December 12, 2006

How things have changed under Bush

And not for the better. Lincoln Chafee talked about how the President sets the agenda, and this one has been, as we all know, hyper conservative. Beyond the pale conservative. Always cracks me up. My friends in Texas tell me they are worried about radical liberals--but they don't seem to mind truly radical conservatives. Suspending habeas, torture, and wiretapping at will, are, in my mind, truly radical acts.

Anyway, thinking of the tone that Bush set in Wasthington and this story about an Evangelical group with unprecedented access to the Pentagon. Earlier this year we had Republicans trotting servicemen in uniform to political functions (clear violations of military regs) and now we have this.
"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 their efforts to spread their faith within the military.


All of that is disturbing--not because evangelicals are bad, but because we have to be careful about religion and the sanction of our government. As Melissa Rogers noted:
"If a person in a foreign country heard a member of Congress talking about his or her official duties and status and evangelizing, that would seem to suggest that our government is promoting Christianity. That's problematic for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is it could throw a bunch of gasoline of some of the global problems we currently face."


Then there are parts that are simply confusing.
Army Brig. Gen. Bob Casen refers in 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."
What the hell does that mean? "Aroma?"

Oh, and let's not forget this gem from the past.
In 2003, Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin drew criticism for appearing in uniform before church groups and saying, in remarks captured on video, that President Bush was "appointed by God," that the United States is "a Christian nation" and that Muslims worship "an idol." The inspector general's office determined that Boykin had not violated any rules, and he remained in a top intelligence post.

This year, Navy chaplain Gordon J. Klingenschmitt was court-martialed for appearing in uniform at a political protest in front of the White House, though he maintained that all he did was lead a prayer."
Why the Navy Chaplain was court-martialled while Boykin kept his job confuses me.

Anyway, I think this story reminds us that we have to be vigilant on issues of religious freedom. Again, this is not to attack evangelicals, but to remind them that religious freedom has worked well FOR them, not against them. This kind of entanglement might be helpful for certain subsets of evangelicalism right now, but the precedent could be harmful for them down the road. To say nothing of how this communicates to the Muslim world.

22 comments:

u.b.u.b. said...

There is also the situation where Wiccan soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan had their requests for Wiccan religious symbols on their headstones because their religion lacked official sanction.

volfan007 said...

boy, we've come a long way from the founders of our country quoting scripture in meetings, and basing much of what they decided on biblical principles...where they prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ for wisdom and guidance as they decided things about a new country where freedom thrived. now, we're concerned about witches getting headstones. now, we're getting onto soldiers for wearing thier uniforms in public, christian gatherings. wow!

after saying all that....i too agree that some evangelical christians have gone overboard on bush and the gop. my King is Jesus....not bush...not obama....not oprah....not any man.

volfan007

Streak said...

Volfan, that is only because you don't know anything about our founders.

Be careful before you make such statements regarding history. Oh who am I talking to? For someone who could read my comment on Eric Rudolph with accuracy, you are completely incapable of reading anything else that way.

JoeG said...

Volfan -
Since all religions are free to practice in this country, regardles of what your personal beliefs are, do you feel that the Wiccan soldiers deserve to have their symbol placed on their gravestone? Keep in mind, they died fighting for the very freedom that allows them to practice their religion here. They are already allowed to display the pentagram on their dogtags, and even atheists are allowed to place their symbol on their gravestone. I know you don't agree with the Wiccan religion, leave that out for now. Do they deserve the same equality, or is the government right to deny them this privilege?

volfan007 said...

joe,

i really dont care if they put possums or beavers on thier headstones. it doesnt matter to me. except, when we expect our govt. to endorse occult and ungodly practices. i mean, we are talking about witches here. in the ot nation of israel, witchcraft was punishable by death. now, they live openly....openly practicing thier vice. and, they...like so many others....want the govt. to endorse thier behavior as acceptable...it seems to be. am i wrong?

volfan007

Streak said...

it seems to be. am i wrong?

Yes.

JoeG said...

Ditto. There is a stark difference between recognition and endorsement. The government already recognizes Wicca as an official religion...along with a couple hundred others. The government endorses none of those...as it should be. The Dept of Veterans Affairs has taken it upon itself to be the Religious Symbol police and deny inherent privileges to soldiers killed in the line of duty based on their religion. It is illegal discrimination. It also has nothing to do with endorsement. Wiccans want to be recognized for their service, along with atheists, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Bahai, and anyone else who fights alongside them for the freedoms we enjoy...including religious freedom.
And for the record, there is a difference between the "witchcraft" punishable by death in Israel and Wicca. The "never suffer a witch to live" refers, in its original Hebrew, to those who commit murder using poison. It is an endorsement of the death penalty for murder by a particualr means. Wiccans call themselves witches from the word for "wise person". They do not believe in harming others, and casting a spell is akin to saying a prayer. Wiccans believe in a God and a Goddess, the male and female aspects of the divine. Nothing occultish about that.

volfan007 said...

wiccan is witchcraft. the ot meant witches...those who call on spirits that are not of God...who made potions for people....witches. wiccans are witches.

volfan007

ps. i believe the people who died in iraq were recognized...were they not? why the need to promote witchcraft on thier headstones?

