Questionable Motives

August 1, 2011

And do we feel any safer?

I don’t.

From Truthout.org:

The United States Air Force has been training young missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons by citing passages from the New Testament and commentary from a former member of the Nazi Party, according to newly released documents.

The mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which includes a discussion on St. Augustine’s “Christian Just War Theory,” is led by Air Force chaplains and takes place during a missile officer’s first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

St. Augustine’s “Qualifications for Just War,” according to the way it is cited in a 43-page PowerPoint presentation, are: “to avenge or to avert evil; to protect the innocent and restore moral social order (just cause)” and “to restore moral order; not expand power, not for pride or revenge (just intent).”

The Powerpoint uses quite a few references to the Old Testament as arguments for why Jesus’ Dad loves nukes , (I haven’t read the 500 page training manual) yet I am assured by many theological sophisticates that the New supersedes these god-sanctioned barbarisms that I read plain as day. One has to be pretty stupid to assume that scripture means what it says, I guess. Obviously, I need more sophisticated comprehension skills. But I’m thinking that maybe the sophisticates should be taking up correct interpretation with their military commanders and selected trainers rather than us militant atheists… armed as we are by the bristling weaponry of reason and words fortified by the occasional beer or glass of wine.

Just sayin’.

Wouldn’t it be swell if the religious could get their theological house in order so that our public institutions like the military could at favour just one belief set rather than one that is a little… umm… bloodthirsty? Oh, right… that anti-American US Constitution keeps getting in the way of the armed forces being properly christian – the same Constitution (that contains the First)  military officers swear to uphold and defend from enemies foreign (and domestic, mumble, mumble, ahem). Oh, the conundrum! A good thing none of these confused military souls have their fingers on the triggers, so to speak… well, except those involved with the nuclear arsenal… and those who fly all those planes, drive the armoured vehicles, steer the ships and subs, carry firearms, and so on.

And yet for some unknown reason I still don’t feel any safer for reading Augustine. Funny, that.

August 21, 2010

Spiritual fitness?

You are a soldier in training. Your unit is marched to a christian concert where you are told you may or may not attend. About half choose not to attend, who are then marched back to barracks, locked down, and all are ordered to maintenance duty for the duration of the concert.

From Talk to Action:

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. “Spiritual fitness” is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity.

Is this treatment unusual? Is it the case that the US military allows freedom of and from religion, or is the policy to routinely tip the table when it comes to ‘spiritual fitness’ and claim that the rolling ball is making a choice about its direction? What are they saying over at Dispatches from the culture wars?

From commentator Laen (27)

This is common in Basic, AIT, and army schools…airborne, wlc, air assault, and etc. All the concerts/shows/whatevers are commonly cover ups for christian activities. All christian bands pop, country, or the holiday shows…bleh the holiday shows. Oh and by the way while at the events you could get real food and drinks as opposed to just the chow hall garbage, that’s how they bolster the numbers to make it look like people want to go. Offer the concerts on one side and the food and drink on the other…see which gets more traffic then. Same with Sundays, go to church, some church, or clean the barracks.

From sdej (48) comes this comment:

I recently completed a year in Iraq. The first day I was in the unit I had to meet with the Chaplain as part of in-processing. I figured that would go pretty quickly. He asked me my religious preference and I answered none. Somehow that got translated as non-denominational christian and I got handed a stack of literature including a New Testament. While we were downrange, he sent out mass e-mails to the entire unit almost every day. There was no way to opt out. They didn’t always cross the line into proselytizing but often did. I managed to archive every one of those messages just in case I decide to do something about it.

The Army seems to think that spiritual fitness is an important and real thing, separate from mental or emotional fitness. It’s the default assumption and is codified in our FMs and ARs. I cannot thank the MRFF enough for the work they do.

Yet is it not the sworn duty of every officer in the US military to defend the Constitution – the entire Constitution including the First Amendment’s Establishment clause? Or are parts of that Constitution exempted from that oath if certain actions promote a specific kind of christian spiritual fitness? Should we hold officers to that oath or shouldn’t we?

I think some commanding officers need to have their dishonourable asses fired.

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