August 12, 2007

Religion in America

And it is contested, isn't it? As it always has been, but today's world seems particularly contentious and ambitious and something other than church (at least for me). Marty pointed to this story that breaks your heart:
"ARLINGTON, Texas - A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face. It’s like, ’Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”’ she said Friday."
And to a certain extent, I understand the dilemma the church faced. They have bought into a world view where homosexuality is the new evil--up with terrorism. After all, we would rather be attacked by terrorists than use gay translators in the military. Given how that has been framed, it is almost expected that a church would refuse to even hold a memorial service for a gay person. But it makes me sad.

But maybe not as sad as this story (H/t Mary) about a group within the Defense department, or at least endorsed by the Pentagon, that advances an apocalyptical view of the world and pushes that view on our soldiers. And those we are trying to democratize.
Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."
Good grief. Even George Bush learned that using the word "crusade" in this context was stupid. But I fear that these people use it knowing its meaning and intending to bring that message to an already turbulent and chaotic region. And sending copies of the Left Behind video game is just stupid. Yeah, let's just amp up the us v. them.

I recently had a conversation with a young person struggling with their faith. This person had been taught that either they believed in the literal and absolute innerant Bible or they were going to hell. Even now, this person felt forced to choose between Christianity (meaning fundamentalism) and being a non-Christian. I suggested there were alternatives, and that the bulk of Christians over time have not held such a fundamentalist line. But it is that tradition that gave us the Idaho representative misquoting the Bible to suggest that God was going to smite us for, well, religious freedom. And in the comments on that story, the faithful chimed in thanking their God for a Congressman who stood up for God.

But I don't think that is what he did. I don't think he made one thing better, just as I don't think sending Left Behind video games to anyone will make imrpove their lives, and I certainly don't think declaring a Christian Crusade in the Middle East will accomplish anything except get people killed.

Religion can do better. It has to.


Tony said...


We disagree on the homosexuality issue; however, I am with you on this one.

I was going to blog on this but my friend Geoff Baggett beat me to it. I disagreed with him in the thread because he felt the church did the right thing. I see it as an opportunity to show the love of Christ. I have NEVER turned down preaching a funeral and I would not in this instant either. The duplicity of this church staff really concerns me.

If you get a chance, take a look at Geoff's thread.

steve s said...

In the past, I would occasionally quote an article from World Net Daily. I stopped doing it because I was constantly attacked for providing a "biased and unreliable source" (World Nut Daily). I hate to do the same, but that had to be one of the more poorly written articles I have read in recent times. I play a ton of video games, read articles on games, and watch an occasional TV show on games. Among the video game community, the Left Behind games was a total bomb and most of the controversy seemed to be among people that had never played it. I remember several articles that contained aspects of the game that were false. According to (a reliable reviewer of video and computer games) "your goal is not to wipe out the enemy as in a typical RTS game but to convert as many neutrals and baddies as possible by raising their spirit level. You seek out these people and directly target the ones you want to save with the recruit ability. If all goes well, he or she will soon be turned into a friend in either a Ned Flanders-like sweater ensemble or a sensible skirt and pumps. These drones can then be sent to training centers for instruction in their new Christ-inspired careers. Soon you've got builders turning abandoned buildings into resource-producing venues, such as food-making cafés and money-making banks, as well as soldiers patrolling the streets. You also have special forces, such as recruiters, influencers, and healers, doing their bit for the cause." This game sounds really lousy, but if you are going to blast it you should have your facts straight.

The article also contained a pointless ad hominem attack on North's suggesting that OSU include baby wipes, which are often requested by soldiers serving in the desert to help keep clean. The article also failed to mention that OSU, besides sending socks, also sends snacks and phone cards and is planning on providing airline tickets to the family members of soldiers that are wounded.

Don't get me wrong, there are aspects of what OSU is doing that are unsavory and bear closer scrutiny, but I just think the article represented the a brad of lazy journalism that seems to be more popular these days.

Streak said...

Tony, we agree again. I wonder if the church would have made the same choice had they found out the deceased was an adulterer. I doubt it.

Steve, take away the Left Behind game. Tell me that a right wing religious group has any role to play representing our Defense department. Tell me that invoking the word "crusade" after the history of such is not a problem.

steve s said...

I agree that the use of the word crusade was ill advised. As for the group being allowed to participate in that kind of program, I don't know what a group has to do. Are they given some kind of preference over other groups? Are other religious groups and non-religious groups allowed to do similar things?

I really don't know a whole lot about these kinds of programs. I hear about the USO and other celebs going over to entertain the troops, but I don't know what kinds of guidelines they have.