Christians can and should be involved in public discourse, particularly with respect to Christianity in the public square. This may mean that they will have opportunities to support statements with which they agree, refute those that they do not, and defend the actions of Christians against unjust or unfounded accusations. Throughout such discourse, they must endeavor to do so with tolerance and respect for the beliefs and ideas of others. While there is generally nothing wrong with a stern defense, it is sometimes easy to adopt prejudicial views rather than respond with consideration. While Christians should be emboldened to speak the truth, even the recent “Evangelical Manifesto” took Christians to task for “expressing the truth without love.”
Christians should remember, too, that tolerance means to respect another’s rights to have different beliefs. Contrary to modern interpretations, it does not mean that one has to accept those beliefs or agree to their opposing truth claims. This was once simplified as respecting another person’s “right to be wrong.” (Pluralism, on the other hand, asserts that there is no single “right” answer; in fact, opposing beliefs may be equally “right.”)
In the military, such respect for another’s beliefs is not only recommended, it is required. While a civilian can run another person’s faith into the ground without recourse, a military member who did the same Read more…
According to CNN, a US Marine has been removed from his post for distributing coins with a Christian message of evangelism to local Iraqis.
According to FoxNews, the Army has decided to remove three crosses and a memorial plaque that honored a Chaplain who died while serving on Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. This was reportedly to comply with Army regulations that require chapels to have neutral appearances and not be named. From 13-3:
The chapel environment will be religiously neutral when the facility is not being used for scheduled worship. Chapels must be available to people of all faith groups for meditation and prayer when formal religious services are not scheduled.
[Religious] symbols are to be moved or covered when not in use. Distinctive religious symbols, such as crosses, crucifixes, the Star of David, menorah, and other religious symbols, will not be affixed or displayed permanently on the chapel exterior or grounds. Permanent or fixed chapel furnishings, such as the altar, pulpit, lectern, communion rail, prie-dieu, or reredos, will be devoid of distinctive religious symbols.
While some blogs have criticized the Army for the move, neutral symbology is fairly standard Read more…
The Colorado Springs Gazette covers the President’s commencement address at the US Air Force Academy on Wednesday.
Our nation is once again contending with an ideology that seeks to sow anger and hatred and despair – the ideology of Islamic extremism. In today’s struggle, we are once again facing evil men who despise freedom, and despise America, and aim to subject millions to their violent rule. And once again, our nation is called to defeat these adversaries – and secure the peace for millions across the world. And once again, our enemies will be no match for the men and women of the United States Air Force….
Be officers of character and integrity. Keep your wings level and true. Never falter; do not fail. And always know that America stands behind you.
Thank you. May God bless, and congratulations to the Class of 2008.
See the full text.
In a video at the Baptist Press, Chaplain (Capt) Jeff Struecker speaks about the spiritual support he gives the trainees at the US Army Ranger School.
The more difficult the circumstances, the more receptive they are to issues of faith…
There is an urgency for me to share the gospel of Jesus Christ…
My heroes are Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airman, and I can’t think of a greater privilege than to be a pastor to a group of my heroes.
The Chaplain is the former Staff Sergeant Struecker of Blackhawk Down fame. One of his stories is recounted in Stories from a Soldier’s Heart, and he has written his story in The Road to Unafraid. (See the last three paragraphs of this article.)
According to CNN (with more commentary here), a US Army Major General formally apologized to an Iraqi village after a soldier used a Koran for target practice. The General called the soldier’s actions “criminal behavior,” and a military official “kissed a Koran” and provided it as a gift to the village.
An Iraqi party claimed that the apology and reassignment were insufficient and demanded “the severest punishment.”
UPDATE: According to CNN, President Bush has personally apologized to the Iraqi Prime Minister. CNN has updated the article in response to the White House assertion that there was no “apology.”
The World Net Daily, which can sometimes be justifiably accused of sensationalizing its stories, carries a report about a fundamental Baptist Chaplain who claims that his services in Iraq were “suppressed” because “it was offensive to the brigade chaplain.”
Without the true facts of the case, it is impossible to draw a conclusion. It is true that it would be improper for a chapel service to be cancelled for its theology; it is also true that the military is under no obligation to have a chapel service for every “flavor” of religion in its ranks.
