Monday, May 4, 2009

Nothing to See Here

Recently, Al Jazeera television ran footage of U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan huddled around a stack of Bibles that had been translated into the local languages Pashtu and Dari. The implication, of course, was that these soldiers planned to hand these Bibles out to Muslim locals. And the fact that a military chaplain was caught on tape encouraging the soldiers to “hunt people for Jesus” seemed to confirm that implication. The military is denying any of those Bibles were ever distributed, saying that they were shipped to a soldier’s home address by his church and that he was forbidden from handing them out in Afghanistan by his chaplain. The U.S. military’s General Order Number 1 (sort of like the Prime Directive, except it’s not been repeatedly violated by James T. Kirk) expressly forbids soldiers from trying to convert locals to any religion. And it’s actually illegal in Afghanistan to try and convert a Muslim. But that doesn’t explain the words of the chaplain, who was supposedly “taken out of context”. Many idiotic bloggers have taken them to mean that he was encouraging soldiers to kill in the name of Christianity, but anyone who’s suffered through all the quasi-militaristic metaphors in an average evangelical Sunday school lesson can tell you he was likely speaking symbolically about aggressive “witnessing”. Still, this begs the question of why the U.S. military even has chaplains at all when religion has absolutely nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of the armed forces. When you’re paying a religious leader, can you really be that upset when he preaches the basic tenets of his religion? Administratively, I mean. As a common taxpayer, you can obviously be upset. Very, very upset. More details here.

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