According to the Air Force Times, the Air Force is reviewing “all” materials it uses to teaches “ethics, core values, and character development.” The reason?
More Christian-themed course work surfaced.
The gross misrepresentation of the Chaplain briefing at Vandenberg, promoted by Michael Weinstein and his “religious freedom” allies, has already been discussed. The latest issue is a “complaint” about ethics training in ROTC.
The ROTC briefing, called “Core Values and the Air Force Member,” contains references to the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments as examples of ethical values. Two additional slides list the New Testament teachings of Jesus known as the Beatitudes, and seven of the commandments, including “Have no other gods before me.”
The 22-slide briefing also cites the Golden Rule as an example of ethical values. One of the slides points out that the Golden Rule — “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — is found in five of the world’s major religions.
Shocking, isn’t it? A slideshow on ethics gives Christian examples in its “example[s] of ethical values.” A mere reference to Christianity causes complaint.
Does Air Force ethics training establish a religion, violate the Constitution, or otherwise favor Christianity, as Michael Weinstein so artfully claimed?
“This is further example [sic] of how wretched this fundamentalist Christian tsunami is and how pervasive it is,” Weinstein said of the ROTC training material.
In short, no.
The ethics lesson is not “Christian-themed,” to use the words of the Air Force Times. Just like the ICBM training previously discussed, hypersensitive people are over-reacting to the presence of Christianity — and only Christianity. In fact, these people are so hypersensitive they’re seeing Christianity even where it isn’t.
Most laughable in Weinstein’s delicately-worded complaint is the premise that the Air Force is promoting Christianity when it references the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule.
As most 5-year-olds used to be able to tell you, the Ten Commandments are part of the Jewish law. They are found in the Jewish Torah, not just the Christian Bible, though it is politically expedient for critics to ignore that distinction in this context.
If you mention “Jesus” and “the Golden Rule” in the same sentence in a positive way, critics of Christianity will be quick to point out variations of the “Golden Rule” existed in other spiritual concepts before Jesus Christ was born. The Air Force slides even allude to this, and do not present “the Golden Rule” as a Christian concept. Of course, it is politically expedient for critics to ignore this in this context.
The Sermon on the Mount is, of course, the teaching of Jesus Christ — though some critics question whether Jesus’ beatitudes were actually original. Has the United States really gotten to a point where “Blessed are the peacemakers,” used as an example of an ethical value, is not only “wretched,” but also actionable by the government?
More to the point, of course: The Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the Sermon on the Mount are examples of ethical values, whether you agree with their potential theological underpinnings or not. Nowhere in the course material does the Air Force do anything with those examples except list them as such.
Though neither Weinstein nor the Air Force Times have published the slides, variations on the presentation are publicly available. (Why there are “variations” is difficult to say, though even the complaining officer noted he altered his presentation.) One such file contains no references to the Sermon on the Mount, and instead has “Covey’s Universal Values,” which are apparently a reference to Steven Covey’s “universal” principles.
Interestingly, that alteration removes the Christian reference, but leaves the Jewish one. In its possible attempt to eliminate controversy, it also leaves a close-up photograph of one of the most controversial religious structures in the world: The Dome of the Rock, which in a grand irony serves as the background for the “golden rule” slide.
Somebody probably picked it because it was “golden.”
Again, the “examples of ethical values” are valid examples, and they are presented as nothing more. When the curriculum turns to teaching how to “select values,” it makes no reference to any form of religion:
1. Exercise Free Choice
2. Choose from Alternatives
3. Consider the Consequences
4. Prize It
5. Affirm It
6. Act On It
7. Repeat It
That hardly seems like a “tsunami” of any sort. It’s kind of hokey, actually.
In their increasingly obsessive reactions to the slightest reference to Christianity, some apparently miss the fact they’re “purging” Christianity while allowing other religious references (or, more cynically, they don’t miss that at all). Such specific treatment by a government body toward only one specific religion, while ignoring others, would run afoul of Constitutional protections, as it “disfavors” one religion compared to others.
The US military doesn’t need to promote religion. It doesn’t need to teach Christian Sunday School to achieve professional objectives, nor does it need to use any other religion’s basic training.
To date, despite Michael Weinstein’s impassioned and profane pronouncements, no one has proven it has done any such thing. The ethics training is no more a “Christian tsunami” than it is a tidal wave of Judaism, Islam, or “reason.”
The US military also doesn’t need to abandon references to religion in its training materials, particularly when such references are academically relevant to the course being taught. (It is asinine to think ethics can be taught without any reference to religion or Christianity.) The mere reference to religion is not a violation of the Constitution.
The US military also cannot target Christianity, despite Weinstein and his dogmatic complaints. Should the military take targeted action against training material only because of its Christian content — despite the valid academic purpose it might otherwise serve, and despite the references to other religions — it may create an environment hostile to Christianity, the religion claimed by three-quarters of the US population and US military members.
To this point, the response of both the media and the Air Force has been far more tepid to this latest round of Christian criticism, potentially with this in mind.
Michael Weinstein is on a mission, and it has nothing to do with religious freedom. In his quest for some form of misguided personal vengeance, he has targeted not religion, and not some “sect” of a religion, but a whole faith group. Note that despite the repeated cries of some of his allies, he nowhere uses the word “dominionist,” nor is there any indication that the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule (despite their somewhat tenuous connection to Christianity to begin with) are outside of mainstream Christianity.
In fact, in this most recent bout of publicity Weinstein even renewed some of his older style. Did you catch his response to the Air Force ICBM training? It’s not just “wretched,” it’s the start of a new violent era in religious persecution and warfare:
“(It’s) beyond the pale and is going to cause oceans and oceans of blood,” said…Weinstein…
The last time Weinstein used that terminology, he was talking about the coming second Holocaust to be brought about by Christians in America. He must think the “transition from Plan A to Plan B” is in progress. Wonder if he thinks the James Dobson/Dick Cheney shadow government is in on it.
There’s something “wretched” here, all right, but it isn’t the Air Force’s Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or secular references in this ethics course, or the similar ones in the ICBM course earlier (though, naturally, Weinstein is only concerned with the Christian ones). What is “wretched” is Michael Weinstein’s contemptible, intolerant, and twisted view of the Constitution and religious liberty.
Michael Weinstein is free to have some odd personal quarrel with Christianity. That he would use that freedom to attack those of that faith in the military — who protect his right to that freedom — is unconscionable.