Saturday, December 22, 2007

Onward Christian Soldiers?

By Libby

It's no secret that since Bush took over the White House, our military academies have been engaging in outright evangelistic Christian recruitment. The stories about the favortism shown to fundamentalist Christian ministries and the discrimination against Jews and other religions at West Point are well known, but this Campus Crusade for Christ at the Air Force Academy is a new wrinkle in the ongoing drive to convert our future military leaders to evangelism.

A video made by a Christian ministry group shows Air Force Academy cadets being pressured to become "government paid missionaries when they leave" the academy, according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which released the video this week.

I think pressured might be too strong a word. If you watch the video, the featured cadets seem more gratefully indoctrinated than unwillingly compelled. As one young woman put it, if she hadn't had the comfort of community offered by the Crusade, she may not have made it through the program. However, the end goals of the CCC are far from comforting to those of us who believe in the separation of church and state.

The video features former Academy Campus Crusade for Christ director Scot Blum saying, "They're government paid missionaries when they leave here," referring to graduates of the academy.

"Our purpose for Campus Crusade for Christ at the Air Force Academy is to make Jesus Christ the issue at the Air Force Academy and around the world," said Blum on the video.

One can't help but draw parallels to Jim Jones in Guyana, or any other cult. You have thousands of young people, at an age where it's customary to dwell on one's purpose in life and who are virtually cut off from their friends and families. It's a grueling and competitive environment, in which the cadets themselves say it's difficult to make friends. What a friend we have in Jesus is no doubt a compelling call and joining the "brotherhood of Christ" makes an attractive substitute for the familial bonds they lost when they entered into this strict regime. Too attractive really.

It's human nature to want to belong to something, to find a greater purpose outside one's own small existence and I don't have a problem with those who find comfort in the church and want to spread the "good word,' but when the missionaries operate in an environment where they can so directly prey on the vulnerabilites of young people, one has to ask where evangelizing ends and brainwashing begins.

While I don't think the cadets should be denied an opportunity to join fundie Christian groups if they really want to, it strikes me as wholly unconstitutional for the group to be operating on campus at the taxpayer's expense, especially when the CCC director so boldly asserts that its goal is to send forth paid government missionaries. We're talking about our military here. Fighting for their God, should certainly not be taking precedence over their mission to fight for our country, which appears to be the end game of the CCC. [via BuzzFlash]

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