Christian Warriors in the U.S. Military?
--Reza Aslan, CNN Contributor
The e-mail left me speechless. It was a posting from military.com forwarded to me by the good folks at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (militaryreligiousfreedom.org). There were two photos side by side. On the left: a photo of a Hamas suicide bomber in the familiar pose of a rifle in one hand and a Quran in the other. On the right: a photo from Fort Jackson, showing basic trainees at Campus Crusade for Christ's "God's Basic Training" Bible studies. The soldiers wielded rifles in one hand and Bibles in the other.
The caption reads, "Notice any similarities?" LINK TO SEE PHOTOS
The photo of the Fort Jackson Army trainees originally appeared on a Campus Crusade website, along with photos of basic training battalion commander, Lt. Col. David Snodgrass, battalion chaplain, Maj. Scott Bullock-both posing in uniform-and Campus Crusade's military director, Frank Bussey.
When I asked Mikey Weinstein, the head of the MRFF, about the photos he told me that religious endorsements by military personnel in uniform violate military regulations. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
He showed me two Campus Crusade for Christ promotional videos -- one filmed at the U.S. Air Force Academy and another at Texas A&M. In the first one Scott Blom, the Academy's Campus Crusade director at the time, openly states, "Our purpose for Campus Crusade for Christ at the Air Force Academy is to make Jesus Christ the issue at the Air Force Academy and around the world... [the cadets] are government paid missionaries when they leave here."
The second video, "God and the Military," filmed in 1997, has been re-released for distribution by Campus Crusade. In it, Pastor Tommy Nelson, speaking before an audience of Texas A&M cadets and military officers, opens his presentation with this anecdote:
"I, a number of years ago, was speaking at the University of North Texas - it happens to be my alma mater, up in Denton, Texas - and I was speaking to an ROTC group up there, and when I stepped in I said, 'It's good to be speaking to all you men and women who are in the ministry,' and they all kind of looked at me, and I think they wondered if maybe I had found the wrong room, or if they were in the wrong room, and I assured them that I was speaking to men and women in the ministry, these that were going to be future officers."
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been uncovering these kinds of blatant constitutional violations in the military for years. Weinstein told me that senior Bush administration intelligence officials who track Islamic websites and message boards told him that the fundamentalist Christian agenda surfacing in the U.S. military could lead to greater attacks against our soldiers. (Weinstein would not identify the intelligence officials he spoke with because they contacted him with the understanding they would not be named).
According to Weinstein, "The bottom line here is that the constitutionally mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal organization ever created by humankind, our U.S. Armed forces, is nothing but smoke and debris. This represents nothing short of a monumental internal national security threat to our country."
We should all be asking ourselves whether we want to send soldiers or "government paid missionaries" to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once you know the answer to that question, I suggest you e-mail it to your Senator.