UNITED STATES: by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
Obama testing the limits of American culture
, November 23, 2013
Since I am writing here about religion, let me first and briefly put my own cards on the table: I am a Christian. That is, I believe in the basics of Christianity — what a 17th-century English theologian Richard Baxter and, later, C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity” — the things which the great Christian denominations have in common.
I believe — and this is not irrelevant here — that Christianity has been a force for good in human affairs, quite apart from the transcendent question of whether or not it is historically true.
My friends’ belief or lack of belief does not matter to me greatly. However, as far as denominations go, I have a clearer grasp of what I am not than what I am. My attendance at church is largely limited to weddings, funerals and some orchestral events and concerts.
I am not seeking here to proselytise or convert anyone, but to draw attention to an astonishing but largely unremarked development in the United States, which is generally thought of as the greatest Christian nation. Australia is apparently following not far behind.
A number of recent incidents in the U.S. may at first look like isolated aberrations, but taken together show a much more comprehensive and serious pattern.
President Barack Obama.
Under the current Obama administration we have been confronted, quite suddenly, with an extraordinary and multi-sided attack on Christianity, most obviously and particularly in the U.S. armed forces, which have long been a stronghold of traditional religious values and beliefs.
In the last few years — since, in fact, the installation of the first Obama Administration — Christianity has, under the pretext of the separation of church and state, been singled out for slowly growing attack and discrimination.
President Obama and his administration have expressed official opposition to Christianity in countless ways, large and petty. I list a few instances here:
April 2008: Obama said contemptuously that Christians “cling to guns and religion” and have an “antipathy to people who aren’t like them” (Christianity Today, April 13, 2008).
April 2009: The White House ordered that a gold “IHS” monogram symbolising Jesus’ name be covered in Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall before President Obama delivered a speech there (NBC Washington, April 17, 2009).
May 2009: Obama declined to host the National Prayer Day, traditionally celebrated at the White House (Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2009).
January 2010: An extraordinary petty direction prohibited soldiers from a long-established practice of filing tiny Biblical verse numbers onto the sights of guns (USA Today, January 21, 2010).
April 2010: Evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, was “dis-invited” from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer (Fox News, April 22, 2010).
November 2010: Obama, in a speech he delivered in Jakarta, declared: “In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one” (White House press office, November 10, 2010). This was incorrect. The motto is “In God we trust”, as established by federal law.
June 2011: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has forbidden references to God and Jesus during funeral services held at the Houston National Cemetery, Texas (Fox News, June 29, 2011).
November 2011: The U.S. defence forces, while curbing or suppressing Christian religious activities and expression, has not treated all other religions so unfavourably. Two years ago, despite ferocious defence budget restraints, the U.S. Air Force Academy set aside US$80,000 to build a Stonehenge-like temple for druids, witches, Wiccans and other pagans (Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2011).
January 2013: When soldiers erected cross-shaped windows and a steeple on a building in a remote part of Afghanistan, they were ordered to take them down (NBC News, January 24, 2013).
April 2013: Officials briefing U.S. Army soldiers placed Catholicism and evangelical Christianity on a list that included the Ku Klux Klan, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as examples of “religious extremism”, ignoring the fact that the Christian denominations mentioned have not killed anybody lately (Washington Times, April 5, 2013).
April 2013: Atheist activist Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, an ex-Air Force prosecutor, heads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and appears to have an extraordinary degree of influence with the Pentagon. Complaints from him to the Pentagon, no matter how fantastically petty or how offensive to believers, seem to bring instant action (Fox News Radio, April 30, 2013 and News Weekly, July 6, 2013).
May 2013: An Air Force officer was ordered to remove a personal Bible from his own desk because it might appear that he was condoning a particular religion, and this could “make others uncomfortable” (Todd Starnes, Townhall.com, May 3, 2013).
June 2013: The US Air Force, in consultation with the Pentagon, removed a Christian-themed painting — with a reference to Matthew 5:9, which says, “Blessed are the peace-makers for they will be called children of God” — that had been hanging for years on the dining-room wall at the Mountain Home Air Force Base near Boise, Idaho, because the quotation came from the Bible (Gary Randall, Faith and Freedom Foundation and Network blog, June 6, 2013 and News Weekly, July 6, 2013).
