Questionable Motives

December 16, 2009

Are the US military’s christian commanders intentionally subverting the Constitution’s First Ammendment?

The short answer is yes.

From the Hitch:

As I was making ready to depart, and checking my e-mail, I found I had been sent a near-incredible video clip from the Al Jazeera network. It had been shot at Bagram Air Force Base last year, and it showed a borderline-hysterical address by one Lieutenant Colonel Gary Hensley, chief of the United States’ military chaplains in Afghanistan. He was telling his evangelical audience, all of them wearing uniforms supplied by the taxpayer, that as followers of Jesus Christ they had a collective responsibility “to be witnesses for him.” Heating up this theme, Lieutenant Colonel Hensley went on: “The Special Forces guys, they hunt men, basically. We do the same things, as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them in the kingdom. Right? That’s what we do, that’s our business.”

Stacks of Bibles are on display, in the Dari and Pashto tongues that are the main languages in Afghanistan. A certain Sergeant James Watt, a candidate for a military chaplaincy, is shown giving thanks for the work of his back-home church, which subscribed the dough. “I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan. In another segment, those present show quite clearly that they understand they are in danger of violating General Order Number One of the U.S. Central Command, which explicitly prohibits “proselytizing of any religion, faith, or practice.”

And there is ever stronger reason to think that, at the Pentagon, the fish rots from the head. More alarming still is a book called Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, by an air-force lieutenant colonel named William McCoy, publicity for which describes the separation of church and state as a “twisted idea.” Nor is this the book’s only publicity: it comes—with its direct call for a religion-based military—with an endorsement from General David Petraeus.

James Madison was the co-author with Thomas Jefferson of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, which became the basis of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Not accidentally the first clause of our Bill of Rights, this amendment unambiguously forbids any “establishment of religion” in or by these United States. In his “Detached Memoranda,” not published until after his death, Madison even wrote that the appointment of chaplains in the armed forces, and indeed in Congress, was “inconsistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principles of religious freedom.” He could never have foreseen a time when state-subsidized chaplains would be working to subvert the Constitution, and violating their sacred oath to uphold it. Let us be highly thankful that we have young soldiers and sailors and air-force personnel who, busy and devoted as they already are, show themselves brave enough to fight back on this front too.

From the Vanity Fair article here.

December 14, 2009

How to justify religious belief but disclaim its abhorent practices: Is this the best explanation a bishop can do?

The Rt Rev Stephen Venner called for a more sympathetic approach to the Islamic fundamentalists (in Afghanistan) that recognises their humanity.

“The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.”

Besides their attacks on the armed forces, the Taliban have also been responsible for public beatings, amputations and executions and have launched bomb attacks on the civilian population in Afghanistan.

The bishop said that some of their methods of combat are not honourable or acceptable, but argued that it was unhelpful to demonise them.

“We must remember that there are a lot of people who are under their influence for a whole range of reasons, and we simply can’t lump all of those together.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan who has written about the insurgency, said the bishop was being naïve.

“We clearly need to understand our enemy but that is more of a military issue rather than a religious one,” he said.

“There are elements in the Taliban who do not act from a religious perspective and it is important to understand and turn them around.

“But there are many others who will not be persuaded. Their central creed and ethos is about violent oppression which comes from a politics of extreme religion that has very little to commend it in terms that we would recognise or appreciate.

“In many ways it is a mistake to compare their faith of extreme holy war with the kind of religion of peace and understanding that the bishop follows. They certainly wouldn’t show understanding of his faith.”

From the article here.

Blog at WordPress.com.