isaiah 53 and how it proves that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

  5. G

    And JR, you may want to read this article that proves that the Bible is sheer nonsense: http://articles.exchristian.net/2008/11/bible-primitive-nonsense.html

  6. Tom O

    JR’s first comment is a good example of how the theocratic so-called Christians think that getting someone to read one of their books will instantly cause the reader to abandon the religious beliefs he’s held all his life. In this case, JR apparently can’t comprehend the high probability that in the 50-plus years that Rabbi Schwartzman has been studying religion he has already read/heard everything in the book JR wants sent to him, thought about all of it, and decided he doesn’t believe it.

  7. Joshua Rownd

    Well then I feel sorry for Rabbi Schwartman, and every other Jew who will not accept the fact that Jesus/Yeshua is their Messiah, for then they will only spend an eternity in hell for their unbelief. That is why the temple was destroyed in 70AD, because the Jews failed to recognize Jesus as their Messiah when He was among them here on earth. The Talmud or the other writings of Jewish sages will never save them, only by believing that Jesus is their Messiah will it save them, as thousands of Jews are are having their eyes and hearts opened to that fact these days and becoming Jewish followers of Jesus.

  8. Joshua Rownd

    It would to well for the Rabbi to watch these videos of Jews who have come to know Jesus as their Jewish Messiah.

  9. G

    The Temple was destroyed three different times so are you saying that God is punishing them for their failure to recognized him? Is there any solid evidence to back up your statement?

  10. Joshua Rownd

    The temple itself has only been destroyed twice, once by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:8-10) and the second time under the Romans under Titus in 70AD. After the second destruction of the temple many Jews scattered.

  11. Joshua Rownd

    Even Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple – Luke 2:5-38.

  12. G

    JR., the Jews were scattered under the Babylonian rule. Ever heard of the Babylonian Captivity? You have not given any solid evidence that the temple was destroyed because the Jews failed to recognize Jesus as their Messiah.

    Jesus stated that he would return with the Kingdom of Heaven before all of his generation was dead (Mark 9:1). Guess what? Jesus never did show up.

  13. Joshua Rownd

    Yes I have heard of the Babylonian captivity and then the Jews came back to Israel.
    Regarding Mark 9:1, may I suggest you take a course in Hermeneutics which is a course on how to interpret scripture. The original manuscripts did not have chapter breaks and verses like we have now, so you need to look at Mark 9 in it’s entire context and what precedes Mark 9.

  14. G

    No, JR, as Connie pointed out in one of the prior threads, and I am quote her statement: “…the Nicene council was one of the first gatherings of biblical scholars and they’ve been squabbling about the book ever since (that’s over 1500 years for those keeping track at home).”

    If there was a correct interpretation for everything, we would not have lawyers and courts arguing over the correct interpretation of even the most basic law.

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