I was browsing HuffPo today, when I came upon an article about a topic which has been bugging me (US soldiers trying to convert Iraqi and Afghan Muslims to Christianity via Chick Tracts and witnessing coins), but since I couldn’t find anything about it after last May, I thought it was old news. Guess not.
“The special forces guys – they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down […] Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.” – Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, chief of US military chaplains in Afghanistan
AnappalledAmericansayswhat — what?!
Well. Well. There’s a problem here. There is very definitely a problem, and I don’t know why more attention isn’t being called to this, because it is just no.
The idea of witnessing is an archaic one, going back to the days when religion was a main societal identifier. The way to make sure that your people spread their culture and protected their own interests was a convert-or-kill scenario. As a device of preservation back then, it served its purpose. Now…now it verges on gravely insulting self-righteousness. It’s like saying, “You are not living your life properly; I am going to heaven and you are not. Let me interfere with your life to make it more like how I think it should be. I am right and you are wrong. I have God on my side, and that makes me right, because God cannot be wrong.”
Is it just me, or is that a terrible imposition to put on another human being? But the principle alone is not what cooks my chicken. Oh no. Oh, no. The fact that uniformed representatives of the United States are doing it, now that is what just pisses me off. When you put on the uniform, it’s not supposed to matter if you’re a man, a woman, gay (just so long as you don’t tell anyone since homosexuality makes you a security risk…or something), straight, black, white, brown, rich, poor, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, agnostic, atheist, or Wiccan. You are a soldier, and you are expected to act as such. You are a peacekeeper or a warrior, not – NEVER – a crusader. It’s a “check-your-personal-convictions-at-the-door” sort of thing. In private, hell, I don’t care if you sacrifice chickens to Voldemort, but you do not push your beliefs onto others. You just don’t. Aside from being rude, in military service it’s a violation of General Order One. Thou shalt not proselytize. (Or Carlin’s commandment: Keep your religious convictions to your own damn selves.)
It’s another example of Reza Aslan’s cosmic war principle. We, as American Christians, are Good. They, as Iraqi and Afghan Muslims, are Evil. We must convert them to good, as it is our duty as American Christians, and we are a Christian Nation. (We are not – the Treaty of Tripoli‘s Article XI states “As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”) Am I the only person who’s angry about this? We’re supposed to be the shining beacon of freedom, oppressing none and allowing all viewpoints to shine! Does that suddenly change when our soldiers are overseas? “Sorry, we don’t like your religion. You’re going to have to change it.” Religion is an intensely personal thing, not to be trifled with by outsiders who think they know better. (That, and it’s illegal to try and convert Muslims to any other faith in Afghanistan. When we go to someone else’s house, don’t we have to play by their rules?) I’m prickly enough when people try and convert me to their religion of choice, and I shrug when they say my refusal to submit to them (submit, conquer, it’s a power game) will result in my eternal torment.
The point is, as Americans we don’t tolerate religious oppression and illegal activity at home. Why should we tolerate it in our representatives abroad?