While the majority of US troops reportedly ascribe to some form of Christianity, Department of Defense press releases on the faiths of US troops might make some people think otherwise.
The vast majority of official US military press releases dealing with religion focus on one of two things: military chaplains or a religious holiday. It is not unusual for a DoD article to highlight a Chaplain’s support of Christmas or Ramadan, for instance, as the DoD did with US Army Chaplain (Maj) Dawud Agbere, who celebrated the Muslim holy month in Afghanistan with American and allied troops, as well as local nationals.
In general, though, there are very few articles that focus on an individual line soldier — and that individual person’s religious faith. When those articles do come out, they are almost exclusively about non-traditional minority faiths.
For example, the Army once wrote about SSgt Muna Nur, specifically focusing on her status as a “Muslim medic.”
The military has routinely highlighted the specific faiths of individual troops during Ramadan, including Marine Lance Cpl Malike Mejdouli (a “devout Muslim”), and more recently US Army 1Sgt David Joshua. These articles focus on the specific personal faiths of the troops, rather than the military’s support of the religious observance of a holy event or the troops’ duties.
In another case, the Army wrote an article about SPC Adama Blackthorn — and spent most of the time talking about his role as a “pagan priest.” An atheist has even joined the club, with an official Air Force article on his atheist faith system as it applies to the Air Force concept of spiritual fitness.
There are a few Christian soldiers highlighted in the news, though those articles tend to be produced by local civilian media, rather than the US military. One DoD article did highlight US Army SSgt Soldier 4theLord, but only because of his unique name. Presumably, Sgt 4theLord is a Christian — because the article never even mentions his religion. Jewish media outlets do an admirable job of making up for the dearth of articles on the personal faith journeys of Jewish US military servicemembers.
In some respects, the focus is understandable. The past few years have seen the US military accused of being “anti-Islam,” and highlighting US troops who practice Islam may staunch those accusations. While highlighting paganism doesn’t help that cause, it might contribute to the public perception of religious diversity in the US military, while Christianity and Judaism fall into the “expected” (and therefore not newsworthy) category. Such articles almost certainly help recruiting or even retention among the featured faith groups, as well. A would-be soldier may be inspired in seeing a troop share his common faith, or a younger troop may be inspired to continue serving in seeing a superior share his faith.
Still, with all those positives, why not spend more time highlighting individual Jewish or Christian troops? Are their journeys of faith, personal stories, and struggles to reconcile their faith and their military profession not copy worthy or compelling? Is a Christian’s story too sensitive for easily offended ears, while a Muslim’s is not?
To take it a step further, the Department of Defense has specifically thanked US Muslims for serving, and the Secretary of Defense called Islam a “great religion.” Even the President recently made a point of highlighting the contributions of Islam (the religion) to the “character of our country.”
A cursory search does not immediately yield a SecDef statement equivalently praising Christianity or Judaism as a “great religion.” You are unlikely to find many official DoD releases about a unit’s “Christian medic,” the specifics of a Christian’s faith journey in the military during the Christmas season, or even a line Christian troop’s take on how his faith applies to US military spiritual fitness. All this despite the fact Christianity is presumably the majority faith in the US military (and, according to one conspiracy theorist, Christians are actively trying to take over the military).
To be clear, the omission of reference to Jews and Christians in the US military is not persecution, nor is it required by any cross-eyed interpretation of any law or the US Constitution. It is simply an interesting observation — particularly in an era in which the US military has been increasingly described as “hostile to religion” when it comes not to faith in general, but to Christians. It would seem that the US military is so sensitive about Christianity (and even Judaism) that it doesn’t want to touch them, lest they offend the sensitive ears of a well-to-do resident of the Albuquerque suburbs.
Christians do serve in the US military, and they do so with distinction. Though it may not be publicized, they serve in every career field and to the highest ranks of the services. Though you may not always see them, they serve both Jesus Christ and their country, and they do so with honor.
Want to meet them? All you have to do is ask.
With reference to the Religion Clause.