Military Atheist Chapel Bolstered by Christians
A recent commentary noted the apparent rise of atheism within the US military and highlighted the atheist “church” that occurs at Air Force Basic Training at Lackland AFB — where, at the time, atheists were claiming nearly 1,000 weekly attendees.
The group has been putting up weekly photos of a few of their attendees (though none of the events themselves):
(Here’s something interesting: When a group of Army trainees took a similar-themed photo after their Christian service, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein called them a “national security threat” and used the image as a fundraising prop in his fight against Christians. Think Weinstein will consider these atheists a national security threat, too?)
According to the Joint Base San Antonio Military Atheists and Secular Humanists Facebook page, the MASH weekly meetup recently topped 1,100 attendees.
This time, the lead MASH representative, Victoria Gettman, posted an interesting qualifier [emphasis added]:
Smashed our record again!!
1,138 trainees and airmen (half identify as Christian) attending our discussion…
Gettman doesn’t say whether they said they “grew up Christian” or otherwise indicated they didn’t know what to call themselves other than “Christian,” or if they were actual Bible-believing, practicing Christians. Still, it is notable that half of her attendees self-identified as Christian — not atheist, agnostic, humanist, “meh,” or any other non-theistic system to whom her group presumably ministers.
Even so, it’s fascinating to know that 600 Christian Airmen were willing and interested in attending an atheist (and, at times, anti-theist) gathering, and it is encouraging that they were willing to self-identify as Christians in an environment that didn’t cater to Christians.
There are likely a multitude of factors at work, including trainees who came from religious homes that don’t feel the pull of religion, the amount of time this particular “service” gives them away from their drill instructors (or the timing of the service itself), and even some Christians intentionally going to an atheist event for the purpose of being salt and light to their peers. (A few years ago, some trainees admitted to attending Jewish services because they were able to use the phone and there were more donuts available. Not every warm body in a seat is there for the theology or ideology.)
Never one to miss the opportunity to completely miss the point, Tom Carpenter of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy tried to turn Gettman’s celebratory posts into an indictment of the Air Force chaplaincy:
With these numbers, how can the Chief of Chaplains turn a blind eye to the changing demographics of those they serve?
For one thing, nothing about Gettman’s MASH services evidentially portends a change in demographics. For another, Gettman’s services are explicitly non-religious — which places them outside of the Chief of Chaplain’s purview, Tom. Gettman’s Facebook page could just as easily be talking about the Chess Club or Toastmasters, as far as it relates to the chaplaincy.
As an aside, it is worth noting that in 2013 Victoria Gettman, a then-17-year US Army sergeant, filed complaints against the Army after a chaplain ended a suicide briefing with a candlelit prayer. Gettman’s complaints were dismissed by the Army — and she almost became a plaintiff for Michael “Mikey” Weinstein.
Mikey Weinstein promised an “aggressive” federal lawsuit on her behalf — but, like so many of his strongly-worded, adjective-laden threats, Mikey Weinstein simply failed to follow through. It would seem moving his lips, rather than actually doing what he claims he’ll do, is far easier — and far cheaper.