Streak said...

Honestly, Volfan, this is where you get into trouble. You don't know anything about Wicca and just make assumptions about it.

volfan007 said...

i know a lot of wicca.

volfan007

JoeG said...

Please, do enlighten us. What do you know of Wicca?
And as for your other question, why need to promote any soldier's religion on their headstone then? Honor them with a name plaque and nothing more. If it's good enough for the 36 or so approved symbols, it should be good enough for anyone without being considered promotion. The alternative is to take away the option from everyone.

Streak said...

Joe, not sure you really want to ask volfan about wicca. :)

But I had the same thought as you. If we put religious imagery on headstones, why not wicca? And if not, then why the others?

volfan007 said...

i have talked to many people who are involved in wiccan. they think that they can manipulate nature, and call on spirits, or the forces of nature, to do thier bidding. to make things happen. thats witchcraft. in fact, most that i have talked to would say that they were witches. they would say that they were good witches, as if there were a good witch.

the witches of the old testament time would do some of the same things, and they would talk to the dead, and they would try to read the signs of nature to tell the future, give advice, etc.

all of this is witchcraft. fortune telling, talking to the dead, horoscopes, etc. are all witchcraft. in reality, its dealing with the devil. and, it's sin. in the old testament days, it was a capital offense to be involved in such. why should our country endorse such sinful behavior, and why would we want to put anything to do with witchcraft on a headstone. we honor them in other ways for fighting for our country.

volfan007

Streak said...

Joe, I warned you. Nice description there volfie, too bad it doesn't actually relate to Wicca.

But by all means, don't let facts get in your way. That is why you are a perfect fundy, right?

JoeG said...

Volfan -
OK, thread-relevant portion first. Why would we then want to put anything on a soldier's headstone, Wiccan, Christian or otherwise? We honor the Christian soldiers in other ways as well. Why do we need a cross on their memorial markers? You can't do it for one and not for others, not in this country.
Now the other stuff. Have you ever prayed to or honored a saint? "Talked" to a dead relative while visiting their grave? That's calling on spirits. Have you ever said a prayer, even for world peace? You are asking God to manipulate the forces of nature to do your bidding, to make someting happen, if it be his will. A Wiccan who "casts a spell" so to speak, is doing nothing more than that. They just aren't petitioning they Christian God, but their own deity. As far as reading the signs of nature to tell the future, what the hell do you think weather forecasting is? Or scientists noting the behavior of animals to predict a coming storm, hurricane or earthquake? Nature speaks to us in many ways. Reading the signs, seeing what nature is telling us, does not make you evil, sinful or satanic.
I'm probably wasting my time, but I figured I'd at least give another perspective.

volfan007 said...

i dont talk to dead people...saints or otherwise. God is alive, and He is Lord of nature. why wouldnt i ask Him for things?

wiccans call upon gods and goddesses that are false....they seek after spirits that are not of God. they are evil spirits. they are connecting with the devil, and they just dont realize it.

i would not be for the govt. putting wiccan symbols on a headstone no more than i would be for putting pics of children on michael jacksons headstone. its sinful. its wrong. i also would not be for putting depictions of weed and alcohol on a drinking soldiers headstone either.

now, if the family wants to put a wiccan symbol on the headstone...well, go ahead, its a free country.

volfan007

JoeG said...

Streak -
You're right, I shouldn't have bothered. I wonder if he knows Gary from Jesus Politics? However, since the can of worms is open, let me at least give one last reply.

Volfan, you missed my point by a mile. The goverment is not in the business of determining what is sinful. It is for determining what is fair and equal for all of its citizens. In this case, fair and equal is they either put the symbol on for all, or for none. The government can't make this a Christians only proposition.
You said go ahead and let the family do it. It is a government memorial, and the government is forcing them to get approval for their particular symbol first. So no, the government is restricting their freedom to put the symbol on at their request. The family wants to. The government said no, while saying yes to others of equally federally recognized religious affiliations. That is wrong. I can only surmise you would agree with that based on your last sentence.
I do completely understand you are stating your response from your own Christian perspective, believing that these other religions (why you single out Wicca over atheism, Buddhism, Islam and others I don't understand) are wrong and sinful. You, personally and spiritually, would not and could not endorse them. However, that is not the context in which I was asking the question. You are Christian, I get that. The government can't favor one religion over another. Seeing as how you continue to choose to live in America where others are free to practice their religions alongside you, don't you think the government has an obligation to treat people from all religious backgrounds equally, whether that means everyone OR noone gets their symbol shown?
And for the record, in case you haven't already guessed, I am Wiccan. I can tell you from personal experience that you are wrong about many things. I know I am a sinner according to Christian doctrine. Whatever. On other things, you are way off base. We connect with the spirits of our ancestors. Your ancestors, I would say for the most part, you believe to be in heaven. You connect with their spirit whenever you look at pictures of them, remember times you spent with them, you keep them alive in your memory. Does that make their spirit evil or connect you with this Satan that I don't believe even exists? And the witches of the old testament are something completely different. Original translations lean toward "sorcerer / sorceress", which meant something very different in those days. Do a little research. If you are so inclined.

