Why Forbidding Evangelical Soldiers To Proselytize Makes Me Proud To Be American

Below is a report aired last night on Al Jazeera about how evangelical Christian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan are allegedly proselytizing to the local population. (I found the clip on The Huffington Post.)

The Highly Ominous voice-over guy makes it sound like our soldiers are diabolically handing out poison apples to Afghan children.

This report (as poorly done as it is: you can’t even tell if the soldiers are proselytizing or not) in two ways reminded me of why I’m proud to be American. First, it talks a lot about how American soldiers proselytizing breaks all kinds of American military rules of engagement. American soldiers aren‘t allowed to proselytize—and that’s a beautiful thing, since it means that no one facing an occupying American force ever has to think we’re there for any other reason but to help them live the life they want to lead (as opposed to the one we want them to lead). That way we’re always friends, and never bullies. (I mean, you know: ideally, of course.)

The other reason this story triggered my American pride is that if the situation were reversed—if there were Afghan troops stationed in America—and those Afghan soldiers started handing out to Americans copies of an English translation of the Koran, we’d totally let them. It might drive a lot of us nuts—but the American constitution would guarantee those Afghans the right to try to convert as many Americans to Islam as they possibly can.

We’re not afraid to let people choose for themselves which religious system is best for them. We encourage comparison.

We rock.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • JR

    Oh al-Jazeera…and people say Fox News has a definite bias, and is therefore the fountain of all lies! Yet the very same people will trust what comes out of foreign media without critical thought. According to the US Army, quoted by Reuters…the Bibles were never distributed, because a chaplain actually confiscated them and warned the soldier responsible that handing them out would be in violation of orders forbidding it.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSISL

    But that is conveniently omitted to give the impression that crazy evangelicals have infiltrated the US military and are proselytizing at gunpoint.

    Even though it is blatant propaganda…it does raise an actual valid issue. How much subterfuge is allowable in proclaiming the gospel? Especially in countries where it is completely illegal to do so?

  • CB

    And how do you think it makes fellow non-Christian Soldiers feel? When we are wearing that uniform we are at work (there is time provided specifically to worship, not proselytize). Not all of the people, risking their lives, to defend this great country are Christian, we do have Muslim and Jewish chaplains in our military. This is totally inappropriate and unacceptable for two reasons: 1) This does not qualify as a good reason to break regulation. The rules and regulations, however strict they may seem to civilian personnel, have been implemented to ensure an effective war fighting machine. Wanton breaking of the rules would lead to a total breakdown of military order. It starts out small and turns into a huge snowball. If one person sees someone getting away with something, they have to try to get away with something else. What will be the litmus test for who to punish? 2) The establishment clause of the US Constitution. Remember, these are tax dollars being spent to pay the salaries of our military and tax dollars may not be used to promote any religion over any other.

    Having said all of that, I am inclined to believe that this is simply anti-US propaganda, no reason to buy into it.

  • http://www.myspace.com/whitenoisemetalpodcast Brian Shields

    I believe you John but the headline does seem to say the opposite.

  • francis

    I took your "and that's a beautiful thing" to mean "and spreading Christianity is worth breaking rules for". I guess it's another instance of Poe's Law being proven true.

    [For those not familiar with Poe's Law, it states

    "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing" ]

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    But … I couldn't have BEEN more clear about LIKING the fact that soldiers are prohibited from proselytizing. There was nothing jokey about it. I just … couldn't have been more clear. How is, "since [rules prohibiting American soldiers proselytizing] means that no one facing an occupying American force ever has to think we’re there for any other reason but to help them live the life they want to lead (as opposed to the one we want them to lead)" NOT clear? You just didn't read the post.

    Sigh. This happens all the time. People are forever commenting upon what they THINK I said, rather than what I actually did say. But, whaddaya gonna do …

  • http://www.myspace.com/whitenoisemetalpodcast Brian Shields

    I hear you John but again if your headline had read "Why forbidding Evangelical soldiers proselytizing in Afghanistan makes me proud to be an American" I think the whole thing would have been clearer. I, like many here, read the headline and that oriented us to think you were pro-proselytizing instead of what you said deeper in the post.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    OK, I'll change the title. Hmmm. Okay.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    No, wait! I'll just use your title!

  • mm

    Actions like these Sure helps to dispel the Taliban/Radical Islamic point of view that we are a christian occupying force huh? Morons. This should be stopped immediately. Then again, the guy who got us into this mess admitted on national television that God told him invading the middle east was the right thing to do so….

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Ah. Lovely. BORING, but lovely. Like … a Thomas Kinkade painting.

  • http://www.1truebeliever.wordpress.com wickle

    John, I'm sad to say that this is one of the problems of trying to use satire online. We've discussed irony deficiency before, and I'm afraid that it's still rampant.

    I think that your original title was better. Would it help if I threatened to boycott your blog until you changed it back?

    Ha, ha …

    For those who do suffer from such deficiency: I'm joking. I don't think that I could ever boycott John's blog. It makes my life worthwhile.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Wickle: Too funny. And sweet. Thank you. And I know there's no way you meant that final sentence with anything even vaguely like sarcasm.

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    John, I got you. With respect to those who didn't, your point, even in the title, is pretty darn obvious. I was actually expecting to come over here and see you being hammered by conservative evangelicals, because your title has all the earmarks of fundie bait.. Go figure.

