CBN News Covers MRFF: Battle Brewing Between Anti-Religion Activist and Military Chaplains Using Social Media to Minister to Service Members

It’s me, your 80-year old white  Southern Matriarchal Grandmother from White GA

Question:  I’m wrestling with the MRFF’s rather common use of the word “proselytizing”  for the great majority of cases  only in relation to Christians.  You do understand that our Lord’s last instructions we’re “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Is Christianity in your opinion the only faith that
“proselytizes?”
I have never been approached by a person of the Jewish-Hindu-Muslim-Buddhist or Atheist theology concerned about my religion or lack thereof…  or to try and share the joys & rewards of their beliefs to give me an opportunity to join them.
I read these military complaints & Court cases & just don’t get it most of the time.  I’m wide open to hear about anyone’s faith.  I know what I believe… not gonna change that.  Nor does it offend me to listen to others share.
Just trying to understand why others are so upset.
Still love you, Brother!

(name withheld)

 


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On Jun 24, 2020, at 2:34 PM, Mike  wrote:

Hi (name withheld),

No need to wrestle. The CBN just got it wrong. But that happens, doesn’t it? Rather often, I find, with organizations
that have an agenda they’re only too happy to promote.

Where did they get it wrong, you ask? Why in referring to the MRFF as an Anti-Religion group and Mikey Weinstein as an Anti-Religion Activist, of course. That’s their no-so-subtle way of stacking the deck.

But to answer your question, in its most innocent usage ‘proselytize’ simply means preach. And, as I trust you’re
aware, Christianity is not the only faith that preaches. And the 95% of staff, clients, friends and supporters of the
MRFF who are themselves Christians are well aware of that. They have nothing against preaching, as long as it’s
done in the proper time, place and manner according to military regulations.

Of course ‘proselytizing’ can also mean ‘cajoling,’ ‘persuading,’ ‘converting,’ or ‘making one see the light.” Some of
which, as your citation of Matthew suggests, can become a bit pushy. It can go across the line. And that’s where
the MRFF comes in. Doesn’t matter what the belief system might be. When it crosses the proper ‘time, place and
manner’ line and someone feels pressured or imposed upon, we’re there to help.

Any other questions?

Mike Farrell
(MRFF Board of Advisors)

 


Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France

On Jun 24, 2020, at 3:50 PM, Martin France

(name withheld), let me try to answer your questions concerning proselytization in the military…  I’m on the MRFF Advisory Board and answer emails for Mikey from time to time.

I am well aware of Matthew 28:19-20 and the importance of the “Great Commission” within Christianity.  Christianity is not the only religion that proselytizes.  In Islam, the concept is called Da’wah or the “Call towards God” and was the means by which Muhammad began spreading the message of the Qur’an to mankind.  The concept is different in the sense that most Muslims don’t consider non-Muslims to be completely fallen and unredeemable, but rather lacking in the true righteous path.  Of course, there are some VERY extreme Muslim sects that insist that one make a choice between conversion and death (e.g., ISIS or Daech), something that has been part of the Christian past as well.  I speak from experience, though, when I say that I have had acquaintances and friends ask me about my religion and then begin discussions concerning their non-Christian religion with some mild attempts at converting me.  I have been curious in those cases and asked many questions, but (like you) have not changed my beliefs.  Understanding THEIR beliefs, though, helped me understand their culture and world perspective better, enhancing my own appreciation for the diversity in thought we see around the world.

All of that being said, the MRFF has no issue at all with the general idea of Christian proselytization.  The issue, though, is of time and place.  Let me give you an example… Many years ago when I was a young captain in the Air Force, my lunchtime running buddy (same rank) made several attempts to engage me in religious conversation–he was a very devout Christian.  After some discussion–and, since I was faster than him, I could control the discussion somewhat by just picking up the pace–I told him that I was not interested in becoming a Christian, explained my perspective and then suggested that if he wanted to continue to run with me, we’d have to pick different, non-religious topics to discuss.  He agreed and we remained friends.  This was a personal, same-rank, no-pressure discussion, so it was completely appropriate, even if it happened during the middle of the work day.  The appropriate “time and place–and CONTEXT.”

A few years earlier, my son was going through basic training at the AF Academy and, during that training, he was “invited” to attend a Bible Study–in part geared towards conversion to a very evangelical brand of Christianity.  His superiors invited him to this event.  He declined.  So, while his classmates were enjoying sodas and phone calls home and Bible study, he was ordered to stand at attention in his room for an hour.  Later, when others declined, they were marched around in flight formation as part of “Heathen Flight.”  That doesn’t seem kosher does it?  In this case, members of the military were using their higher ranking position to coerce their subordinates to attend their  proselytization event OR be subjected to punishments.  At the very least, the “heathens” were now known to their superiors to be non-evangelical Christians and, therefore, not part of the team.  In this case proselytization was not accomplished at the right time, place or in the right context.

