Do It In The Name Of Heaven, We Can Justify It In The End? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak


When we hear the terms Fatwa or Jihad, we often think about radical Middle Eastern extremists whose intention is to impose their religious beliefs upon those they define as infidels. As Americans, we find the declarations of those leaders (Mullahs, Imams, etc.) who support such actions to be offensive and predicated upon intransigent ideological beliefs. We also look with disfavor upon those who carry out these Fatwas or Jihads in the name of their spiritual leaders and, by inference, their supreme being.

At the same time, we have witnessed a Bush administration that has sought to characterize our involvement in the region as a mission inspired by the president's consultations with his father...the holy one...not George H. W. Bush. Early on, he made the strategic mistake of referencing the Crusades when speaking of our efforts in the war on terror. While there was some admission that the statement was insensitive and unwarranted, it speaks to the mind set of our President and the pervasive influence his religious beliefs have played in coloring his views and guiding his actions.

In what I would call the ever creeping influence of evangelism, the president also appointed some 150 graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University's School of Law to positions in his administration. I would suggest that these and may other examples are evidence of the pervasive influence religion has been allowed to play during the nearly eight years of George Bush's presidency.

That brings me to the lawsuit of Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, in which he accuses the U.S. Department of Defense of violating his rights to religious freedom. Hall, in his claim, suggests that "the United States military has become a Christian organization"...which he contends led to his mistreatment...predicated upon his status as an atheist.

From CNN:

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (CNN) -- Army Spc. Jeremy Hall was raised Baptist.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq and has a near perfect record. But somewhere between the tours, something changed. Hall, now 23, said he no longer believes in God, fate, luck or anything supernatural.

His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety.

Hall said there is a pattern of discrimination against non-Christians in the military.

Hall isn't seeking compensation in his lawsuit -- just the guarantee of religious freedom in the military. Eventually, Hall was sent home early from Iraq and later returned to Fort Riley in Junction City, Kansas, to complete his tour of duty.

He also said he missed out on promotions because he is an atheist.

"I was told because I can't put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn't make a good leader," Hall said.

Michael Weinstein, a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is suing along with Hall. Weinstein said he's been contacted by more than 8,000 members of the military, almost all of them complaining of pressure to embrace evangelical Christianity.

The Pentagon refused to discuss specifics of Hall's case -- citing the litigation. But Deputy Undersecretary Bill Carr said complaints of evangelizing are "relatively rare." He also said the Pentagon is not pushing one faith among troops.

Weinstein said he doesn't buy it and points to a promotional video by a group called Christian Embassy. The video, which shows U.S. generals in uniform, was shot inside the Pentagon. The generals were subsequently reprimanded.

Another group, the Officers' Christian Fellowship, has representatives on nearly all military bases worldwide. Its vision, which is spelled out on the organization's Web site, reads, "A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform empowered by the Holy Spirit."

Weinstein has a different interpretation.

"Their purpose is to have Christian officers exercise Biblical leadership to raise up a godly army," he says.

I don't know if Hall will prevail in his lawsuit, but his dilemma clearly illustrates the dangers of having a Commander In Chief whose words and actions are steeped in the rhetoric of religious certainty. To believe that the president hasn't utilized promotions and appointments to stack the military leadership with those who share his evangelical leanings is to ignore the clear bias demonstrated by the inordinate number of Liberty University appointees.

Add in the regimentation and chain of command mentality that permeates the military and it isn't difficult to conclude that an atmosphere of rewarding those who share the beliefs of their superiors has allowed some palpable level of proselytizing to take hold...which would undoubtedly be accompanied by a propensity to demonstrate disfavor with those who fail to march in lockstep.

The fact that fellow soldiers demeaned Hall's disbelief suggests they felt emboldened to do so...likely knowing their aspersions were consistent with the thinking of their superiors. To believe otherwise is contrary to everything we know about the military's methods of maintaining order amongst men who are often immature and malleable.

It appears that the Bush administration, in its zeal to promote its own religious agenda, fell victim to the very same extremist absolutism that it believes it is combating in the Middle East. Let me be clear...I am not suggesting that the U.S. military engages in intentional acts of violence against innocent civilians nor am I condoning the actions of terrorists by means of comparison.

However, when it's all said and done, I'm left to wonder why the conduct of military operations are ever allowed to be premised upon establishing the legitimacy of one army's god from that of another. Further, to what extent are the combatants willing to go in order to establish the superiority of their beliefs in relation to all others when each side is convinced theirs is the only legitimate religion?

In the end, if religious beliefs are allowed to be the basis upon which the mistreatment of some U.S. soldiers is justified, have we not knowingly redefined the mission of our military? If its purpose isn't to defend and preserve the freedoms of each individual...freedoms that include the right to hold one's chosen religious beliefs or to have none whatsoever, without retribution, have we not succumbed to the very tyranny that we seek to dislodge in other nations?

If our military is to be an extension of the religious ideology of those in command, then our forces can't be seen any more favorably than the Crusaders of which George Bush spoke. Even worse, such a construct is a recipe for endless death and destruction...all conducted with deference to our deity of choice.


The following video on Spc. Hall's case is from CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

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George Bush often speaks negatively of religious extremism…frequently missing his own penchant for evangelical intransigence. A lawsuit by a former soldier provides evidence of the degree to which this Bush mind set may have infiltrated the leadership ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 9, 2008 1:19 PM

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