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    BTW – my son is in the Corps right now. He is not exactly a "Christian" (but then neither are most Christians) but from what he tells me (and from what I've read) I don't think many Marines would look too favorably on proselytizing – of any kind. I would imagine it's not much different in the Army. I can't see it happening, at least not with the enlisted men.

  • francis

    Not having been here before, it seems that Mr. Shore is a humorist. I am hoping that this is satire. Few things would be a frightening as evangelicals with guns. Even if done in the best of spirits, is there any way that the Muslim world could NOT see this as proof that this IS religious war?

    CB,

    I have heard some very disturbing stories about the persecution of non-Christian soldiers. Very disturbing indeed.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    A satire? Um….but I said I DON’T think it’s a good idea for soldiers to proselytize. I AGREE with you.

  • francis

    But even the mere ACT of delivering bibles, via the military occupying force, in a Muslim country can do nothing but damage. Even if you were delivering bibles so they could line their bird cage with its pages, bibles should not be distributed by an occupying military force.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Again, I completely agree with you (and wrote nothing indicating I didn’t–but … whatever). But yes. Exactly. Right. I agree. Me. Agree. You.

  • francis

    Sorry. It sounded like you liked military chaplains delivering bibles…made you proud, even.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    How does, “… American soldiers proselytizing breaks all kinds of American military rules of engagement —and that’s a beautiful thing” sound like I’m PROUD of American soldiers delivering Bibles?

    aaarrrrrrggghhhhhhh.

  • Erp

    I suspect people in the US would be less happy if Afghan soldiers were occupying and not just visiting the US and handing out Muslim tracts.

    BTW Al Jazeera has apparently put up the raw tape without commentary at

    youtube

  • http://www.ipandora.net matthew

    We hunt people! OH NOES!!!!

    That’s awesome John, thanks for letting us know more people to pray for and about.

  • Hjordes

    Good points, John.

    Slightly off-topic of the your blog, but in the same vein, your article reminded me of a point made by Dinesh D'Souza in his book, "What's so Great about America." One of the things he wrote that really caught me was when he contrasted Sharia with the freedom of the U.S. He said that the amazing thing about America is that we're bombarded with everything from the mildly disturbing to downright evil, we are given the freedom of choice to participate in those things, and yet most Americans CHOOSE not to. For as frustrated as I get with my government, this really is an amazing place.

  • Hjordes

    I went back and read some of the comments above, and re-read the critical ones. First I blinked. Then I giggled. Then I felt a little sorry for you.

    I know you for a straight-shooter. You say what you mean directly and you don’t have hidden agendas.

    It’s honest humor.

    But look at the media that we are used to. First, we live in a sound-byte world, so our minds get used to the rush of garbage in-garbage out, and I think we forget to take the time to read (think?!) slowly and with consideration. Even when we do we have to be oh-so-careful because writing is awash with fallacies. Newspapers are not truthful or reliable. Editorials are selected with bias. Everyone is trying to sell us something – a product or idea – so we almost need to be defensive before we even begin to listen. It’s sad.

    I think there is a place for satire. A very small place. I’m disgusted with the derision and scorn I hear and read these days. I find your writing refreshing because I don’t have to wonder about what you’re saying. You just say it.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hjordes! You’re back! Thanks for the love. And you raise a great point about the way we consume media anymore. True, true, true. And I’m just a lowly blogger; I’m surprised anyone reads me at all, really. Talk about being on the bottom of the media food=chain. Anyway, thanks for your comments here, and for over on the piece about the homeless blues player I met. My blog always gets a lot better when you chime in with your rational, good-natured self.

  • PurplePeople

    FYI: I just read a very pertinent article in Harper’s magazine about pervasive evangelizing in the military. Pickup (or go to the library for) the current issue of Harper’s (Not Harper’s Bazaar) and read the cover article titled “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military”. Scary stuff that gave me the chilling phrase ‘weaponized Christianity’

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Purple: that is one scary phrase….

  • PurplePeople

    Here is an article I ran across that shows top-secret intelligence briefings steeped in Christianity:
    http://men.style.com/gq/features/topsecret

  • PurplePeople

    Oh! And I just saw that the story is being covered by foreign Islamic sites. Now isn't THAT helpful!!

  • PurplePeople

    A recent article on Newsweek.com and MSNBC

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/202734

    We need the wall

  • http://jesus+hitler+obama mark deuteronomovic

    Under Rumsfeld, Pentagon published Bible verses on top-secret intel reports.

    In a lengthy article on Donald Rumsfeld’s rocky tenure as Defense Secretary, GQ published never-before-seen cover sheets from top-secret intelligence briefings produced by Rumsfeld’s Pentagon. Starting in the days surrounding the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the cover sheets featured inspirational Bible verses printed over military images, [...]

    The translated Bibles appear to be the New Testament. According to Al Jazeera, US soldiers "had them specially printed and shipped to Afghanistan." On the tape, one soldier describes how his church in the US helped raise money for the bibles. Al Jazeera reports that "What these soldiers have been doing may well be in direct violation of the US Constitution, their professional codes and the regulations in place for all forces in Afghanistan." The US military officially forbids "proselytising of any religion, faith or practice." But, as Al Jazeera reports:


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