Monday, April 28, 2008

Onward Christian soldiers?

There’s the old saying that “there are no atheists in foxholes”. It’s meant to suggest that even the most ardent atheist will become religious when surrounded by the dangers of war. Like so many truisms based on religion (and American Christianity in particular), it’s nonsense, of course.

But America’s fundamentalist Christians ardently believe it. Their belief is largely based on the notion, it seems to me, that everyone is a Christian—or would be if only they were preached to and/or stopped being stubborn. That may not be even close to what they’re thinking, but it probably is. Listen to ordinary American fundamentalist Christians talk and you'll see the attitude that their Christianity is superior, all other religions are inferior, lack of religion even more so, and that the US government should be in the business of promoting their version of Christianity.

So it should come as no surprise that America’s CBS News has reported on the growing emphasis on conservative Christianity in the US military. Increasingly, the report suggests, it’s not just atheists you won’t find in foxholes, but anyone except fundamentalist Christians.

As evidence of right wing Christian evangelising with the full support of military brass, CBS reported that a group shot a religious recruitment video inside the pentagon featuring several generals. Deputy Defense Under-secretary Bill Carr, who deals with personnel issues, was reported as claiming that the generals were told they were out of line. CBS also mentions a website that lists as a goal, "a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform.”

However, it’s important to remember that many of the recruits in the current US military come from lower socio-economic (often rural) backgrounds, and often from fundamentalist homes. That means they may not need much proselytising to become “soldiers for Christ”. For them, the military is being transformed into a right wing christianist organisation from the inside.

All of which is a concern for so many reasons, none the least of which is the fact that islamist extremists are already portraying the US military as mounting a christianist crusade. Even worse, if the military becomes an armed—and official—Christian army promoting a fundamentalist theocracy, it could pose a threat to American democracy, particularly if the Bush-Cheney regime’s anti-democratic policies aren’t overturned by the next president.

There have been so many warning signals sounded during the Bush-Cheney regime, and this is just one more. Whether anyone is listening, and whether there’s still time to rescue American democracy, are still open questions. I suppose we’ll know the answer in November.


d said...

yeeesssshh!! Crusades, anyone? :-/

Roger Owen Green said...

"whether there’s still time to rescue American democracy, are still open questions."

nope, that ship has sailed under the banner of "national security".

Arthur Schenck said...

I think the thing that worries me the most is that Bush-Cheney have violated the Constitution whenever it got in their way, and have given themselves dictatorial powers. If the rule of law isn't restored, a future Bush-like president could order the "Christian" army to overthrow the government of a state because they dared to oppose him. So much is riding on the November elections, but I still hold out hope.