How can anyone forget the Tenth Crusade? Not in your history books? Look at recent history. Sure, the (numbered) crusades officially ended at Number IX in the 13th century and the so-called “northern crusades” in the 16th, but George W. Bush and his evangelical administration resurrected the whole idea and brought Christian holy war into the 21st century when he attacked Iraq.
The secular army of the secular United States government became the instrument of this holy war, and if Christian fundamentalists are out to get the rest of us in the civilian world, the military is a bigger (and easier) target. Our government and the bureaucracy which supports it is full of dominionist Christians who would like to see nothing better than a theocracy and the destruction of the modern liberal democracy brought into existence by our Founding Fathers and sustained by the secular document known as the United States Constitution.
We’ve been told that atheists are not really citizens; that only Christians are fit to hold public office – despite the Constitution’s mandate against religious tests; and that pagans, secularists and others are to blame for 9/11. Soldiers are far from immune to these same attacks, and this expectation has been well illustrated by the Air Force Academy’s (repeated) scandals regarding proselytizing by evangelical elements in that branch of the service; the Bush-era rejection of Wiccan pentacle gravestones; by Marine mass baptisms; military-sponsored Bible distributions in Afghanistan; and by the punishment of a group of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian musical concert.
An American soldier is increasingly expected to be a Christian crusader.
Welcome to the Kingdom of God, sponsored by the U.S. Army – it’s not just a job, it’s a holy war.
When did this happen? Neither spirituality nor Christian faith is on the list of army values; loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage are. The “Warrior Ethos” asserts
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I don’t see “I will be a Christian” anywhere on that list. You won’t find it in the Soldier’s Creed either. So what’s going on?
Sgt. Justin Griffith, an American soldiers serving at Fort Bragg, NC, last week revealed a mandatory U.S. Army survey called the “Soldier Fitness Tracker” which tracks a soldier’s fitness to serve. One would expect that the army would have certain requirements. After all, not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. We’d expect physical requirements in particular and a modicum of intelligence as well as some character.
The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is supposed to “create an Army of balanced, healthy, self-confident Soldiers, Families, and Army civilians whose resilience and total fitness enables them to thrive in an era of high operational tempo and persistent conflict.”
AmericanAtheists offers a sampling of questions from the test:
Answer in terms of whether the statement describes how you actually live your life.
I am a spiritual person.
My life has a lasting meaning.
I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.
The job I am doing in the military has lasting meaning.
I believe there is a purpose for my life.
The author of that piece in AmericanAtheists got this analysis of her answers:
“Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles, and values. Nevertheless, who you are and what you do matter. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal. Change is possible, and the relevant self-development training modules will be helpful. If you need further help, please do not hesitate to seek out help from the people you care about and trust – strong people always do. Be patient in your development as it will take time to improve in this area. Still, persistence is key and you will improve here if you make this area a priority.”
It’s not just the LBGT community that has found itself unwanted by the military, but non-Christians as well.
Sane folks have taken notice of this absurd practice. One blogger who found himself in opposition to this testing, Al Stefanelli, has had his reaction go viral.
And we should take notice, all of us, to this flagrant and unconstitutional promotion of Christianity.
In the FortLeavenworthLamp of June 10, 2010, in an article titled “Spiritual fitness as important as physical fitness,” Chaplain (Maj.) Charles J. Atanasio tells us that
Physical fitness requires consistent training, a schedule, proper nutrition and rest. Spiritual fitness follows very similar principles. Spiritual fitness requires good habits. Spiritual fitness requires similar discipline and effort.
Spiritual fitness is a wonderful gift of God. For each of us to obtain spiritual fitness, we must invest in and commit to a consistent and faithful relationship with God.
Say what? First of all, what does one have to do with the other? And assuming you have spiritual fitness, there is no requirement that it have to do with Chaplain Atanasio’s god. There are other forms and sources of spiritual fitness, as your trusty Heathen author here asserts. Carl Sagan found spiritual sustenance in science, as he writes in his 1996 magnum opus, The Demon-Haunted World.
The oft-cited claim that there are no atheists in foxholes is false; there is no more need that soldiers be Christians than politicians be Christians. There is no demand that Americans trust in a god at all, Christian or otherwise. Religion does not make a soldier, as I earlier pointed out it neither causes nor cures societal ills, it does not cure criminal behavior, and it does not make an American.