Disturbing First Hand Account Of Our Christianist Military

Via Unreasonable Faith, comes this piece written by an Army Officer and West Point graduate.   Reading this has boiled my blood like nothing in a long time:

During my second year at the West Point, my Squad Leader for summer training expressed disapproval on numerous occasions with my being Jewish, and, during one mission, he grabbed my MRE (a military meal) as we sat down for lunch and handed me another. He ordered me to eat the pork chop and I reminded him that I refrain from pork for religious reasons. He told me that I could eat the pork or eat nothing. One of his peers, a female Jewish cadet, urged me to obey him and not to make him angry; I declined. The next day, my cadet Platoon Leader presented me with a written counseling statement detailing my signs of “anorexia” and a “troubling” refusal to eat which was detrimental to my health and indicative of “incapacity for leadership.” I was filled with righteous indignation. I went through the Cadet and Commissioned Chain of Command and my rebuttal culminated with a conversation with the Active Duty Major in command of the summer training. When I explained the events in detail, he told me that my Cadet Chain of Command was right to be concerned, and spoke words I will never forget: “the Army is not in the business of catering to people like you.” Those words have haunted me throughout my career as an Officer. They were the turning point for me–when I finally understood the message several of my leaders had been expressing to me all along: the Army has no place for people like me: dissidents who stray from the unofficially mandated military religion; conservative fundamentalist Christianity.

On what he was told once after refusing to bow his head in participation with involuntary group prayer:

My Commander explained that, by not bowing my head in blatantly Christian prayer with the others, I was sending a message that I “want my Soldiers to die.” These words penetrated my core. What leader can imagine a worse accusation? Who wouldn’t doubt herself or himself when confronted with this message? The threat of being relieved was completely overshadowed and, again, I was an outsider, incapable of leadership because I refused this unconstitutional perversion of Christianity synonymous with the Command.Could I not, would I not be an effective combat ready officer/leader/warrior without first very publicly and repeatedly demonstrating my singular loyalty to Jesus Christ? Could I not lead brave military women and men into combat for my country without being an avowed fundamentalist Christian? I stopped practicing my own religion; I disassociated myself from Soldiers who were similarly persecuted; I lost hope.

I later contacted the Equal Opportunity Office to make an official anonymous report about the noxious, compulsive Christian, command climate. Shockingly, the NCO I filed the report with wasted no time in contacting my Battalion Commander directly, in complete violation of the privacy regulations and guarantees of protective anonymity attendant to such hyper-sensitive filings. I later became a member of an Installation Inspector General Team and observed firsthand the impotent, incapacity of the IG to affect any meaningful change. The difference between lower enlisted Soldiers and myself is this: they suspect that they have nowhere to turn in order to escape this unbearable religious persecution–in contrast, as an officer, I do not suspect. I know.

Read the whole thing here.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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