Updated: More al Jazeera Chaplain Video
In an apparent response to the claims that it took things out of context, al Jazeera has posted a seven minute unedited video clip of the “Bible study group” in which the local language Bibles were shown. The original video, discussed here, was severely edited and has caused an internet uproar calling for court martial for the Chaplains and discharge for all the military members involved.
The fuller video is somewhat vindicating, and demonstrates that the al Jazeera clip did, in fact, take the Chaplain’s and soldiers’ words out of context. The Chaplain, accused in some places of illegal action, gives very good, very legal advice, and talks about the “hearts and minds” of the Afghani and Muslim culture. He very specifically, and very emphatically, says violating General Order number one is not the “sword they want to fall on.”
The entire group has been accused of “plotting” a “rogue action”, but the video shows them doing nothing of the sort; instead, they talk about living as an example of love and respect so that others will come to them to understand the life they lead. This is the very heart of life evangelism, and a basic tenet of Christian faith.
With regard to the second part of the video showing a Protestant sermon, the military had a simple response: “American servicemembers are allowed to hold religious services.” Nowhere in that sermon did anyone say anything about Afghanis.
Several advocacy organizations are continuing to forward the notion that “these soldiers are endangering their fellow soldiers and inflaming a religious war,” including Michael Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation:
This video clearly shows that fundamentalist, evangelical Christians within the U.S. military are putting their fellow soldiers at extreme risk by attempting to convert Afghans to Christianity.
…Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others…are looking for every opportunity to recruit more terrorists and justify their anti-American rhetoric…We once again demand the Pentagon put an immediate stop to these outrageous practices that threaten our national security and hope, in the interim, these actions do not inspire current and future terrorists.
The “outrageous actions” to which he refers are a Bible study and a church service. Contrary to his assertion, it is the irresponsible repetition of al Jazeera’s falsehoods that may be responsible for that outcome. (Note, too, that Weinstein has dropped his adjectives and now merely objects to “fundamentalist evangelical Christians”, contradicting his prior statements that he was not “at war” with “evangelical Christians.”)
The US military is “harmed” and soldiers are put at risk when carefully edited videos are distributed to “prove” something they do not. The US military is “put at extreme risk” and terrorists obtain propaganda and a recruiting tool when others foolishly repeat the accusations without research or independent thought. They fail to stand up and say that American soldiers are allowed to have and express their religious faiths in the context of religious services, and they fail to applaud the Chaplain for correctly addressing the enlisted soldier on appropriate conduct. We do not improve the lie by repeating it, and we do not protect our soldiers by spreading falsehoods and propaganda.
These soldiers actions didn’t endanger anyone, but the irresponsible repetition of these falsehoods does.
Updated: al Jazeera has also posted their “report on the report,” which includes the responses of Col Julian, the military spokesman for Afghanistan.
Now also noted at the Religion Clause.