"We Won't Go Down Without Firing a Shot !"
Then, they warn that America, rather than pull out of Iraq, must wage greater war - in Afghanistan and Iraq, against Iran, and elsewhere - in a battle of absolute good versus absolute evil, against all Islam. In the evening, after the speeches, there are fireworks.
Now, imagine that many events like this have been held across America this summer..... Well, guess what ? There were. ( image, below : a similar event, held in ~2004, within a church in the American South. Blackhawks and Humvees were involved. The image superimposed over the US flag is from Mel Gibson's "The Passion....". Military figures onstage in the image are not representative of what I have just described though - this image only gestures at the scale of what I'm describing, and when I say "active duty United States military officers in uniform" I mean it. The events this summer I've described featured just that. )
What I have described is an amalgam of events, held this summer, that I have researched in the course of working for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which is preparing upcoming legal cases to address such patterns of abuse.
Here is a short promotional movie, ~5 minutes, dramatizing MRFF's cause:
For all the hundreds of books on religion and politics in contemporary America to have proliferated within last few years, none seem to have sought to investigate this simple question ; what if, through religious ideology, the most powerful military force the world has ever seen were to be turned against American civil society ?
In the course of the last three months I have been part of an effort, apparently without precedent, to begin the difficult process of mapping influence of the Christian right within the United States military.
No one, from what I can tell, has thought to do that before Mikey Weinstein began the process, and I'm honored now to find that I have become a specialist in what may be a singularly disturbing realm of American religion and politics.
Material we have uncovered will emerge soon, through upcoming MRFF legal cases and although I am not at liberty to divulge specific details, let me describe in general terms some of what we have found :
We have uncovered an extensive pattern of abuse, extending across numerous US military bases and into the Pentagon and involving the inappropriate use of military resources and attendance of armed forces members (suggesting government sanction), at partisan events that can be fairly described as Christian nationalist, the use of US military resources in the production of Christian promotional videos, the improper promotion of sectarian evangelical Christianity through government funded programs under the military chaplaincy, and even apparent endorsement, by the Defense Department, of apocalyptic theological beliefs.....
Although the history of the influence of the Christian right within the US military traces back at least as far as the Eisenhower Administration the process, by anecdotal accounts from retired career military professionals, dramatically accelerated, in 1980, with the election of President Ronald Reagan, continued through the Clinton Administration, and again accelerated again under the Presidency of George W. Bush. Nor has this process been hindered, it seems, by the recent Democratic Party establishment of majority control in the US House and Senate. The pace of efforts to stamp a partisan Christian ideology on the United States armed forces, through programs within the defense establishment, and via external, private ministries targeting armed forces members, appears to have markedly sped up in the last year or two..... to little attention.
It is late in the game for such abuses to be brought to public attention, and it is late for reining them in. Further, some of the most insidious aspects of growing Christian right, sectarian influence within the US armed forces are inherently difficult or impossible to combat ; any attempts to somehow root out the "wrong" religious views, through McCarthyite witch hunts, would almost certainly trample Constitutional rights and would almost certainly backfire - perhaps disastrously so. Not all efforts to target US armed forces members for conversion to partisan, sectarian religious belief are unconstitutional - many are not and government action to prevent such targeting would almost certainly place dangerous restrictions on the exercise of free speech and religious liberty and for that would not, or should not, withstand challenge in federal court.
Early next week, major news from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation will help illustrate the extent and magnitude of the problem MRFF seeks to address.
That news in itself will also, paradoxically, pose a danger to the extent that those who might otherwise be more alarmed might assume that, with MRFF on the case, the problem is under control.
The work of Mikey Weinstein's Military Religious Freedom Foundation can provide a collective wake up call, that American Democracy itself is at risk from the spread of specific sectarian religious ideologies among the members of the US military; MRFF lawsuits can also help limit the worst sorts of abuses. But the work of one nonprofit foundation alone cannot reverse long term, massive societal shifts. In the end, the only lasting solutions will be collective.
Reimposition of a draft, perhaps augmented by the choice of nonmilitary national service, would bring a wider range of religious and ideological views to the military. The volunteer military system has backfired by concentrating specific religious and political ideologies within the ranks of US armed forces members.
Military culture has slowly drifted away from civilian culture, and the extent of the spread of politically partisan, sectarian religious beliefs in the US military, to shockingly little national notice, is in itself an indictment. Civilian America can no longer afford - to the extent that we value Democracy - to ignore cultural trends in the US military nor can it afford to ignore the narrative, of aggrieved Christian nationalism, which holds that America's "true" Christian heritage has been stolen and subverted by "secularists".
Early last May, I discovered that historical revisionism from the Christian right, claimed that the principle of separation of church and state was originally intended to keep government out of the affairs of church but not vice versa, had been inserted into the US Army's JROTC curriculum taught in Junior ROTC programs across America.
The revisionist, Christian nationalist version of American history has not been successfully rebutted and in fact it has spread, to the extent that is falsifications are cited, extensively, in the the United States Senate and Congress, shouted from pulpits, preached to troops, taught in JROTC curriculum and elective Bible classes in public high schools, and cited in speeches at leading US military academies: America, the real America, has been stolen !
Cooked American history is a central component among the beliefs being aggressively promoted among the US armed forces, but fundamentalist assertions on Biblical innerancy, Creationism, and apocalyptic theology are also common elements in the theological package promoted by the welter of ministries targeting the military and especially its officer corps. In the end the propagation of those beliefs, unchecked and even unnoticed, will render American democracy untenable.
American armed forces members are called to fight for, and even die for, the United States. When they return from war wounded, traumatized, and emotionally scarred, some will surely think that the true America, the America they fought for, has been stolen and that the country's Christian heritage has been buried underneath lies, taught as truth in public schools alongside lies taught about Evolution and the true age of the Earth.
The slow but implacable conversion, of the most powerful military in the world, into a Christian nationalist military holding assumptions about basic reality wildly different than the assumptions held by its counterparts in American civil society, has long been easy for that civil society to ignore ; I hope not disastrously so.
"We will not go down without firing a shot !'".
Earlier this year, I heard that call in an address given before the majority of an entire graduating class of a leading United States military academy : a call for resistance, to an alleged cultural subversion of America, that bordered on exhortation to open, armed insurrection.
That was mere talk, some would say, and whatever the truth it would be the height of irresponsibility for me to proclaim the immanence of a religiously driven military coup. That would dishonor those in the United States military, of all religious and philosophical beliefs, who believe in and seek to uphold American Constitutional Democracy.
But I will say this - the spread of politically partisan Christian ideology within the US armed forces is driving a progressive cultural alienation, from civilian society, which carries the potential to undermine American Democracy. If we continue to ignore that process, it well may.
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