Weinstein Gets Cool Reception at ACSC, Maxwell AFB
According to a few sites supportive of the MRFF, Michael Weinstein was recently a speaker at the US Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. There is little public information on the visit, except that which MRFF allies have released. In one email, a supporter — who is an Air Force officer — described a less than supportive environment in the “Q and A”:
I did not like the atmosphere during the Q & A period, but I will not apologize for my classmates. I believe those that were most vocal either support prosthelytizing [sic] or don’t think it’s happening to the extent you describe.
Another summary of the event was captured at the same blog that previously described Weinstein as “rabid.” Both the last entry and this one appear to be written in the first person by the same author, though in the first blog he claims to be a former officer while in this one he describes himself as a current officer. Both blogs were posted by Chris Livingston and appear to be his personal work, so it is unclear if he is quoting someone else or is simply miscommunicating his military status.
The author in this case was not an ACSC student but managed to find a seat in the auditorium; he was less kind in his description of the reception:
A room full of military professionals quickly devolved into an unruly mob…It seemed as if half the auditorium had become a mob of hollering and jeering morons…
Many in the briefing apparently know Weinstein for who even he claims to be:
[An] exchange officer, who proudly proclaimed his Christianity, said he didn’t see why Weinstein was trying to take God out of the military. This earned rounds of applause. Weinstein responded by telling him “the constitution of our country dictates a separation of church and state in all aspects of government, which includes the military.”
The author apparently misses the obvious mischaracterization of the Constitution with respect to the motivation to “take God out of the military.” (These comments also led another MRFF supporter to call this ‘proof’ that “dominist” [sic, dominionist] Christians are running the Air Force. He did not say how he knew the theological beliefs of those officers.) He also says he was dumbfounded by the reception given Weinstein:
Even after [Weinstein] told them that 18,000 soldiers had come to him in desperation, after they were neglected by the military’s systems of justice…When they were told by a knowledgeable speaker that fundamentalist Christianity is contributing to a hostile religious environment within their ranks, [they] responded by shedding all vestiges of professionalism, hurling insults, and generally engaging in behavior that was a downright embarrassment to the Air Force. Of course they don’t see the problem. They are the problem. (emphasis original)
The great irony is that the author is blinded by the same zeal he perceives in Christians; he is emotionally invested in Weinstein’s tale, regardless of the facts. With regard to whether or not it was “professional,” that may be a subjective standard as described by an ardent supporter. Had he been an ACSC student, the author would have been specifically briefed on the academic, non-attributional nature of the briefings. Thus, while any critical response earns the scorn of this Weinstein acolyte, a critical response is not only expected but encouraged in this type of academic forum.
Incidentally, the author of this blog (apparently, Chris Livingston) may be in violation of Air Force policies at Maxwell. From their policies:
All guest speakers, students, and permanent-party personnel are prohibited from divulging the identity of any particular speaker…for the purpose of attributing to that speaker any specific remarks or statements…made in the Air University educational forum or at Air University-sponsored events, except when required during official investigations…
Remarks…may be released or discussed with other individuals outside the school forum only after permission is received from the speaker and approval obtained from the school commandant or commander concerned, or his or her designated representative. (emphasis added)
It is highly unlikely Livingston sought that permission, or that it was granted on the very day of the briefing, which is when Livingston uploaded his post. Once again, the MRFF and its supporters demonstrate an inability to follow the rules (when it suits their public relations purposes), while they demand that standard of others.
While he appeared to be distressed, the author should have been reassured. An auditorium full of military officers just reiterated what USAFA cadets proved several years ago: they demonstrated an ability to think independently, despite what a self-proclaimed expert tells them. They were not brainwashed by smooth semantics or wordplay, nor were they fooled, as the author was, by the number “18,000” with respect to Weinstein’s “clients.”
A commenter on the blog who also claims to have been at the briefing notes Livingston conveniently left out the applause, official thanks, and gift Weinstein received prior to leaving. The commenter, who says he at least partially agrees with the message behind Weinstein’s supposed intent, implies that Livingston intentionally painted the Air Force audience in a negative light in order to support a self-serving end. That is, Weinstein’s crusade actually benefits from a negative reception from military officers. He benefits from being seen as a pariah to the military rather than a collaborator, an antagonist rather than an ally.
Interestingly, while he derided the invitation of Franklin Graham to the Pentagon because he wasn’t “inclusive,” Weinstein himself has expressed intolerant and hateful views of Christianity. In one example, he pejoratively called Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ “The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, or Freddie vs Jesus.”
The MRFF supporter quoted here freely admits that during this ACSC briefing Weinstein called military Christians “a national security threat from within”; while he may not have used the word “evil” to describe them, his words equating military Christians with those who have killed Americans and with whom the US is at war are certainly not “inclusive.” In one of his less frequently quoted accusations, Weinstein has also said American Christians secretly plan to instigate a second Holocaust, presumably under the “shadow government” the MRFF believes is run by Dick Cheney and James Dobson.
Complaints about Graham’s “offensive” comments got him “disinvited” from a military religious event. Despite complaints from military Christians that Weinstein’s comments are religiously offensive, he continues to be invited to speak to non-religious military events on religious topics.
Academically, Weinstein’s invitation is not necessarily objectionable. There are certainly times and places “offensive” speakers are appropriate, and avoiding offense is not often a legitimate reason to block a speaker (though one might question the wisdom of inviting a conspiracy theorist, like Weinstein). However, when the military bans a recognized theologian for speaking negatively about another religion, yet invites a political activist who speaks negatively about a religion, it demonstrates an incomprehensible double-standard.
One wonders if, in the interest of academic discussion, ACSC will now invite the Rev. Franklin Graham to speak from an “opposing viewpoint.”
The blog quoted above may be seen here.