How do you feel about U.S. government material listing Christian Evangelicals, Catholics and other main line religions as "religious extremists" alongside the Klu Klux Klan, Hamas, and al Qaida? Early this month the Chaplain Alliance for Liberty uncovered Army training material of this nature. The Army stated the material was not condoned by the U.S. Army and represented an "isolated incident."
Not so isolated, in fact. Researching gross misrepresentations of Christian groups by the federal government shows the attacks began four years ago and continue currently. On April 18, Defense Sec Chuck Hagel was grilled by Rep. R. Forbes regarding a Pentagon email warning Army officers to "Watch out for soldiers who do not support gay marriage or who disfavor Muslims," equating them with the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi's.
How helpful is this orientation, and to whom is it helpful?
Imagine you are working at a local business, and management repeatedly attaches the terrorist label to your faith community. How safe would you feel to identify yourself as a member of one of these so called "terrorist" groups? How safe would you feel to publically defend a hallowed precept of your religious group, say abortion? How would this attitude impact promotions and the values of those advancing in power positions in your work site? Very stressful.
Think how much worse it would be if you were a young adult far from home and in a community of other young adults that don't know each other well. Make that a community involved in war time activities, where fear and survival threats are a daily part of the regimen. If a costly mistake is made by the corps, would you be at risk of suspicion without justification?
It is our kids and grandkids who are deployed in foreign lands while being subjected to violations of their free exercise of spirituality in a dangerous and hostile place! Unacceptable.
So, what can we do in the face of these attacks? Jesus shows the way: After whole-hearted prayer, engage others by asking how they feel about this situation. Don't accept that "Turn the other cheek," means a passive response. Check out John 18: 23 where Jesus is slapped across the face. He immediately demands clarification of his error and holds the other accountable for his action. We are responsible to hold offenders accountable also. And don't lose heart. God promised to heal our land if we do our part: see 2 Chron 7: 14 )
If this seems scary, think how much worse it will be if we neglect speaking out today. Remember, silence in the face of abuse, gives the impression of agreement with the abuser. Silence tends to empower abusers and dissempower the vulnerable.
Dear Christian family, I pray that researching this issue may bring a call and will to act in support of the truth.
Lynn P. Hansen