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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/28/09

Holy War

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Pogo keeps coming up. The message that "we have met the enemy and he is us" is so well-worn these days that it rolls off the tongue too swiftly and off the back making scarcely a mark. But, the truth is that in so many ways we become too much like that enemy who won't go away. On playgrounds bullies threaten mayhem, deliver it occasionally for future effect, and they do not go away. We have to learn to live with them, and hopefully we do not become bullies ourselves. Or do we? We take on the role of victim first and receive a lot attention that way. This angers the bully, and he attacks again ... and again. We learn to dodge the assaults and our victimhood takes on new characteristics. We learn the essential psychology of bullying, but learn to control our environments in different ways from his. In some parts of America this takes on the vestments of an aggressive and proselytizing Christianity. Some become quite adept at disguising the underlying playground angst (and other affronts to the emerging being, which propel them) and these emerge as self-righteous zealotry, the victim lashing back in passive aggressive behaviors designed to neutralize the enemy, to bring him to see the light, to "lay off," in other words. No evangelical person will accept the foregoing paragraph as having any truth value whatsoever. Evangelists are convinced they are delivering "good news" and do not see their activities as being born out of humiliation or pain or antagonism. They see themselves as enlightened and, ipse dixit, morally secure and ... yet ... they are clearly in the tradition of all victims and martyrs, struggling against bogeys of the imagination that will not rest. James Carroll, a former Catholic priest, son of a significant personage of the Pentagon many years ago, has resumed his Monday op-ed column in the Globe and on this recent Memorial Day chose to write about the unacceptable Christian zealotry now manifesting itself in the armed forces. I have written on this subject for years, too, and was not amused to hear that George W. Bush received National Intelligence Summaries in Sunday school wrappings. We are not sure what the intent was, but if it were only Rumsfeld pandering to the born-again George, it were still too much. If it were the Air Force General from whose aegis this report emerges, then it were way too much, for the Air Force is implicated up to its Academy halo in pompous right wing evangelizing Christian zealotry. You should read the Carroll piece, if you have not already. It is not merely a complaint. It is a call to arms. The problem is not limited to cynical bastards like Rummy or zealous Air Force personnel, it is a huge problem in all the armed forces, and frankly the Commander in Chief needs to do something about it ... and soon. My own experience with the problem came from a dinner conversation with the brother-in-law of my step-sister, he a Naval officer who was then in command of an amphibious force assault ship, one of those fairly large, hollow, vessels that carried large landing craft in its well deck and support helicopters on the deck above the well. He was a Bible-thumping brother of a southern Maryland evangelical minister, but lacked nothing of his brother's talent for fundamentalist reasoning processes. In fact, he was somewhat alarmed that he was sitting at dinner with a known atheist, but you will not be surprised to know that he thought he might be able to convert me then and there. I asked him point blank if he saw any conflict between his beliefs and his rank, any moral dilemma, any reason to resist evangelizing the crew of his ship, which you understand, of course, did not sign on for a Bible study cruise. He said that he did not. He said, in fact, that he believed his command of the ship came from God via the Chief of Naval Operations and that it was no coincidence that he was chosen to command, rather than some irreligious scoundrel like myself. Carroll alludes finally to the problem of zealotry in the military, and he clearly notes that it is not just that hapless soldiers, sailors, and airmen are subjected to the voices and wills of evangelizing, proselytizing senior personnel. Carroll makes the connection that these military personnel are answerable specifically to a higher power, not just the military chain of command. They are, like "Dr. Strangelove's" George C. Scott version of General "Buck" Turgidson or Keenan Wynn's Colonel "Bat" Guano ultimately dangerous people whose motivations are born in the mysteries of youthful victimhood, or like Sterling Hayden's General Jack D. Ripper whose ideas about contemporary history (and End Times) are more than just relevant, and whom like Slim Pickens's Major T.J. Kong will follow arrogance into hell itself. Clearly, we cannot afford a jihadist branch of the Department of Defense, and just as clearly the Secretary of Defense and the President as Commander-in-Chief needs to cleanse the military of these people by new rules absolutely prohibiting evangelism within the armed forces. This is no more difficult than the existing prohibition against politicking in uniform. The armed forces are deliberately not a level playing field and justice demands that opinions and beliefs not be foisted off with misplaced authority. Yes, I know this plays to the underlying victimhood and martyrdom of the evangelicals, but I would rather rout them out summarily than drive them underground within the services to rise again during some very ugly emergency. JB
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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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