Editor's Note – This guest opinion is republished with permission from Mikey Weinstein, Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein
Following September 11, 2001, we found ourselves plunged in an open-ended conflict with a truly daunting “terror” of a bloodthirsty, sectarian, and medieval character. Not only has the United States become embroiled in rudderless military adventures of a wholly destructive nature (for unarmed civilians and armed service members alike), but sections of the United States military are now held literally hostage by an American variant of the dreaded Taliban. Christian fundamentalist theocrats have embedded themselves deep within our armed forces as well as our legislatures, with severely grave repercussions on servicemember morale, good order, discipline, mental health, and consequently, American national security.
As the founder, president, and principal spokesperson of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), since 2005 I’ve witnessed over 34,000 service member, veteran, and civilian clients plead for relief from egregious actions and attempts at literal spiritual molestation. Whether we’re talking about the relentless whine of unconstitutional proselytization from superior officers and NCOs or the outrageous, coercive, and violent bigotry visited upon religious, irreligious, and gender and/or sexual minorities, meaningful resistance to superiors simply isn’t an option within the U.S. military.
In short, “Get the freakin’ hell out of my face, sir or ma’am” is not an option for military subordinates in the armed forces of the United States.
Enter the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. We follow Einstein’s homily about the need to fight evil as our cherished mantra and Prime Directive. We are ever mindful that confronting this vicious hatred can be done in more than one way. Indeed, while the heroic Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. espoused “We shall overcome” as his mantra, it was Malcolm X who claimed “No, we shall come OVER” as his modus operandi. We are the sole civil rights organization representing the myriad browbeaten and oppressed sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, cadets, midshipmen, and armed forces veterans, of a literal rainbow of faiths and no faith, who’ve had no recourse but to reach out to us when faced with the sick-minded, fundamentalist religious zeal that possesses many high-ranking military authorities. It is precisely this irrational proselytizing lust that clearly supersedes the perpetrators’ fealty to the oaths they swore to defend and protect the Constitution.
However, I’m frequently criticized – to put it mildly – for being “impolite,” “intemperate,” “abrasive,” and “uncivil.” Similar to the yellow bellied would-be allies of the civil rights movement who saw fit to referee the “divisive rhetoric” of the most outspoken fighters, in private these fair-weather friends have had no choice but to admit that “Mikey Weinstein and MRFF are right!”
History has its own criteria, and has long passed judgment on those heroes who bore the real sacrifice in the civil rights fight of the 60′s. Was it the militants who fought hard and aroused their communities to struggle, or the chattering heads from among the political classes? Was it those who opined and philosophized in the comfort of their own homes, offices, and lecterns, or those who exposed themselves to constant enemy fire?
Will a gentle, refined tap on the shoulder and whisper in the ear suffice for the Training and Education Command of the United States Marine Corps when they deride our valiant atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, and freethinking members of the Corps as potential suicide liabilities?
Will polite reminders that racism and discrimination are unacceptable halt the sort of blindly stupefying Islamophobic and anti-Arab bigotry that courageous Sgt. 1st Class Naida Christian Nova, a faithful Catholic, faced when she deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan?
Who can possibly believe that the grave and macabre distortions of the Christian faith contained in the “Christian Just War Theory” course taught to countless Vandenberg Air Force Base nuclear missile launch officers (for a quarter of a century) could possibly be corrected through a card dropped in a suggestion box?
Seriously, now, can anyone in their right minds doubt that a friendly chat over a cup of coffee is far from enough to stop pathologically bigoted extremists such as the retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin from spreading their vitriolic, twisted, anti-Muslim poison to members of our military on the taxpayer’s dime?
Likewise, what sane person can doubt that anything less than a tooth-and-nail, eye-gouging fight will protect the American people from those both in uniform and seated on the daises of the House and Senate who seek to plunge the United States into an end-times war of apocalyptic proportions? Such a worldwide conflagration of combat is precisely what fundamentalist Christian Dominionists see as necessary for ushering in the Second Coming of the Christ, or “Rapture.” They ruthlessly lust for their promised worldwide bloodbath as per their fetid interpretations of their weaponized version of the gospel.
