Saturday, September 16, 2017

Only "Counterfeit Christians" Support Religious Freedom

For many years now, the United States Air Force has been infested with fundamentalist Christians. For whatever reason, this particular branch of the service has acted like a magnet for evangelicals who join the military. I don't necessarily want to deny them the opportunity to associate with people who share their beliefs, but at the same time this concentration is making the Air Force downright inhospitable to people with different beliefs, even different strains of Christianity. Recently, an Air Force Chaplain called out "counterfeit Christians" who are committing the terrible sin of upholding the Constitution.

A U.S. Air Force chaplain who ministers to thousands of men and women at an Ohio base is asserting that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members' right to practice other faiths.

In an article posted on three days ago, Captain Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, criticized Christian service members who rely on the Constitution “and not Christ.”

He wrote: “Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home—which means they have no accountability for their souls (Heb. 13:17). This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.”

Hernandez continued: “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

I would have a lot less ire for fundamentalist Christians if they could just mind their own damn business. It is entirely possible to follow the Christian faith and at the same time support the rights of others to practice their own religious traditions. "Sharing the good news" really shouldn't mean little more than shitting all over people who disagree with you, but within many of these conservative Christian communities that's exactly how they interpret it.

The fact is that members of the United States Military swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and that same Constitution states clearly that our government cannot support one religious belief over another - a point that Hernandez doesn't even dispute in his comments here. So he's telling his congregation that actually, they shouldn't support the Constitution and instead support his religion. Because what, the Constitution is just "sort of a guideline?"

Can you imagine how this would go if Hernandez was, say, a Muslim? He'd be fired right away if he said that everybody serving in the Air Force had to submit to Allah and deny Christians the right to practice. That's really the same as what he's saying here, and in a world where all religions had equal standing he should be fired for it as well. If he isn't, let's just say that this is what Christian privilege looks like and leave it at that.

And can we all agree that having people who believe in a literal apocalypse and don't necessarily see it as a bad thing in charge of America's nuclear arsenal just might be sub-optimal? That's a real danger, and let me point out that despite it, I still support the rights of fundamentalist Christians in the Air Force to believe whatever they want. They just need to be willing to accept that everybody else has those rights, too.

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