Friday, July 08, 2005

Air Force's "Religion" Issues

I decided to catch up on my newspaper reading. For those of you too young to remember, a newspaper is a hard copy of writing which is delivered on a daily basis to a box outside of your house. Yes, you have to physically get up, go outside and get it. Call it old school. But I find some things in the paper that I miss on the worldwide web. Like an opinion piece by syndicated columnist Tad Bartimus about religious bigotry in the Air Force. I can't find a copy of it online, so I'll try to provide a summary.

According to Ms. Bartimus, the Air Force is rife with religious discrimination BY "evangelical fundamentalism" which "is putting down deep roots at the highest levels." Yes, that's right. Apparently this woman is claiming that the Christians run the Air Force Academy and are discriminating against those who don't share their faith.

Now I should point out that in my search for an Internet copy of this column, I ran across several other columns by Ms. Bartimus critical of various military branches. Apparently military issues are a pet peeve for her. But in the column she seems to equate problems with sexual harassment with the existance of "Protestant service featuring stridently evangelical themes" at the academy. GASP! What a threat it must be to have someone conducting a service glorifying Jesus Christ! And that's the opinion of not only Ms. Bartimus, but also Gen. John Jumper, the top officer of the Air Force. According to the column, Gen. Jumper issued a statement:
"explaining that religion can interfere with teamwork in the military. And he acknowledged that the Air Force still needs to recognize that any faith can be a source of spirituality."
So apparently spirituality is good, but religion is bad. Interesting.

I wonder exactly how religion can mess up military teamwork. Do people still see evangelical Christians as people who say to a co-worker, "I'm not working on this project with that Jew!"? Or, "I can't be expected to share an office with a. . . homosexual!"? I realize there are a few of those Christians out there, but anyone with more than a passing interest in the teachings of Jesus Christ would realize that His followers are to love those who disagree with them. Didn't the Master Himself pray for his crucifiers while hanging on the old rugged cross? I would hope that any Christian should be willing to work with another member of his or her Air Force unit regardless of religious differences. Perhaps the religious aspect which messes up military teamwork is from the non-Christian, nervous about behavior around a Christian? Just a thought.

While I would agree that a religious service with required attendance is not a good idea for military personnel, the existance of a Protestant service with evangelical themes for those who wish to attend is hardly cause for presidential interaction Nor is it on a par with sexual harassment. In fact, Pentagon investigators looking into the charges of abuses against women found that there may have been some religious "insensitivity" but there was no overt religious discrimination.

I am constantly amazed at the way we Christians are perceived as a threat. I hold no to religious bigotry. Would I like to see everyone accept Christ? You bet. Am I going to beat people over the head to do it? No, that pretty much defeats the purpose. I can offer the Good News, but I cannot force anyone to receive it. Yet even offering the Gospel infringes upon the Freedom From Religion which is both craved and celebrated by many.

Sure the Gospel is an offense to those who do not believe. But a Christian walk or worship or even evangelism is not a threat to anyone's "spirituality." Unless, of course, it triggers a person's conscience.

"Lord, strengthen me to live a life which makes others see a lacking in their own life. And let me continue to see the lacking in my life as well."

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