Will passive online petitions and carefully measured conversations over dinner and wine alone stop the Constitutionally-derelict Congressmen Huelskamp (R-KS) and Fleming (R-LA), among a plethora of other religious extremists, from ceaselessly pushing so-called “Religious Liberty” amendments to the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)? It bears reminding that if their constitutionally-tortured NDAA amendments are passed, it will most assuredly flood the U.S. Military in a tidal wave of zealous, DoD-funded, Christian missionary activities which are wholly unconstitutional. Such activities include, but are hardly limited to, anti-constitutional “Spiritual Fitness Tests” and programs, Christian Rock Concerts, anti-gay disturbances, and other endless examples of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, exceptionalism, and triumphalism.
(Sarcasm Spoiler Alert!) “Oh, but cover your ears, folks! That Mikey Weinstein guy is at it again! Mikey’s using impolite, foul, and vicious rhetoric! Never mind the yearned-for nuclear mushroom clouds tearing through the civilian populations of the Muslim world, in line with the ‘Total War" strategy laid out by former Joint Forces Staff College faculty member Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley… What, the unprovoked nuking of millions of innocent Muslim noncombatants simply living out their lives in their homelands somehow offends you? What? Are you some kind of Christian-hating Islam lover?”
Duplicitous detractors who chide us for being “impolitic” and “uncivil” might as well be scolding us for not merely “praying” that these clear and present dangers simply disappear!
Admittedly, MRFF and I are “militant” and “aggressive.” But our militancy and aggression are always legal, ethical, moral, and solely in support of the United States Constitution. It takes nothing less than militant words and militant deeds to arrest the sociopathic supremacy and warped, domineering, fundamentalist Christian militarism of the sort that’s infiltrated the highest echelons of military leadership. We at MRFF would absolutely prefer that it wasn’t so. We sincerely do wish that we weren’t slandered and libeled daily as extremist “atheists” (not that I have a problem with atheists but I, personally, am a Jewish agnostic). Our stomachs turn when our bigoted opponents regularly level the disingenuous and completely false charge of being “anti-Christian” against us. Indeed, 96% of our tens of thousands of military clients are practicing Christians, as are about 75% of our national paid and volunteer staff of approximately 150.
However, we DO fight fire with fire, hence the “inflammatory rhetoric.” Regardless, it’s the sticks and stones that break bones that are really cause for worry. Those “sticks and stones” are, of course, the aircraft carriers, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Peacekeeper Missiles, bunker-busters, nuclear ICBMs, and 2.35 million active duty and reserve personnel that comprise the jewel in the crown that the “Christian Taliban” aims to seize at any and all cost. MRFF and many others in this courageous fight work tirelessly to dismantle their unconstitutional fundamentalist Christian “privilege.” Consequently, the concocted cacophony of their phony and counterfactual cries of Christian “victimization” are to be expected and dismissed immediately as Dead On Arrival.
In the face of blood-thirsty agitation for the destruction of the wall separating church and state and the paving of the road to theocratic, fundamentalist/dominionist Christian fascism, it falls on each and every one of us to stand up and resist loudly, tenaciously, and forcefully. We need to formidably resist, not only as Americans with Constitutional protections, but also as human beings worthy of basic human rights. It is precisely this sacrosanct right – the right of human beings to live free and in a dignified manner of worth and respect – that refuses to be compromised or tempered for the mere sake of offending overly-sensitive ears.
Listen up now, my dear friends. And especially pay attention, my despised enemies. Here’s the bottom line: true, genuine, and effective civil rights activism is NOT like riding a unicorn through a cotton candy forest handing out lollipops to little animals who are singing in unison. It is blood sport, pure and simple. Thus, the kid gloves and knee pads must yield and give way to the hammer and tongs.
There is no net under the trapeze of civil rights fighting.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published at Daily Kos and re-published here with permission.