"Spiritual Fitness" is Christian, Says Professed Co-Author of Army Leadership Manual
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 08, 2011 at 10:46:00 AM EST
"the military has turned away from a values system based on reason and experience alone. We are instead pursuing a values system that's ultimate source of right and wrong is defined by religious, primarily Christian, principles. This method enables our military to have moral absolutes." - Army Chaplain [then] Lt. Col. Ron Huggler, who professes to have helped revise the Army's Field Manual 22-100, on leadership

Recently, controversy has arisen over the United States Army's "Spiritual Fitness" doctrine and program. Included as part of the Army's mandatory Comprehensive Soldier Fitness test is a "Spiritual Fitness Test", based on Army Regulation 600-63 on Health Promotion, which defines "spiritual fitness" as a component of combat readiness. The Army has claimed the Spiritual Fitness program was inspired by the World Health Organization. But Lt. Col. Ron Huggler, who says he helped rewrite the Army's revised version FM 22-100 manual on leadership (released in October 2006) asserts the US military has turned to the promotion of explicitly Christian principles.

[related stories: see US Army's "Spiritual Fitness" Campaign and Uganda's "Kill the Gays Bill" Linked, and Christian Flag Folding Ceremony Reveals Official Sanction of Church-State Violations in the Military, and Soldiers Forced to See Chaplain After Failing Army's Spiritual Fitness Test, and U.S. Soldiers Punished For Not Attending Christian Concert]

As a January 17, 2011 story from Utah KSL-TV News, by Michael De Groote, describes, after taking the "spiritual fitness" test Ft. Bragg-based Army Sergeant Justin Griffin, an atheist, got the following assessments - "You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life... At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you... You may question your beliefs, principles, and values." The KSL-TV story continues,  

"After he took the test, Griffith hooked up with Mikey Weinstein, the president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which describes itself on its website as a "nonprofit charitable foundation he founded to directly battle the far-right militant radical evangelical religious fundamentalists."

The foundation is helping Griffith and 219 other soldiers -- including Christians -- in a potential lawsuit to force the Army to remove the Spiritual Fitness section from the mandatory Comprehensive Soldier Fitness test. They feel that the Spiritual Fitness section violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause and the No Religious Test clause. "

The KSL-TV story quoted Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Freddie Mack
who claimed that the idea that "spiritual fitness" is a component of human well-being came from the World Health Organization and said that the spiritual fitness program was designed to reduce help reduce Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But a paper written by professed co-author of the Army's FM 22-100 field manual on leadership [then] Lt. Col. Ron Huggler directly contradicts Army spokesperson Mack's claim.

The most recent revision of the Army Field Manual FM 22-100, on leadership, appears to have been released in October 2006. On May 7, 2007, the Army issued Regulation 600-63 on Health Promotion, which explicitly defined Spiritual Fitness as a component of combat readiness and mandated that base commanders, and Army commanders at all levels, promote the vaguely defined (to put it charitably) "spiritual fitness" idea.

Lt. Col. Huggler's paper, "Teaching and Developing Character in the Armed Forces" appeared on the website of the Association For Christian Conferences Teaching and Service. ACCTS targets the world's militaries for evangelizing with the following justification:

"approximately 65% of the earth's nations are heavily influenced by their armed forces.

With military personnel from so many countries stationed around the globe, there has never been a more strategic time to share the life-changing gospel of Christ with the semi-closed society of international military personnel. Positively changed lives among military personnel will result in positive changes for the nations of our world."

As its top-billed activity, ACCTS engages in "training military Christian leaders to form locally-led Military Christian Fellowships (MCFs); currently, there are MCFs in more than 85 countries."

Ron Huggler's paper "Teaching and Developing Character in the Armed Forces" was published along with a group of papers by ACCTS authors, both retired and active-duty, from militaries across the globe including in the United States, Norway, the United Kingdom, Korea, the Ukraine, Holland, Romania, and Russia.

As Army Chaplain Ron. Huggler writes in the paper,

"What is there besides human reason and experience that can assist us in deciding what is ultimately right and wrong? I submit that religion, (in the US military we call it spiritual fitness), is the critical missing element. Again, let me turn to an experiential argument. Historically, in the US before the 1960's the way a national ethical problem was addressed was that the best reason and experience were brought to bear on the problem. The process did not end there, however. The result was scrutinized. If the result violated a religious principle (usually a Christian principle) then that right was considered wrong or inadequate and was rejected....

