Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Foreign Policy magazine has a profile of Mikey Weinstein and the first two sentences made me laugh:

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein shares his hate mail with both friends and strangers the way elderly people show off photos of their grandkids. He has plenty of it to share.

I laugh because I’m one of the people with whom he shares that hate mail, many examples of which I’ve shared with my readers as well. Much of it is aimed at the fact that he is Jewish, which tells you just how deep Christian anti-Semitism still goes.

For the past four years, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has been doing battle with a Christian subculture that, he believes, is trying to Christianize the U.S. armed forces with the help of a complicit Pentagon brass. He calls it the “fundamentalist Christian parachurch-military-corporate-proselytizing complex,” a mouthful by which he means holy warriors in contempt of the constitutional barrier between church and state.

“The scary thing about all this,” Weinstein says, “is it’s going on not with the blind eye of the Pentagon but with its full and totally enthusiastic support. And those who are not directly involved are passive about it. As the Talmud says, ‘silence is consent.'”

I think there’s obviously some divisions within the military on this. It isn’t the whole Pentagon that is behind it, and Mikey would be the first to say that there are some top brass who take the problem seriously and recognize it for what it is. But there are others who are knee deep in it, as the Christian Embassy video and other incidents have shown.

There are also, it is clear, base commanders and unit commanders who have been trying to build their own little fundamentalist fiefdoms, and often with great success. It only gets exposed when someone complains and soldiers are afraid to complain and risk their careers. How bad the problem is going to be will depend a great deal on what base you’re on and whose unit you’re in.

Some in the military can honestly say they’ve never seen those kinds of problems, while others see it every day. It will depend not only on the commanders but also on the attitude of the local chaplains. Get a reasonable chaplain who takes an ecumenical view of his job and you’ll be fine; get a hardcore fundamentalist know-nothing and your life may be hell.