Christian Fascists at the Air Force Academy

Revolution #021, November 6, 2005, posted at

Think of this: The U.S. Air Force in the hands of religious fanatics who believe in the literal word of the Bible, including the justness of using ruthless violence against enemies in the name of God. Look, for example, at the celebration of brutal conquest in Numbers 31:

"They [the Israelites] took the field against the Midianites, as the Lord had commanded, and slew every male.... And they destroyed by fire all the towns in which they were settled..."

We're not there yet. But Christian fundamentalist forces who seriously aim to establish a theocracy in the U.S. are a relentlessly aggressive force in this society, with position and influence at the highest levels of power. The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs gives a glimpse into this.

Last month Mikey Weinstein, a 50-year-old attorney in New Mexico, filed a lawsuit demanding that the Air Force prohibit its members from attempting "to involuntarily convert, pressure, exhort or persuade" cadets at the Air Force Academy "to accept their own religious beliefs while on duty." Weinstein, a graduate of the Academy, had been locked in a fight with the Air Force hierarchy since his younger son, currently a cadet at Colorado Springs, revealed that he had been the target of overt anti-Semitism.

When Weinstein looked into what was happening at the Academy, he confronted a whole culture of official promotion, including from the top levels, of evangelical Christianity and the intense pressuring of cadets to take up those beliefs.

What is pushed at the Air Force Academy is not Christianity in general. "It’s not a Christian-Jew thing," Weinstein said. "It’s evangelical Christian vs. everybody else. The viciousness is as bad against mainline Protestants as it is against Catholics as it is against Jews."

Here are just some of the other things that have been taking place at the Academy:

  • Brigadier General Johnny Weida, Commandant of Cadets, has endorsed religion generally and evangelical Christianity in particular... For example, he officially endorsed ‘National Prayer Week’ in a mass email message instructing cadets to "ask the Lord to give us the wisdom to discover the right, the courage to choose it, and the strength to make it endure" and declaring that "He has a plan for each and every one of us."
  • The Academy's head football coach put up a banner in the players’ locker room that read, "I am a Christian first and last. I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."
  • During a basic cadet training session, an Academy chaplain led a Protestant service in which he encouraged attending cadets to proselytize other cadets by telling them that the penalty for not being "born again" was to "burn in the fires of hell."

This promotion of a "Christian Air Force" is part of a broader phenomenon. According to Esther Kaplan, author of With God on Their Side, How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House,

"They've really allowed Christian evangelizers to move in on the heels of American troops... We've seen members of the U.S. military pushing Christianity on their own soldiers. In the book I mention a piece that appeared in a Florida newspaper that was quickly denied--and no other reporters followed up on it--about a chaplain that was actually forcing soldiers [in Iraq] to get baptized if they wanted the chance to dip in a bath while there was this incredible water shortage among U.S. troops... I actually met one of the soldiers who had come back from Iraq who was on that base with that chaplain and who confirmed to me that was what had gone on. So, if it's not a holy war, it sure smells a lot like it."

And Bush's Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence is Army General William Boykin--a man who openly and in uniform calls the Iraqi people the "face of Satan," declares that the Christian God is the only true and "real" god, and says that "God himself" put Bush in the White House.

Those who say that the Christian fascists won't get too far because the majority doesn’t share their outlook should think about the strength of the Christian right in the military and should understand that these forces are preparing to forcibly ram their agenda through if need be.

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