September 1, 2005

Dissension Among Military Chaplains

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:17 pm

WaPo describes dissension among chaplains in the US military:

The growing influence of evangelical Protestants is roiling the military chaplain corps, where their desire to preach their faith more openly is colliding with long-held military traditions of pluralism and diversity.

After accusations this summer that evangelical chaplains, faculty and coaches were pressuring cadets at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force yesterday issued new guidelines on respect for religious minorities. In the Navy, evangelical Protestant chaplains are fighting what they say is a legacy of discrimination in hiring and promotions, and they are bridling at suggestions they not pray publicly “in the name of Jesus.”

Apparently there are only two religions in the military: evangelicalism and pluralism.

Klingenschmitt [an evangelical Navy chaplain] has accused the Navy of religious discrimination, contending in a written complaint to his superiors that he was punished because he refused to practice a “government-sanitized” faith that he calls “Pluralism,” with a capital P.

Navy officials declined to discuss Klingenschmitt’s case. But they noted that the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, a private association to which most chaplains belong, says in its code of ethics that each chaplain must “function in a pluralistic environment” and “not proselytize from other religious bodies,” though they “retain the right to evangelize those who are not affiliated.”

Whether there should be any tacit limits on chaplains’ free speech has also been an issue at the Air Force Academy. A team of observers from Yale Divinity School criticized one of the academy’s ministers for urging Protestant cadets to tell their classmates that anyone who is “not born-again will burn in the fires of hell.”

“Could there possibly be a worse time for this fundamentalist Christianity to be pushed in our military, when we’re in a war and the people we are fighting are recruiting their members by saying we’re Christian crusaders?” asked Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate and former Reagan White House official.

His complaints over the past 18 months about religious intolerance led to a Pentagon investigation in June that found “a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs.”

Among other incidents, the academy commandant had urged cadets to use the “J for Jesus” hand signal with the thumb and index finger, the head football coach had told players that he expected to see them in church, and Jewish cadets had experienced anti-Semitic slurs after students were urged to see the Mel Gibson film “The Passion of the Christ.”

Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, assured a June 26 congressional hearing that “the clergy pretty much have the political correctness thing down” and that “most of the complaints are with cadets and cadet-led prayers.” But Klingenschmitt, who has served in both the Navy and the Air Force, said he thinks they share a basic flaw.

In both services, he said, “the higher-ranking authorities can impose their faith on the junior authorities. It’s just that in the Air Force they have more evangelicals in power, and in the Navy they have more pluralists in power.”

Pluralism is not a religion. It’s an accurate description of the United States citizenry, which is also reflected in the armed forces.

What is so sad here is that this really comes down to a rather practical consideration. It is not feasible for every soldier, particularly in combat, to have access to a chaplain of their own faith. So it’s simple: I’ll play nice when I minister to soldiers of your faith if you play nice when you minister to soldiers of my faith. No trying to proselytize, or it would be an all out battle to out-convert the chaplains of other faiths. Make your prayers somewhat generic, because we are going to let you speak to people that would never choose to walk into your church. Let’s all just get along, because we are all thrown together to meet the religious needs of a diverse armed forces.

But instead, Rev. Klingenschmitt calls this agreement among chaplains to play nice “Pluralism”, a religion in opposition to his evangelicalism.

Now I truly believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is something unique and wonderful that everyone desperately needs. But I don’t believe that forcing people to pray “in the name of Jesus” will bring a Muslim, or agnostic, or Jew any closer to the Gospel. Here’s a crazy idea — instead of forcing Christ on others against their will, how about letting the soldiers see Christ in your actions, your kindness, your eyes, your heart, and your respect for their existing religious beliefs. After all, true evangelizing doesn’t really require words.

Another California First: Gay Marriage Bill Passes

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:41 pm

Well, I’ll be darned. Look what happened in the Senate of my home state of California (emphasis mine):

California Senate votes to legalize gay marriage
Chamber is first legislative body in U.S. to approve same-sex matrimony

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The state Senate approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriage in California, a vote that makes the chamber the first legislative body in the country to approve a gay marriage bill.

The 21-15 vote sets the stage for a showdown next week in the California Assembly, which narrowly rejected a gay marriage bill in June.

“Equality is equality, period,” said one of the bill’s supporters, Democratic Sen. Liz Figueroa. “When I leave this Legislature, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren I stood up for dignity and rights for all.”

The bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno, said he expected a vote in the Assembly on Tuesday.

“We are so very close,” he said.

Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, a Republican, suggested a “higher power” was opposed to the legislation.

“This is not the right thing to do,” he said. “We should protect traditional marriage and uphold all of those values and institutions that have made our society and keep our society together today.”

But Democratic Sen. Debra Bowen said a number of churches supported the bill. “I don’t think anyone should claim God as being on their side in this debate,” she said.

After the progressive side lost the vote to relax restrictions on gay clergy in the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly, I don’t have the heart to get my hopes up that this will make it through the Assembly and get signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. (Although that would be a great dilemma for the Governator — to veto or not to veto.)

In 2000, California approved Proposition 22, stating “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”, by a margin of 61% to 39%. While California is heavily Democratic these days, Latino voters are pretty cool towards gay rights. Still, the UFW and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are endorsing the bill.

Think of the ramifications if it passed! Gays would be streaming to California to get married, even though their home states probably wouldn’t recognize the marriage. All of the conservative Christian televangelist and telemarketing organizations in Orange County would have to decide whether they could stand to continue to do business in California. (I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them relocated to Colorado Springs.) Think of all the conservative anti-gay protests in Sacramento, the conservative fund-raising letters, the anti-gay venom pouring from Fox News. James Dobson would declare the end of the institution of marriage in California.

This bill should be named the Bloggers Full Employment Act.

I would be pleased and proud to live in the first state in the US to legalize gay marriage.

« Previous Page

Powered by WordPress