Air Force Campaign Aims to Bring Faith Back to the Force
“Spiritually strong Airmen…tend to be strong assets to their units and commanders.”
An article out of Robins AFB, Georgia, highlighted an Air Force campaign called Faith Works, which focuses on “Freedom, faith, and ministry.” Amazingly enough, it promotes the virtue of religion — based on science [emphasis added]:
The campaign, Faith Works, is based on a body of research demonstrating the positive effects religion and spirituality can have on improving health in every domain…Faith Works offers a new perspective on an old technique, focusing on the tangible, earth-bound benefits associated with developing and practicing a strong faith, religion or spirituality…
Dr. Tyler VanderWeele…and Dr. Harold Koenig…have identified physical evidence linking the practice of faith and religion to individual resiliency.
[Their] research shows that Americans who attend religious services at least once a week have a 20 percent to 30 percent reduced mortality rate over a 15-year period. In terms of mental health, regular church-goers also demonstrate more optimism and lower rates of depression.
It is a fascinating — and bold — initiative that was led off by Air Force Chief of Chaplains (MGen) Dondi Costin last December. Its stated goals aren’t far from what as previously been noted here: There is virtue in religious faith, and the US military need not avoid religion in an attempt to avoid offending someone. If the military ignores — or stigmatizes — faith, the military institution (and the troops within it) lose access to the long-recognized benefits of religious faith.
The program directly addresses the “stigma” inappropriately attached to religious faith (something that has likely been an intended outcome of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s campaigns). It explicitly aims to eliminate that stigma to bring religion back into normal conversation:
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Danford…explained that discussing faith-centric issues via scientifically supported evidence removes much of the stigma surrounding discussions about religion. This allows the chaplain corps to engage with Airmen who may be more skeptical of religion and helps leaders and decision-makers understand the importance of the chaplaincy, especially in matters of resiliency.
This reflects much of what Chaplain Costin said earlier this year, when he explained that part of the purpose of the Faith Works campaign was to bring the conversation about religion out of the shadows and back into the every day life of the Air Force [emphasis added]:
[Faith Works] help the Air Force restore a sane conversation about religion and faith to our discussion. Too many people are afraid to talk about faith because they think its a negative when in fact it isn’t…
Whether you’re a person of faith or no faith, whether you’re a person who has a religion or doesn’t, we think that a healthy conversation about the benefits — or potential benefits, even — of faith and religion and spirituality on health is a good thing for all Airmen.
Faith does Work — and that is particularly true to the men and women who serve in the US military. Whether it is recovery from traumatic experiences seen in the service of their country or “mere” spiritual resilience, there is value in religious faith — and there is nothing wrong with the US military recognizing and supporting that.
In the words of Chaplain (MGen) Costin, spiritually-fit Airmen help the Air Force fly, fight, and win.