Thursday, June 23, 2005

Onward Christian Soldiers, Airmen, Politicians, etc.

The "Christianizing", specifically the right wing flavor of "Christianizing", of life in these United States has been getting a lot of attention lately. Yesterday Stygius and Murky Thoughts, who basically defers the writing on this subject to Arthur Schlesinger at The Huffington Post, touched on this subject, which was has also gotten attention at the Times with a few articles about what's been going on at the Air Force Academy, and then this editorial, Zealots at the Air Force Academy.

Stygius brings up an interesting tidbit in his post regarding how the issue of what's going on at the Air Force Academy seems to be playing out in Congress. Congressman David Obey (D-Wisconsin) recently introduced an amendment to the war appropriations bill that said the following:

The amendment makes clear that coercive and abusive religious proselytizing at the Air Force Academy is inconsistent with the professionalism and standards required by those who serve at the Academy.

Now the fact is that this was a bit overboard. There'd been no investigative results to show that anyone at the Air Force Academy has been coerced or abused with regard to their religious beliefs. In fact, if you happen to view the video another congressman says essentially the following: Let's see what the military investigation and the DoD inspector general have to say before we admonish the Academy. Good point. In fact yesterday's Times ran a story on the military investigation, Panel Finds No Overt Religious Intolerance at Air Force [Academy] which tells us that yes, there's been problems but it seems to be more with understanding boundaries than overt coercion or proselytizing; what the DoD inspector general has to say remains to be seen but my guess is that that report will say something very similar to this one. Keep in mind, though, that this is all coming up in the midst of deliberations regarding war appropriations, not a discussion of religious tolerance at the service academies or anywhere else for that matter. It bears mentioning that a third congressman gets up and says, "Hey, we're here to talk about the war and appropriations for THAT. This debate is a good one, but shouldn't we be talking about the business at hand and address this other issue some other time?" God, how logical --- he must have been deranged at the time.

So while Obey is very likely making more out of this than the evidence at the time warrants, and in that way is guilty of taking advantage of the issue for his own reasons, some (not I, I'm from the "Let's see what the investigators tell us before we jump to conclusions" school of doing business) would argue that his was a reasonable response to what the perceived problem is at the Air Force Academy. Ok, but really, he doesn't know the full problem yet so wag a finger or two at him, tell him shame on him for jumping the gun here, and let's get back to the program, and two colleagues of the House actually essentially say this to him in a reasonably delicate way.

Well, we weren't going to have the end of this there, no siree, not at all. Obey had a problem that most of us wouldn't have immediately identified with regard to this issue. Alas, Obey suffers from being a democrat. We have Congressman John Hostettler (R-Indiana) for bringing this to our attention as he went on to read the following in response to Obey:

The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the
United States House of Representatives. It continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being
supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. Don't get me wrong, Democrats
know they shouldn't be doing this ... But like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians.

You actually have to see this to fully appreciate it, and indeed you can if you didn't take the chance to do so above: video. What's interesting about this is that Obey is speaking off the top of his head when he makes his suggestion for a proposed amendment, while Hostettler came with a fully prepared statement which he proceeds to read verbatim on the floor of Congress. Now I'm still baffled as to how Obey's amendment proposal in anyway amounts to a war on Christianity, or anything close to denigrating or demonizing Christians --- in fact note, Obey doesn't mention Christianity at all. I'm especially fascinated by Hostettler's claim that the Democrats are trying to eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage --- a nice little get around to there being no national religion if you ask me. Hostettler infers that our heritage is in part derived from Christianity, so it's our de facto national religion. Ughhhhhhhhhh ...

Stygius calls this correctly, it's demagoguery in its ugliest guise with its untruths and deliberate attempts to hit buttons intended to incite illogical passions. This form of manipulation seems to be more and more a spectator sport in DC these days. Obey was definitely out of bounds in his trying to reign in the Academy before he fully appreciated the extent of what he was trying to help reign in, there's no question in my mind of that. But Hostettler was looking to stir hatred and otherwise serious bad vibes using baseless claims of Christian persecution. Moreover, he clearly had plenty of time and help to think this one through as his prepared statement made all too clear. Hostettler's shenanigans clearly represents the new face of politics in this country these days, and it doesn't serve anyone, much less the country, well. Exaggeration to the point of pretty near lying is fouling up our fully understanding our problems and what we can do to correct them, in fact it mostly works to keep people from thinking much at all, in fact this tactic depends on people responding without thinking at all. Maybe that's always a part of politics, but of late it seems especially prevalent and it's role in the American political landscape hasn't been like this since the days of good ol' Joe McCarthy, who I'm sure would have made a great right wing Christian republican, though he'd likely have had to give up or otherwise do a really good job of hiding Roy Cohn.


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