Crusaders of the 21st Century

Of all blunders to commit, this one is beyond the pale and only sure to arose the ire of the Islamic world unnecessarily. US soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan have been filmed with local language Bibles and urged to be "witnesses for Jesus" despite anti-proselytizing rules.

In the video obtained by Qatar's Al Jazeera, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is shown telling US soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."

"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," he says.

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

Al Jazeera's James Bays reports. I cannot in good conscience support any effort that involves proselytizing in Afghanistan. Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley must be removed from his position and reprimanded if not court-martial for breaking the military's anti-proselytizing rules. It is not our business to save souls. That is not the nature of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Whatever goodwill the President has so far engendered in his attempts to reach out to Muslims across the globe stands to be lost because of the reckless zeal of evangelical Christians who seem to view the US military as a modern day crusading institution.

Update [2009-5-5 1:29:25 by Charles Lemos]:Al Jazeera has an update to this story.

The US's highest ranking military officer has said it is not the US military's position to promote any specific religion, after Al Jazeera revealed footage of troops apparently preparing to convert Afghans to their Christian faith. "From the United States' military's perspective, it is not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period," said Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday. The US military has also confiscated Bibles that Christian US soldiers in Afghanistan had apparently intended to give to local Muslims, a military spokesman told Al Jazeera. In addition, some of the soldiers who appeared in the video have also been reprimanded, US government and military officials told Al Jazeera's James Bays. The video, shot about a year ago, appeared to show military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram discussing how to distribute copies of the Bible printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages.

I am not sure if this is the end to the story or not but Jeremy Scahill has more at the Huffington Post.

Tags: Afghanistan, Christian Proselytization, Foreign Aid, US Armed Forces, US Foreign Policy (all tags)



Re: Crusaders of the 21st Century


by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-04 08:47PM | 0 recs
This is not new

My father was in the Army in the 1980's and part of the reason he threatened to break my legs and send me to England if there was a draft was because he didn't want me to involve myself in "The faux Army for Jesus"

by DTOzone 2009-05-04 09:51PM | 0 recs
Re: This is not new

This is true and there is a Christian organization (I forget the name off the top of my head) that does evangelical work in DC not just among the military but also among Federal employees. But it is quite another matter to do this in Afghanistan where one of the charges against us is that we are trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. Nor are we alone in this. Remember that South Korean group kidnapped by the Taliban?

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-04 09:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Crusaders of the 21st Century

Pure idiocy.

by mikeinsf 2009-05-04 11:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Crusaders of the 21st Century
Almost a quarter of the US military is megachurch-style Christianist, and it skews toward the higher ranks.  Religion is a factor in almost every promotion.  The Air Force is the worst offender with the Navy at the other end of the spectrum, and being a Marine is essentially it's own religion.
Right now the current policy seems to be that the military is too busy to fix, that if someone tries to take away the guns from the guys with Bibles or the Bibles from the guys with guns the consequences will be stark and sudden and game ending for the American hegemony, perhaps even for the state itself.  
I don't know.  I think the current state of affairs could cost us the wars on its own, faster and more surely than actual enforcement of Directive 1.  But it's interesting to note that lots of groups are overrepresented in the military; it's also more irreligious than the country as a whole, and while there are no gays in the military, there's sure an uncommon proportion of gay veterans.  It wouldn't take much for one of these other factions to supplant the fundies over the next generation.  
by Endymion 2009-05-05 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Crusaders of the 21st Century

The only witness for Jesus that should be allowable in the military is the one that works best: actions and not words.

by MNPundit 2009-05-05 08:39AM | 0 recs


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