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.