Ray Garton, acclaimed Horror writer and Atheist blogger / activist, has just written an epic article, titled Marching As To War: The Attempted Christian Takeover of the U.S. Military. It deals with Rock the Fort and Rock Beyond Belief, along with some related evangelical offenses. It’s quite lengthy, more than a few pages. Don’t be intimidated, the thorough writing is compelling, and touches on many things that the average civilian is most likely unaware of.
Here are some of my favorite pieces of the Atheist Oasis blog article:
On the Separation of Church and State:
No one can be made to practice a religion to which they do not subscribe or forced to worship — or not worship — in any particular way. That was the vision of the founders of this nation, some of whom were religious and some of whom were not — that every American have the freedom to believe in and practice the religion of their choice, or to decline to believe in or practice any religion. Any enforcement of religion would be un-American.
Rock the Fort and the BGEA:
On September 25, 2010, a large Christian rally was held at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Fort Bragg is a major U.S. Army installation — your tax dollars at work — and the Christian rally was … well, a Christian rally — and it was also your tax dollars at work.
The rally was organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). You probably remember Billy Graham — America’s favorite Jew-hating pastor to the presidents? Graham is the messenger of Christ’s love who said to Richard Nixon that the Jewish “stranglehold” on the American media “has got to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.” When Nixon agreed but said he was unable to say it out loud in his position as president, Graham said, “If you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something.” Later, Graham added, “A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth, but they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.” That Billy Graham.
These days, BGEA is run by his son Franklin Graham. You might be familiar with him. He’s the messenger of Christ’s love who recently said that Islam is “a very evil and wicked religion,” and who took a nasty little stab at the Hindu faith– as well as every other faith that isn’t his own particular brand of Christianity — when he told USA Today, “No elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can have some big kumbaya service and all hold hands and it’s all going to get better in this world. It’s not going to get better.” That Franklin Graham. I share these quotes only to give you some idea of the spirit of the organization behind this rally.
The rest of our response is below the fold:
Ray predicts the hypothetical evangelical’s argument supporting Rock the Fort.
But Ray, you might say, shouldn’t there be religious services and programs available for religious people in the military? What’s the harm in putting on a Christian program for Christian troops at Fort Bragg?
And then blows it out of the water
There would be nothing wrong with that — if that was what this program was designed to be. But it wasn’t.
The rally was held on the military base but was open to the public. Fort Bragg Chaplain Antonio McElroy said of the event, “I think we are trailblazing here in many ways. I don’t think there has been an outside concert of this magnitude with an organization like BGEA and our chaplains partnering with local churches to come together for one purpose — and that is to glorify god and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The purpose of the event was “to glorify god and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That’s Christian code for converting sinners, winning souls — proselytizing. Churches, of course, have the right to proselytize anytime they like, and they do not hesitate to do so. Whether they’re approaching you on the street or coming to your front door, the thing they want to get into the most is your face so they can tell you why you need what they have, no matter how rude or obnoxious this behavior might be. The government, however, does not have the right to aid them in proselytizing. It is not the job of the United States government to win souls for Jesus Christ and the Constitution makes this abundantly clear. When it becomes the job of the American government to do that, this is no longer America.
Fort Bragg partnered with local churches in a big way. Their chaplains — in other words, representatives of the United States Army – reached out to 20 area churches for help in organizing and putting on the event. In a message to the local participating churches, the BGEA website claimed:
The Rock the Fort outreach is designed to channel new believers into your church, so you can encourage them to further spiritual growth. The future of the church lies in reaching and disciplining the next generation.
Another way of looking at the above message is this: Get your forks and knives ready, ‘cause Uncle Sam’s about to send you a load of fresh sinnermeat!
Then his post goes on a disturbing journey across the evangelical compromise of the separation of Church and State. He discusses the baptism of US Marines days before they deployed to Afghanistan, which was picked up in the press in that region. Also mentioned was the very recent Christian concert that several soldiers were forced to attend against their will, or else be punished. And the 2008 incident involving Marines giving out coins encouraging Muslims to convert to Christianity. The list goes on and on, and Ray covered a lot of ground. Unfortunately, the list was not all-inclusive, though I’m sure that would take several book-length posts.
Garton’s article came full circle after summarizing the many other news worthy instances of the evangelical proselytizism that occur in the U.S. Military. He brought it back to Rock Beyond Belief, and his words are encouraging. There is a saying in the Military, “don’t talk to me about a problem unless you have a solution.”
These Christian nationalists have gained so much ground over the decades that it’s easy to become frustrated, to feel helpless. But now and then, opportunities arise to push back at these theocratic efforts. Thanks to SPC Justin Griffith, there’s something we can do.
Griffith is heading up the organization of a program called Rock Beyond Belief.
This is just the beginning. The list of guests is growing rapidly, and when it’s done, it will include some very big names. Justin is currently working to create a lineup of celebrities and newsmakers, but they can’t be announced just yet because scheduling isn’t firm. Rock Beyond Belief will be held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and it will be admission free. The only catch — there’s no date set yet. But that’s coming.
This is an effective, visible, and very productive way to respond to and raise awareness of the military’s quiet tolerance of the religious proselytizing it so dishonestly claims to prohibit and the unfair treatment of troops that has been its result. And you can help.
Rock Beyond Belief is still in the planning stages, but it’s growing fast. To keep up with the rapidly developing details, GO TO THE WEBSITE. If you can make donations of any kind or are interested in finding out how you can help, email Rock Beyond Belief at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Americans tend to be a patriotic people. However we may feel about our political administrations and the decisions they make, we are supportive of the men and women who step up to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country. We are in awe of their bravery and dedication, and we tend to defend them passionately in gratitude for the way they defend us. But right now, they are being increasingly abused by the very military that is responsible for them and that abuse is largely unknown among the American people. This is not a theist/atheist issue, nor is it a Christian/non-Christian issue. This is a problem that is upsetting people of all religions and no religion because it involves the mistreatment of our troops and the routine violation of military regulations and the United States Constitution. To a greater extent, it is a threat to our national security, both because those committing these violations have intentions that are not in America’s best interests and because this abuse of our military and troops is fueling the fires of our enemies abroad.
Rock Beyond Belief is an event that will raise awareness of this problem while it provides a day-long festival of fun and music for a large audience of our troops and the public. While it is still being organized, you can help simply by getting the word out. If you have a website, post a link to this blog and to the Rock Beyond Belief website. Send them in emails to friends, your local newspaper, radio talk show hosts — to anyone who might be able to spread the word.
Ray Garton closes out his post with something we at Rock Beyond Belief can really get behind:
Get involved. Say something. Do something. Rock Beyond Belief is a wonderful opportunity. Take advantage of it.