Beginning in the 1960's, our Supreme Court struck down many of the ways we instilled religious principles in the populace. We grew into a country that pursued right and wrong based on reason and experience alone. We reaped and are continuing to reap moral and ethical weakness and its logical result, character weakness. The resulting negative impact on our nation is evident. The quality of our military is lessened as we incorporate officers and enlisted personnel without the strength of character we need. That is why the military has turned away from a values system based on reason and experience alone. We are instead pursuing a values system that's ultimate source of right and wrong is defined by religious, primarily Christian, principles. This method enables our military to have moral absolutes. "

Lt. Col. Huggler's sentiments fit into a widespread narrative, on the US evangelical right, which blames an allegedly disastrous moral decline on the purported removal of Christianity from "the public square." Such narratives commonly reference Supreme Court decisions such as the 1963 Abington School District v. Schempp US Supreme Court decision which "declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional."

1963 was the year that US national rates of murder and violent crime began to rise, a trend that did not break until roughly 1992. Divorce rates had already been rising for years, which many trace to the rise of no-fault divorce laws. But by the 1990's both trends were dropping and they continued to do so in the following decade as well. The US State with the lowest rate, Massachusetts, now boasts a divorce rate that prevailed in the Bay State prior to the onset of World War Two. Massachusetts also has had legal gay marriage now for the better part of a decade.

As Ron Huggler detailed the struggle within the US military, between advocates for secular values and advocates for overtly religious, Christian-based values,

"The US Army decided five years ago to review and rewrite its doctrine on ethics and character development. I was part of the process that rewrote our Army Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership. Very early in the process it became apparent that two very distinct camps of belief were going to fight for control over how we would define our values, ethics, and how we would develop character. There were those who were adamant that a philosophy based on reason and experience alone was more than adequate for the Army. They argued, "We live in a very diverse religious society and using any religious principles would only confuse or leave someone out". The other side was just as adamant that reason and experience informed and controlled by religious principle would offer the best philosophy for defining our values, ethics, and how we would develop character. The battle was tremendously hard fought. Who won out? Reason and experience informed and controlled by religious principle. "

Based on Huggler's statement and the publication date of the Army Field Manual 22-100, the decision to rewrite Army doctrine on "character and ethics development" would have occurred no earlier than 2001. In 2007, the Army released Regulation 600-63 on Health Promotion, which contains the following:

"Chapter 6 Spiritual Fitness
6-1. General
A spiritually fit person recognizes there are multiple dimensions that make up a human being and seeks to develop the total person concept. This includes enhancing spiritual fitness through reflection and practice of a lifestyle based on personal qualities needed to sustain one during times of stress, hardship, and tragedy. When a person's actions are different from his or her stated values, the person lives with inner conflict. This person struggles for integrity and congruity, but cannot find inner peace until this struggle is dealt with. The extent to which this is accomplished is a measure of spiritual fitness.
6-2. Spiritual fitness
a. Commanders at all levels shall encourage and provide for human self-development activities leading to increased spiritual fitness in accordance with this regulation, AR 600-20, AR 165-1, and other applicable directives.
b. Army leaders should develop an awareness of the lifestyles, cultural backgrounds, stages of development, possible relationships to religious beliefs, and the needs of their Soldiers, Army civilians, and Family members. The CHPC will recommend, coordinate, and ensure the integration of spiritual fitness programs for units, Soldiers, Family members, and Army civilians in their area of responsibility.
c. Commanders at the installation state JFHQ, DRU/MSC, and community level shall develop Soldiers and Family support activities to undergird, reinforce, and implement the enhancement of spiritual fitness. They will ensure time is scheduled for activities, programs, and training to accomplish the goals of spiritual fitness programs.
d. In providing for self-development activities, commanders and other leaders must ensure they do not favor one form of religion over another. The practice of religion, to the extent that it relates to spiritual fitness, must be left to the sole discretion of the Soldier, Family member, or Army civilian. They must be free to worship or not worship as they choose without fear of being disciplined or stigmatized for their choice. (See AR 165-1 and AR 600-20).
e. All Soldiers and Army civilians are expected to live by the tenets of the professional Army ethic and those individual values that support and sustain the Army way of life. (See FM 1.)"

The above regulation 600-63 explicity states, "d. In providing for self-development activities, commanders and other leaders must ensure they do not favor one form of religion over another."

It also gives a working definition of what the Army considers "spiritual fitness":
 When a person's actions are different from his or her stated values, the person lives with inner conflict. This person struggles for integrity and congruity, but cannot find inner peace until this struggle is dealt with. The extent to which this is accomplished is a measure of spiritual fitness.

So promotion of one religion over another violates even these regulations.

by rahilliard on Wed Feb 09, 2011 at 10:34:40 AM EST

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