October 2013: Recently, soldiers were told to stop making donations to the Tea Party movement or they would be subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Fox News, October 23, 2013).
This looks like an exercise in gradually boiling the frog. I believe that the Obama administration is testing US political culture to its constitutional limits, much as the Whitlam regime set out to test the Australian political and constitutional institutions to their limits in 1975.
However, there is a further aspect of the Obama administration’s antipathy towards public expressions of Christian views, and that is its explicit promotion of state support for homosexuality. The latter seems to be moving from toleration to being a positive requirement. We hear no more of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
(Since I am writing here about homosexuality, I will mention briefly that I go along with, in general, the view of “live and let live”).
July 2012: The Pentagon, for the first time, allowed servicemen to march in uniform in homosexual pride demonstrations, which mock and ridicule traditional Christian values. At least one part-time serviceman appears likely to have his employment terminated for objecting to this (NY Daily News, July 19, 2012).
August 2013: A senior master sergeant, Phillip Monk, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, was ordered to answer as to whether or not he disapproved of homosexuality or had ever done so in the past. Master Sergeant Monk had served for 19 years with a spotless record and was due to retire in a few months.
When he replied that he believed homosexuality to be a sin, he was immediately relieved of his position, may undergo a court martial and dishonourable discharge and lose all retirement benefits. It seems incredible that a good soldier with as long and unblemished a record should be treated in this matter.
His training squadron commanding officer (a woman) is said to have told him that his own chaplain was a bigot. Since chaplains hold officer rank, this opens the door to all sorts of disciplinary problems. Should the master sergeant have gone along with this?
When Monk defended the chaplain, his commanding officer demanded that he state his own view truthfully. He gave what he understood to be the Christian position, and disciplinary action followed (American Family News Network, August 20, 2013, and Fox News, September 6, 2013).
It seems incredible that a good soldier should be treated in this totalitarian manner. Queen Elizabeth I, at the height of the Protestant-Catholic conflict in the 16th century, said that she did not intend to “make windows into men’s souls”. Even the anti-Christian emperors of ancient Rome required only an outward show of conformity on the part of their subjects.
An American clergyman, Pastor Steve Branson, whose church ministers to many worshippers from the Lackland Air Force Base, has spoken of a “culture of fear” among Christians at the base. The commanding officer has given an order apparently making it a court-martial offence to refuse to support homosexuality positively. According to Branson, one U.S. servicemen was told, “Your thought process is discrimination.”
Meanwhile recently, a 19-year-old Christian airman was asked during basic training what religion he was. When he replied “Christian”, he was required to repeat basic training. A colonel privately informed Pastor Branson that officers were being ordered to publicly affirm support for homosexuality (Fox News, September 30, 2013).
There has been at least one similar case in Australia, where an Army Reserve officer — a combat veteran and decorated former regular — faces dismissal from the Defence Force Reserve because of comments he posted on a personal website, to the effect that he had found displays of homosexual activity by uniformed defence force personnel offensive (Hal G.P. Colebatch, News Weekly, June 22, 2013).
I initially found the whole matter of the Obama administration’s anti-Christian discrimination to be unbelievable, but Googling a number of references has tended to confirm that at least many of these stories are true. Nothing, of course, would give me greater pleasure than to find these stories are wrong or exaggerated. However, if they are not, they surely represent a challenge not to be ignored.
It appears that the Obama Administration has used homosexual anti-discrimination not merely to promote homosexual equality but as a tool for the outright persecution of Christianity, particularly Catholic and evangelical Christianity, first in the armed forces, and then, presumably, in the country at large.
Obviously, the degree of offence and outrage is asymmetrical. People offended by homosexual or pagan behaviour on the part of servicemen are classified as bigots, while people whose feelings might be offended by Christian sentiments in favour of traditional marriage are regarded as victims and have their feelings solicitously dealt with. There is in many cases not even a pretence of equal treatment.
I referred earlier in this piece to how, two years ago, the U.S. Air Force Academy set aside US$80,000 to build a Stonehenge-like temple for druids, witches, Wiccans and other pagans.
Will the White House and Pentagon draw the line at Satanism? There seems no logical reason to do so. Will Satanists have access to nuclear weapons? That would seem to suggest a Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) to remember.
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.