Mikey Weinstein’s Battle Against Christian Supremacism In The U.S. Military

Truth Out has a long, must-read profile of Mikey Weinstein, a Jewish veteran who runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. After a disturbing account of the blatant anti-semitic harassment both he and his son experienced, the article discusses some of the details of the nature of the military’s Christian fundamentalism and how it came to prominence:

For decades, he discovered, evangelical para-church organizations had cropped up with the sole purpose of evangelizing service members. One group, Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry, described the service members that come under its sway as “government-paid missionaries for Christ.” At Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Military Ministry snapped pictures of soldiers posing with their rifles and their Bibles, an image eerily similar to jihadist propaganda videos. The same soldiers participated in Bible studies where one outline asked “Can a Christian Soldier Kill?” “NO to murder, YES to killing,” the outline declared, because the soldier was god’s “angel of wrath,” punishing evil.

Other examples MRFF uncovered were no less disturbing. Inside the Military Police building at Fort Riley, a printout slapped on an office door carried conservative columnist Ann Coulter’s sunken face and this quote: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” A more subtle evangelical hubris also appeared inside the Pentagon. In 2007, MRFF’s discovery of nine Pentagon officials appearing in a promotional video for Campus Crusade’s Christian Embassy caused the Department of Defense’s inspector general to rebuke seven military officers. For one officer, United States Air Force Maj. Gen Peter J. Sutton, that appearance proved embarrassing when he was assigned to Turkey as chief of defense cooperation. According to Sutton’s own testimony to the inspector general, his Turkish driver approached him with an article from the Turkish newspaper Sabah, which carried a picture of his appearance in the video and described him as a member of “a radical fundamentalist sect.”

But the Christian supremacist rot inside the military wasn’t confined to home or overseas posts. It had spread to the worst possible battlefields: Afghanistan and Iraq. Tipped off by service members, MRFF has discovered chaplains handing out Bibles in Arabic, Dari, and Pashtun in theatre. In another instance, a lieutenant colonel and 15 to 20 armed troops cordoned off a city block in Iraq and told a missionary he knew from home that he would protect him and his missionaries while they evangelized Iraqis. These are all serious violations of military regulations. United States Central Command’s General Order 1A, issued in December 2000, couldn’t have been clearer for service members fighting overseas: “Proseltyzing of any religion, faith or practice” was prohibited.

According to MRFF’s senior researcher, Chris Rodda, the organization has adopted a crude categorization scheme for incoming complaints such as these: “holy crap,” “holy shit,” “holy fuck,” and “holy fucking shit.” One “holy fucking shit” tip MRFF received described an incident in Samarra in 2004, when a National Guard unit painted an Arabic phrase on their armored pickup truck. It read: Jesus Killed Mohammad. Examples like these continue to accumulate with untold damage to U.S. military operations, Mikey says, despite the emphasis on winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan and Iraq, the focus of Gen. David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency manual. In these environments, fanatical Christian soldiers become self-tripped IEDs. When news broke out in May 2008 that a soldier shot up a Koran at a Baghdad shooting range, a violent riot broke out among 1,000 Afghanis in which three people died.

Mikey talks about Christian supremacists like they’re vampires, demons determined to drain secularism and pluralism out of the military. That realization turned what was once a personal fight against anti-Semitism into a more lofty principle. “Wherever I see unconstitutional religious predators in the U.S. military, of any stripe, I don’t care if I live or die. Someone’s gonna get a beating and we’re going to do it,” he says. “The two ways to administer the beating is to go into the media or into court,” he explains, a strategy distilled from his fight at the Academy. Lance Benzel, a journalist for Colorado Spring’s The Gazette, recently summarized Mikey’s civil rights agitation aptly: “Condemn in the strongest language possible. Publicly embarrass. Sue if necessary. Each new step raises the pressure on his publicity-averse targets.” What the U.S. military has realized over the years is that the mosquito they swatted at didn’t only have bite, it had malaria.

Some Christians, out of ignorance or sincere apocalyptic belief, believe Mikey is the anti-Christ. (He’s actually a reluctant agnostic.) Google “Mikey Weinstein” and you’ll see descriptions like “Jesus-basher,” “AntiChrist,” and “anti-Christian Jewish supremacist.” One “Concerned American” on the website “Powered by Christ” argued Weinstein’s “doing all he can to create an anti-Jewish backlash and help bring about the predicted endtime Holocaust of Jews that’ll be worse than Hitler’s.”

There’s one problem with this assumption. Ninety-six percent of MRFF’s 18,300 military clients are Christians – many Roman Catholics and mainline Protestant – that have been treated by their more spirit-filled comrades and commanders as not Christian enough. “This is not a Christian-Jewish issue,” Mikey argues, “it’s a constitutional right and wrong issue, and Christian fundamentalism does not recognize the supremacy of the Constitution over its sectarian theocratic dictates.”

There is much more, read the whole story.

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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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