The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, December 11, 2006

Preseeeeeeent... Gospels!

One of the great things about America is the segregation. Not the kind based on skin color or class, but segregation based on concepts: 'military' and 'government.' 'Public' and 'private.' And, of course, church and state.

The ascendancy of the reactionary right in the last decade brought with it an attendant sense of entitlement. In a way, it made for a natural alliance. The wealthy corporatists see themselves as America's nobility, and therefore its rightful rulers. The fundamentalists see power as a divine right fit only for them. Anyone who knows anything about pretty much any period of history anyplace on the planet is familiar with the consequences of a group that sees itself as infallible actually taking power.

And I'm sure I don't need to point out that the Founding Fathers, children of the Enlightenment that they were, recognized the dangers of unchecked power and zealotry. We get an earful of that in jr. high civics courses. There's Jefferson and the Establishment Clause, and Washington's willingness to relinquish the reins of state. And that most central of phrases, "checks and balances."

Those delineations have grown increasingly blurry in the last decade as fundamentalists have stepped up their efforts to turn their beliefs into law-- hey, it's what they do. But the corporatist GOP recognized them as useful dupes, and fed their dreams of theocracy while emptying the nation's coffers. How much influence the reactionary Christians actually have is still a topic of debate, but they're feeling very "empowered" these days, and it's leading to a disturbing erosion of the concrete barriers between the military, the clergy, and the state.

A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe efforts to spread their faith within the military. (. . .)

Army Brig. Gen. Bob Casen refers on the video to the Christian Embassy’s special efforts to reach admirals and generals through “Flag Fellowship” groups. Whenever he sees another fellowship member, he says, “I immediately feel like I am being held accountable because we are the aroma of Jesus Christ.”

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group led by retired Air Force lawyer Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, is requesting an investigation in a letter to the Defense Department’s inspector general.

Weinstein, who was a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration, set up the foundation last year to fight what he says is pervasive proselytizing in the military.

“Please tell me that this video would not be the greatest recruiting tool for al-Qaida,” he said Sunday.

In the letter to the inspector general, Weinstein’s foundation cites Defense Department regulations barring personnel from appearing in uniform in “speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies or any public demonstration . . . which may imply service sanction of the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted.”

NPR featured a story about this as well. You (should) be able to listen to it here after 7:30 EST.