The military work environment is charged with power.  Rank has meaning and decisions made contrary to your commander’s desires and perceptions can have dire consequences.  Even the PERCEPTION of bias can poison an entire organization and this means not only religious expression, but political affiliation and decisions like going out for a drink.  Commanders MUST be impartial and allow for diverse personal choices by their subordinates made on their own personal time.

What if you didn’t drink alcohol, but your boss ALWAYS invited the office out for a drink every Friday at Happy Hour.  You decided that you didn’t want to go because everyone else drank and you didn’t want to go to a bar or sip fizzy water while they got tipsy?  Well, if they discussed work at the bar and made friends and then saw you as “not part of the team,” you’d feel excluded.  Now, what if your boss invited all of the office team to her CHURCH (or Mosque) every weekend and took note of who accepted and who declined?  That would be just as wrong.

Here’s a personal story along those lines…  When I was a commander, I used to climb mountains on weekends and invite anyone who worked for me to climb with me.  I was an evangelical mountaineer.  As it turned out, due to other commitments, I was almost always hiking on Sunday mornings.  Several of my hiking subordinates would decline because they wanted to go to church with their families.  My wife (a very smart woman) noticed this and told me that I had to stop inviting people to hike with me unless I was willing to go on Saturdays and other days off beside Sunday so that everyone could feel included.  She told me that I needed to find other activities, too, so as to not make my non-hiking subordinates feel excluded.  Naturally, I followed her orders and my department seemed to respond very well to the many choices they were offered.  I found something that everyone could do at one time or another.

So, that’s a very, very long email to tell you that it’s all about time, place, and context–especially with religion.  A commander CAN’T order, imply, or even HINT to a subordinate what they should believe, practice, or even attend from a religious perspective any more than they can tell their people how to vote–and they can’t judge them for what they believe or how they vote either, if they find out.

A solid 90% of all letters sent to the MRFF are from people that simply don’t understand that, for good reasons, there are limitations put on proselytization of any kind (religious, political, athletic) in the military.  It’s all for “good order and discipline” and so that we can all serve our nation and defend the Constitution most effectively.

Cheers,
Marty France
Brigadier General, USAF (Retired)
MRFF Advisory Board

 


Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere

On Jun 24, 2020, at 3:55 PM, John Compere  wrote:

Please be advised the US Constitution, American law, US Armed Forces regulations & military chaplain guidelines prohibit our secular military, as part of our secular government, from promoting or endorsing any religion except in military chapels & military chaplain social media outlets.

Military chaplains may not preach, practice, proselytize or promote their version of any religion on official military channels (e.g. commander, unit or installation outlets) which are strictly secular. That is why the unlawful practice was stopped by the military itself after military members & their families complained. Military chaplains have to obey the laws & regulations just like all military personnel. Your “Lord’s last instructions” do not govern the military.

For your information, this is religious freedom known as US Constitution separation of church & state lawfully established in our secular republic over 2 centuries ago. Even Jesus separated religion & government (see Matthew 22:21 & Mark 12:17).

Most Sincerely,
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of over 80% Christians)

 


 

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1 Comment

  1. Ironmoped

    Congratulations on being 80 years young! Your life is almost half over! I hope I’m able to follow your lead.
    Just a minor correction, if I’m reading you correctly, atheism is not a belief system, it’s more an “unbelief.”
    And, to borrow from others, although I gather you are a Christian, you are also an Atheist. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you do not believe in the 3000 or so other Gods referred to outside of the Christian Bible, I just go one God further! Every Christian alive is by far more Atheist than they are Christian given that Man has worshipped literally thousands of Gods. Most, in America, happen to be Christian as a pure happenstance of birth. Had you been born in Saudi Arabia, there’s a very high probability you’d be Muslim. It’s a lottery really. I’m guessing I got into the Christian line before I was born as I was Christian before becoming an Atheist but, the biggest recruitment tool for Atheism is the Bible itself. It doesn’t take long to figure out there’s some pretty nasty stuff in the Bible. Like when Adam asked God for a companion, didn’t like the price and asked, “what can I get for a rib?” 🙂
    All the best to you Madam! Hope you have many wonderful years ahead of you! All the best!

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