Christianizing the Military
Earlier this week, Chris Hedges wrote about how deeply embedded the evanglical Christian movement had become in the Pentagon and the military. Chris warns that it is particularly dangerous for the military to be so strongly associated with the Christian Right, and it is even worse that this is happening while there is such a strong suspicion on the part of the Muslim world that the United States was waging a religious war against Islam. And he warns that having a large continguent of the military proclaiming fealty to the Christian Right movement is particularly worrying.
The drive by the Christian right to take control of military chaplaincies, which now sees radical Christians holding roughly 50 percent of chaplaincy appointments in the armed services and service academies, is part of a much larger effort to politicize the military and law enforcement. This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state. A successful politicization of the military would signal the end of our democracy.
During the past two years I traveled across the country to research and write the book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” I repeatedly listened to radical preachers attack as corrupt and godless most American institutions, from federal agencies that provide housing and social welfare to public schools and the media. But there were two institutions that never came under attack—the military and law enforcement. While these preachers had no interest in communicating with local leaders of other faiths, or those in the community who did not subscribe to their call for a radical Christian state, they assiduously courted and flattered the military and police. They held special services and appreciation days for all four branches of the armed services and for various law enforcement agencies. They encouraged their young men and women to enlist or to join the police or state troopers. They sought out sympathetic military and police officials to attend church events where these officials were lauded and feted for their Christian probity and patriotism. They painted the war in Iraq not as an occupation but as an apocalyptic battle by Christians against Islam, a religion they regularly branded as “satanic.” All this befits a movement whose final aesthetic is violence. It also befits a movement that, in the end, would need the military and police forces to seize power in American society.
One of the arguments used to assuage our fears that the mass movement being built by the Christian right is fascist at its core is that it has not yet created a Praetorian Guard, referring to the paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse and eventually plunged ancient Rome into tyranny and despotism. A paramilitary force that operates outside the law, one that sows fear among potential opponents and is capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors, is a vital instrument in the hands of despotic movements. Communist and fascist movements during the last century each built paramilitary forces that operated beyond the reach of the law.
The politicization of the military, the fostering of the belief that violence must be used to further a peculiar ideology rather than defend a democracy, was on display recently when Air Force and Army generals and colonels, filmed in uniform at the Pentagon, appeared in a promotional video distributed by the Christian Embassy, a radical Washington-based organization dedicated to building a "Christian America."
Hedges' piece provides further exposure to a story by Jeff Sharet in the December issue of Harper's Magazine about how an organization called the Christian Embassy is working to evangelize the military and the Congress. Note that the Christian Embassy was founded by the same man who started the Campus Crusade for Christ in the 1970s.
What Sharlet exposed was a video on the Christian Embassy site that explains their goals. What the Christian Embassy promotes is a Christian nation -- a full-blown theocracy -- and one that does not believe in our Constitutional separation of church and state. One that believes the goal is not just "Christianizing" the United States, but also the world.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation led by retired Air Force lawyer Michael Weinstein has requested an investigation as the Defense Department prohibits military personnel from appearing in uniform or in other ways implying "Service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted."
The latest update on this story (via Frederick Clark on dKos) is Weinstein contacted Jeff Sharlet to see what else he had about this story. In response, Sharlet has published a followup in the Revealer from his interview with the head of the Christian Embassy from 2005 which gave more insight into the goals of that organization.
Although the Democrats have taken over the Congress, the Christian Right has made some significant strides on their goals under the Bush administration. (If you watch the video, you will see that Tom DeLay is one prominent political leader shown as a supporter of the Christian Embassy mission.) We should be concerned about the takeover of our military by the Christian Right because their goal is antithetical to our form of government and the Constitution. Indeed, it seems they are preparing for the next Crusade.