Wednesday, May 01, 2013

I’m not committing treason, you are!

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, and of course he also gave the church Fox News to keep Christians informed of how they are being persecuted in a land where the church gets all sorts of tax breaks and preferential treatment from Caesar. (Ephesians 4:11, American Judeo-Christian Traditional Values Version)
I confess. I tend to read Fox News when I am checking on the events of the day. I find CNN to be entirely too busy and clearly slanted (of course so if Fox but everyone knows it unlike CNN which pretends to be unbiased). MSNBC? Please. So along with the Wall Street Journal and our local paper, Fox is a frequently viewed page for me. But I find it troubling that many Christians seem to think that Fox is somehow more friendly to Christianity than other news outlets.

Maybe it is just me but when your news site that posts articles all the time about "attacks" on Christianity also posts smutty articles about which star had a wardrobe malfunction or published a sex tape or photos of stars in various states of undress (see a screen shot from today, about noon).... is hard to take it seriously as the media defender of the faith.

In the screen shot above we see an article right above the links about a Kardashian and Amy Bynes "racy tweet from self-appointed cultural warrior and selective religious freedom crusader Todd Starnes, Pentagon: Religious Proselytizing is Not Permitted with the obligatory flag waving picture:

So yeah. I am not sure when religious freedom in the ranks became a top priority but whatever. The question I am asking is this: what exactly is being threatened? Are soldiers being muzzled and prevented under threat of firing squad from sharing their faith with fellow soliders and sailors? Not really, at least not based on the article.
Here is the portion of the article, way down the page, that addresses the source of the complaint by Mikey Weinstein of The Military Religious Freedom Foundation :

Pentagon officials met with Weinstein and his group were to discuss a policy called “Air Force Culture, Air Force Standards,” published on Aug. 7, 2012.

Section 2.11 requires “government neutrality regarding religion.”

“Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion,” the regulation states.

Military leaders were admonished not to use their position to “promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”

So as I read that the regulations discourage superiors from using their position to promote a particular religious outlook to those that report to them. I fail to see how this is a violation of religious freedom. I would certainly wonder how Mr. Starnes would respond to a Muslim major that was aggressively proselytizing enlisted members that reported up to them to try to get them to convert to Islam? I think the real underlying issue here is the notion that Christianity is the proper or preferred religious expression for the U.S. military. After all, the military recruits and compensates clergy as an integral part of the military structure.

It isn't like this is an unknown policy. The military has a policy in place that prevents proselytizing:

The Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that Christian evangelism is against regulations.

“Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense, LCDR Nate Christensen said in a written statement. He declined to say if any chaplains or service members had been prosecuted for such an offense.

“Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases,” he said.

So in a rigid, hierarchical military there are rules against religious proselytizing. Again this makes sense given the diversity of the military and the inherent coercive nature of superior-subordinate relationships in the military. I would think it only sensible to keep political/religious coercion out of the ranks for the sake of cohesion in the ranks.
But what really takes the cake is this exchange between Mr. Weinstein and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins:

In an interview with the Washington Post, Weinstein called proselytizing a “national security threat.”

“And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason,” he told the newspaper. “It should be punished.”

Perkins said it was troubling the Obama Administration would place so much trust in someone like Weinstein.

“Unfortunately, it appears our military is on a forced march away from the very freedoms they are sworn to protect,” he said. “This language from Weinstein that Christians who share their faith or offer comfort to others from their faith in Jesus Christ is “sedition and treason” is a treasonous statement in and of itself.”

I am not sure which charge of treason is more silly. You're a traitor! No, you're a traitor. I know you are but what am I?!

Bottom line, the church really needs to find better spokespeople than Todd Starnes and Glenn Beck. When the world looks at us and these sorts of silly squabbles when people are homeless and orphans are languishing in orphanages, why would we expect them to be interested in hearing about Jesus?


Robert Martin said...

Or, how about we give up on the whole idea of government sanctioned religious freedom in the first place? ;-)

Robert Martin said...

Of course, such a stance would be considered treason by some as well...