volfan007 said...

i have done the research. are you denying that wiccans call themselves witches? are you denying that you worship different gods and goddesses? are you denying that you try to tap into the forces of nature to get done what you would like done? i see that you do agree that you are trying to communicate with the dead.


joe,

my point was that witchcraft was sin in the ot. it was not something to celebrate, or something that the govt. put its stamp of approval on. it was wrong, and it was looked upon as wrong....bad....sinful. i would not be opposed to looking upon it today in the same way. now, buddhism and athiesm and hinduism and islam are all different religions that...while i dont agree with them.....people in america ought to have the right to be wrong if they want to. there should be freedom.

let me say this, and maybe i dont understand exactly what the govt.'s part in the headstone is. is the govt. buying the headstone, or is the family?

btw, i dont hate you...even though you are a wiccan. i dont look down on you. i care about your soul.

volfan007

JoeG said...

Atheism - Are you telling me that denying the existance of God is not a biblical sin? You are equating atheism with Buddhism (another multi-deity system, by the way) and putting it above witchcraft? You also keep emphasizing that witchcraft is a sin in the OT. How about the NT? Isn't that what Christians are supposed to be more concerned with? Seems like we're going back to picking and choosing what OT items are still sinful (witchcraft, homosexuality) and which aren't anymore (multifiber clothing, shaving, associating with menstruating women).
Regarding your Wicca questions, yes many but not all of us call ourselves witches. My wife does. I do not. Some identify multiple gods and goddesses. Others like me recognize a male and female aspect of the divine, a Mother Goddess and a Father God, and nothing more. Regarding prayer, or spells, we recognize all around us as natural energy. When we pray, or cast a spell, we send our intention out as energy to the universe to bring about change. We also believe that what we put out comes back to us threefold, so no asking for death or sickness or any other bad stuff. Much like you praying to God, God can choose to answer your prayer with a yes or a no. The universe can choose to accept or reject our prayer as well. Too much other stuff to discuss here. Not time for a Wicca lesson. Just clarifying a few things as best I can.
Finally, regarding the headstones, the memorial is owned and operated by the Dept of Veterans Affairs. However, family has a say in the final design of their individual memorial. They get to choose the symbol they want to show the chosen faith of the soldier who died in their family. The DVA has taken it upon themselves to be the symbol police, saying only religions they approve of can have the symbol placed. They are overriding even the federal government's already established recognition of over 200 religions in the US, and have only approved less than 40 symbols to be used. Wiccan families have been petitioning for nine years to have the pentagram placed on the memorials of Wiccan soldiers. The DVA has stalled and never given a response, always saying the process for approving symbols is being revamped. However, in those nine years, at least 7 other symbols have been approved, including an obscure religion practiced, I believe, only in the Hawaiian Islands. The pentagram is allowed on dogtags. Wicca is discussed in the official Chaplain's Handbook of the US Military. Wiccan soldiers have won court approval to have religious ceremonies on military bases. But the DVA ignores all of this and denies families the very right their soldiers have died fighting to protect. It is wrong, not to mention illegal. Hope this clears it up for you.

volfan007 said...

witchcraft is sin in the nt as well. i would encourage you to leave the wiccan religion, and put your faith and trust in the true God of heaven and earth...the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only way to heaven. He is the only way to salvation. and, hell awaits those who refuse to repent and put thier faith in Jesus.

volfan007

JoeG said...

Thanks for answering the question. That's the difference between Christians and everyone else. I have no problem letting you practice your beliefs without forcing my religion on you. You can't do the same for me or anyone else. Or are you just limiting yourself to Wiccans? Somehow Hindus who worship Ganesh are OK, but Wiccans are not because of your skewed view of our faith?

volfan007 said...

joe,

Jesus is the only way to God the Father and to heaven. hindus need to Jesus....jews need Jesus...muslims need Jesus...buddhists need Jesus...mormons need Jesus... wiccans need Jesus...plain ole heathens need Jesus....we all need Jesus. we all must come to God thru Jesus....thru faith by grace.


volfan007

ps. btw, baptists like me have long been for religious freedom. that's one of the biggies for us...religious freedom. i believe that you ought to be free to believe whatever you want, and to live free to practice your beliefs.