The first protest rally since the Vietnam era took take place on Friday, March 8 outside the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). This time the focus was not on the subject of war but on the pervasive Christian Dominionist indoctrination within the Academy in particular, and the military in general. Over the decades, Colorado Springs – the home of the USAFA – has become ground zero for Dominionist Christianity. Perhaps there’s something in the water. If not, it’s most certainly in the air, for this is where Dominionist leaders the likes of James Dobson and the now-not-gay Ted Haggard cut their evangelising teeth with likely intent to Christianise our military.
Those who follow the increasing religious indoctrination within the armed forces wonder why the rest of the country isn’t alarmed. That a nation so intent upon monitoring worldwide nuclear capabilities so willingly looks away from its own brand of religious extremists who are rooting for the end of the world – extremists who will one day potentially carry nuclear payloads on the planes – is tantamount to watching Nero fiddle while arsons set Rome on fire. If not for uber-watchdog Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the Dominionist Christian takeover of the military would be much further along.
Before writing the novel Being Christian, I spent several years tracking the modern marriage between the Religious Right and the GOP. The journey took me into mega-churches brimming with the desperate and gullible. I immediately knew I was witness to a culture-changing phenomenon that would not be going away anytime soon. To date, para-churches continue to spring up at a brisk rate, the inevitable result being that End Times demographics will ultimately dominate Christianity. The Religious Right is deeply funded, highly motivated and passionate, and their numbers increase daily. For low-information, poor or rural voters, their pastor is often their only source of information. For urban and suburban dwellers, the mega-church offers an enticing, feel-good, do-good community whose mission at base is about biblical inerrancy and End Times.
Out but not equal
Before 2000, the electorate did not expect much less demand that candidates wear their religion on their lapels. Certainly, religion was an issue in 1960 when John F Kennedy warned against elected officials using “the engine of government to impose their religion on the nation”. The George W Bush era introduced an unofficial religious litmus test via the social issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research, a test that heightened with the entrance of Sarah Palin in 2008. As last summer’s Republican primaries proved, any candidate who hopes to gain the Religious Right’s substantial favour must necessarily campaign with Jesus at his/her side and once elected, he or she had better loudly support legislation that subscribes to the tenets of Jesus as Saviour if they don’t want to be primaried the next time around. Today, every good campaign is riddled with the noise of dog whistle vocabulary, much of which still goes over the heads of John Q Public.
In continuing what has become an ever-growing list of Dominionist abuses within the military, the USAFA’s most recent religious faux-pas involved the Jewish chaplaincy. In pointing cadets to the uncredentialed Orthodox Jewish site, www.JewFAQ.org, the USAFA Chaplain’s Office was effectively directing students to Old Testament driven beliefs that reflect the kinds of fundamentalist teachings that only a religious extremist could love. Site disclaimers aside, when not likening homosexuality to kleptomania, JewFAQ.org trades in biblical nonsense, such as calling for the amputation of masturbating hands and for “death to the homosexual”. With so many easily accessible sites about Judaism out there, that the USAFA Chaplain’s Office chose this particular homophobic site speaks either to hurtful sloppiness or, more likely, to a deliberate intent behind the choice. Considering how deeply entwined the Academy and Extremist Christianity are today, such continual errant institutional judgment raises troubling questions. At the least, this latest incident continues the very real concerns about who the influencers behind choosing this particular site are as well as why the Academy continued to look away once MRFF brought the site’s inappropriateness to their attention. Again, thanks go out to Weinstein and MRRF for bringing this most recent Constitutional abuse to the Academy’s attention. It is because of his unrelenting attention that the USAFA finally removed the site, no apology for the offence included.
The issues at hand are manifold. Church/State separation aside, religion should be available to cadets and soldiers alike as a comfort, not a cudgel. Despite the elimination of DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), many gay cadets remain closeted lest they risk public shaming. Believe it or not, the same thing goes for those who don’t openly embrace the desired Dominionist beliefs, traditional Christians included. Additionally, by promoting Dominionist Christianity over all religions, the USAFA denies cadets the comfort each might get from his or her own religion. One young cadet who appealed to MRFF on this specific issue put it most eloquently:
I am gay, female and Jewish. I am not “out” either as a gay person or a member of the Jewish faith. Because if I was, life here would be much harder than it already is. It would be brutal. That’s messed up but that’s the way it is. My future in the Air Force would be clouded forever.
This was written by a young woman who signed on to defend her country, a country that, despite our supposed church/state separation, despite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, supports individuals who seek to deny her her very humanity.
At its simplest, it is clear that the USAFA and other branches of our military have permitted and continue to permit – if not encourage – high-level End Times believing leaders who abuse their positions of influence and power by imposing their very specific top-down religious dictates. It is well past time to hold the military to the standards of the offices they are sworn to uphold as well as to the Constitution.
I say, thank whatever Lord you pray to that Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation continue to act as sentries on the watchtower.
KC Boyd is a novelist and the author of the viral sensation, Being Christian: A Novel.