Several news sites have reported on the results of a Gallup Poll that indicates the media may have generated a perception of “controversy” where none existed.
The poll indicated that, contrary to recent news stories, less than 10% of Americans disapproved of Obama’s choice of Pastor Rick Warren for his inaugural invocation. In fact, even among liberals and Democrats, Warren’s approval was far higher than his disapproval. By far the greatest number of respondents replied that they “didn’t know enough to say.” This led Gallup to conclude that
News media accounts of negative reactions…reflect…vocal positions of interest groups [rather] than an opinion…shared by the majority of the American public.
Ironically, Warren himself said in December that he believed the media was responsible for ”the demonization of differences” that is polarizing and destructive to America:
The media often fans controversy and conflict to create a story and we start yelling at each other so much, nobody listens to each other anymore.
In short, the news media limited its reporting to vocal activists, because outside of those groups, there wasn’t a story. Some might say the on-again, off-again coverage of the military-religious “controversy” bears similar hallmarks.
Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC, 3rd District) has introduced a bill that would
ensure that every military chaplain has the prerogative to close a prayer outside of a religious service according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.
Similar legislation failed previously, though it caused negotiations that ultimately resulted in the rescinsion of military “guidelines” that had restricted the content of Chaplains’ prayers.
Mitch Lewis, an Army Methodist Chaplain, wrote an interesting commentary in November 2007 (and recently revisited) on this very subject, presenting a reasoned view that prayers at military ceremonies Continue reading
President Bush has made the annual proclamation of “Religious Freedom Day” for 16 January 2009. As noted in his proclamation, it is a recognition of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson and passed on January 16th, 1786. Notably, this was before the Constitution (signed in 1787), of which Jefferson had no part, and the Bill of Rights (passed in 1789), of which Jefferson was one of the leading proponents.
Interestingly, the President also notes
Freedom is not a grant of government or a right for Americans alone; it is the birthright of every man, woman, and child throughout the world. No human freedom is more fundamental than the right to worship in accordance with one’s conscience.
While some point to the Constitution as the origin of our freedoms, the President emphasizes that these are human liberties, whose “origin” is not restricted to “a grant of government.”
Religious Freedom Day is also advocated by a private organization at ReligousFreedomDay.com.
Tony Dungy, the head football coach of the Indianapolis Colts and outspoken Christian advocate, has retired from coaching. (ESPN, Colts, ChristianPost)
The news reports follow a consistent theme: Dungy has always said that coaching was a career, not a “life mission.” His faith, family, and football were his priorities–in that order. He considered his position as a public platform for his faith. He wrote a book, Quiet Strength, that described those efforts in his life to put God first in a world where that wasn’t often rewarded.
His example of a man in an awe-inspiring, enviable position–and the example he gave of a Christian in that field–was a model for Christians in many places, including those in the military. He won an Air Force award, and his perspective on life priorities was previously discussed here.
In one of his more interesting quotes, Dungy said the accomplishment of which he was most proud was
proving to the NFL that there was more than one way for a successful coach to behave. In a sport that venerates the sleepless control freak, Dungy was a man apart, unfailingly positive, eschewing the dour countenance so prevalent on the sideline.
Dungy truly is a man apart.
As noted at the ChristianPost, Tim Tebow (as discussed previously) donned a new verse on the blacks under his eyes during his victory in the 2009 College Championship football game: John 3:16.
An atheist blogger had this initial (unedited) response:
I just want to watch a football game; I don’t want to be prosetylized to.
While he later qualified his own cynicism, he demonstrated an interesting and increasingly common prejudice toward public expressions of Christianity. Continue reading
The ChristianPost notes that Athletes in Action highlights the stories of both Heisman quarterbacks playing the championship game this year.
Tim Tebow (Florida Gators) was actually covered here last year, as yet another Christian who desired to use his platform to share his faith, and who prioritized his God above all else. (He even has “Phil 4:13″ on the blacks under his eyes when he plays.)
Sam Bradford (Oklahoma Sooners) listed his time in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes through high school and college as central to the growth and strength of his faith. Perhaps ironically, the FCA–which Fisher Deberry also supported–and its role in high schools and colleges is a frequent topic of controversy; complaints on church/state separation grounds have become common.
As noted at AF.mil, the US military academies (AF, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine) were ranked in the “top 100″ Best Value Colleges by the Princeton Review/USA Today. The recognized strong academic programs and zero-cost education (in relative terms to other schools) contributed to the high rankings. The survey did not appear to address the “cost” of a military commitment, though in a weak economy what was once a “commitment” may seem to be “job security.”
The rankings and their methodology may be seen at the Princeton site, which requires a free log on to see detailed data.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation recently “amended” its lawsuit against the Department of Defense. It made one substantive addition, saying Army Specialist Chalker had
sought relief for his claims by invoking an intra-army administrative process. He has exhausted this alternative remedy but has obtained no substantial relief.
The premise of the cryptically vague statement (that Chalker used the Army’s in-place grievance systems) was already included in the lawsuit, so it does not appear that an amendment was judicially required. The announcement of the changes to the lawsuit–which was only filed approximately three months earlier–did highlight the suit in the press for a short time.
The other changes, upon which the MRFF has focused attention, have been additions to the long list of allegations (unrelated to the primary complaint) of Christian endorsement in the US military, which founder Michael Weinstein says is a “national security threat:”
The military command and control of our nation’s nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional and laser-guided weapons has been unconstitutionally compromised by a tsunami of unbridled fundamentalist Christian exceptionalism, triumphalism and proselytizing. Continue reading
Focus on the Family has expressed support for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry. The Military Ministry is known for its “Rapid Deployment Kits,” which are a New Testament, Daily Bread devotional, and the evangelistic booklet How to Know God Personally, packaged in a ziploc bag. One Air Force officer and aircrew is quoted as saying
I received the Rapid Deployment Kit a few months back and I want to extend my thanks. I carry my New Testament Bible in my flight suit when I fly. I read a Psalm before each flight Continue reading
Amazingly, little has changed over the past year (in fact, two years) with regard to religion in the military. No lawsuits have gone on to litigation, Congress has yet to address the controversy as they promised in 2006, and though many controversies have made the press, few have had any noticeable impact on military operations. That may help explain why military religious issues have fallen off the “Top Ten” lists of church/state and free exercise pundits (including Time). (By contrast, “Religion and the Military” featured prominently in 2006, even making the “#1″ in some places.)
This year does have a unique potential, however, as President-elect Obama may bring a different perspective on both the use of the military and its internal governance. Already, some are wondering what impact his administration will have on Christians’ ability (and desire) to serve in the military. Continue reading