It is possible that this is the case to which the ACLJ previously referred.
A federal court has ruled that the Army must grant conscientious objector status to an Alaska-based soldier whose application was previously denied. Historically, the Army has insisted that a CO object to all war, not just “this” war, and the soldier’s previous comments seemed to indicate that he looked forward to combat. The soldier indicated that his objection developed as a result of what he saw in Iraq. The judge did concede that the military had a legitimate concern on the “timing” of the CO application, but that it could not deny it based solely on that cause.
The text of the ruling can be seen at the Religion Clause.
As noted at the ADF, the AP has reported that an Army Private contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation after the Army autopsied his deceased infant son. The Private indicated that he was Muslim and objected to the autopsy on religious grounds. Reports indicate that the MRFF plans to include this, as everything else, in their ongoing lawsuit.
While the situation is regrettable, it is not isolated to this military case or this religion. Many government offices perform autopsies over the religious objections of the family, and the courts have apparently supported their ability to do so–particularly when the cause of death is suspect, as it was in this case. It is not, then, a case of military “anti-Islamic prejudice and bigotry,” as Michael Weinstein asserts.
It is also worth noting that the religious opposition to autopsy is equally valid in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. There is no objection to the practice in their core doctrines, though “interpretation” in each could lead to the conclusion.
According to an AF.mil article, the Air Force has announced the winners of the 2007 Chaplain Service Awards. Among many others was included the “Spirit of the Four Chaplains Award,” which honors the memory of the four Chaplains lost on the USAT Dorchester 65 years ago this year. In the quartet there was a Catholic Priest, Jewish Rabbi, and two Protestant Chaplains. More information on the four Chaplains can be seen on the website of the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, which
exists to further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people.
“Unity without uniformity” may be an excellent way to describe the necessary relationships among those of varying faiths in the military today–where Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines work together without any requirement that they necessarily believe the same tenets (or are required to accept the truth claims of another system).
An AF.mil article highlights the unique circumstances of a Jewish US Air Force Chaplain in Iraq. The article notes that he is the only AF Jewish Chaplain in the AOR, though a recent article at the Jerusalem Post indicates that there are four more in the US Army also deployed there.
In a typically scathing commentary, Mr. Michael Weinstein lambasted the move of General Caslen, currently Commandant at West Point, to lead an infantry division out of Hawaii. Caslen was one of several flag officers who appeared on a Christian Embassy video investigated by the Inspector General last year (previous post).
Expanding his hyperbolic and alliterative repertoire, Weinstein called this a “tragic trifecta of travesty” and likened the General to Iraqi militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. He also criticized Caslen’s association with OCF, which he said was a
virulently fundamentalist Christian organization devoted to gaining unconstitutional control of the U.S. armed forces…
As with everything else, Weinstein has promised to add this to his ongoing lawsuit (in fact, he said it would go to the “head of the list”).
The ACLJ, which is sometimes referred to as the Christian version of the ACLU, renewed its call for a petition to protect the right of military Chaplains to pray within the dictates of their faiths, even outside scheduled sectarian services. This appears to be an update to a similar push last year. While there are no explicit rules that prohibit a sectarian prayer outside of a religious service (those that did exist were rescinded by act of Congress), the “sensitivity” of the subject has led many to avoid any perception of it whatsoever.
The ACLJ also noted an as-yet unpublished story out of Iraq which contends that a Christian service was “suppressed” because of the “Chaplain’s theology.”
While the religious situation in the military is not nearly so dire as the ACLJ (or the MRFF) would sometimes seem to think, there are people on both sides that do believe it is, and they are making concerted efforts to influence both the military and national opinion.
UPDATE: OneNewsNow picks up the story here.
As if a reminder was needed of the danger of the military fighter pilot profession, a T-38 crashed at Sheppard AFB today. It was the second in 8 days (after a crash at Columbus AFB), and has led the AF to tentatively ground the entire fleet. The T-38 is the primary jet aircraft used to train future fighter and bomber pilots.
As covered by Fox, CNN, and AF.mil.