Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle, see his banners go!
If you’ve spent any time in a Christian church, you’ve either heard or sung this song. Like so many Christian hymns, it is violent and praises battle. It’s not uncommon in these songs for words like “peace” and “love” to be used side by side with words like “war” and “battle” and “blood.” An example of that can be found in the third stanza of this song:
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Soldiers marching to war with their standard — a device of bloody torture and execution — held high, going into battle so they can … be charitable? Does that make sense? Of course not.
Oh, well. That’s religion for you. If it made sense, it wouldn’t be religion, it would be something else. Here in the United States of America — a country founded by men who knew the dangers of mixing religion and government, men determined to construct a nation in which people could be free to follow their conscience in matters of spirituality — singing a hymn in church, no matter how contradictory, illogical or hypocritical that hymn might be, is exercising the constitutional right to practice the religion in which one has chosen to believe. That is one of the things that has made the experiment known as the United States of America such a thriving success. For almost 235 years, people have been coming to this country because, among other wonderful things, it offers them the freedom to practice any religion they please or no religion at all. For those of us who’ve lived here our entire lives, it’s easy to take that freedom for granted and lose sight of its enormous importance.
No one in this country can be told what to believe or think. No one can be made to practice a religion to which they do not subscribe or forced to worship — or not worship — in any particular way. That was the vision of the founders of this nation, some of whom were religious and some of whom were not — that every American have the freedom to believe in and practice the religion of their choice, or to decline to believe in or practice any religion. Any enforcement of religion would be un-American. It would go against the very foundations of this nation and the intent of its founders. It would violate the Constitution. Any kind of religious enforcement by a federal entity, sanctioned by the United States government, would mean that the America envisioned by the founding fathers is no more, that it has ceased to exist and has been replaced by the very thing those founders worked so hard to avoid.
Well, it may be time to wave bye-bye to America, folks, because it looks like the end is here.
On September 25, 2010, a large Christian rally was held at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Fort Bragg is a major U.S. Army installation — your tax dollars at work — and the Christian rally was … well, a Christian rally — and it was also your tax dollars at work.
The rally was organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). You probably remember Billy Graham — America’s favorite Jew-hating pastor to the presidents? Graham is the messenger of Christ’s love who said to Richard Nixon that the Jewish “stranglehold” on the American media “has got to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.” When Nixon agreed but said he was unable to say it out loud in his position as president, Graham said, “If you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something.” Later, Graham added, “A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me, because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth, but they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.” That Billy Graham.
These days, BGEA is run by his son Franklin Graham. You might be familiar with him. He’s the messenger of Christ’s love who recently said that Islam is “a very evil and wicked religion,” and who took a nasty little stab at the Hindu faith– as well as every other faith that isn’t his own particular brand of Christianity — when he told USA Today, “No elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can have some big kumbaya service and all hold hands and it’s all going to get better in this world. It’s not going to get better.” That Franklin Graham. I share these quotes only to give you some idea of the spirit of the organization behind this rally.
Rock the Fort included music and, according to the BGEA’s website, something called KidsFest, featuring God Rocks, “a children’s ministry that combines music, video and practical lessons from the Bible in a fun way.”
But Ray, you might say, shouldn’t there be religious services and programs available for religious people in the military? What’s the harm in putting on a Christian program for Christian troops at Fort Bragg?
There would be nothing wrong with that — if that was what this program was designed to be. But it wasn’t.
The rally was held on the military base but was open to the public. Fort Bragg Chaplain Antonio McElroy said of the event, “I think we are trailblazing here in many ways. I don’t think there has been an outside concert of this magnitude with an organization like BGEA and our chaplains partnering with local churches to come together for one purpose — and that is to glorify god and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The purpose of the event was “to glorify god and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That’s Christian code for converting sinners, winning souls — proselytizing. Churches, of course, have the right to proselytize anytime they like, and they do not hesitate to do so. Whether they’re approaching you on the street or coming to your front door, the thing they want to get into the most is your face so they can tell you why you need what they have, no matter how rude or obnoxious this behavior might be. The government, however, does not have the right to aid them in proselytizing. It is not the job of the United States government to win souls for Jesus Christ and the Constitution makes this abundantly clear. When it becomes the job of the American government to do that, this is no longer America.
Fort Bragg partnered with local churches in a big way. Their chaplains — in other words, representatives of the United States Army – reached out to 20 area churches for help in organizing and putting on the event. In a message to the local participating churches, the BGEA website claimed:
The Rock the Fort outreach is designed to channel new believers into your church, so you can encourage them to further spiritual growth. The future of the church lies in reaching and disciplining the next generation.
Another way of looking at the above message is this: Get your forks and knives ready, ‘cause Uncle Sam’s about to send you a load of fresh sinnermeat!
Todd Steifel, member of the National Advisory Council of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU), said, “‘Rock The Fort’ is leveraging the financial and human resources of the U.S. Army and the BGEA to convert the children of minority faith families to evangelical Christianity. Their attempts to turn the U.S. Army into ‘God’s Army’ are un-American, illegal and a propaganda windfall for the Taliban and al Qaeda.”
On September 23, AU attorneys faxed a letter of protest to John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, and Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commanding general of Fort Bragg. The letter pointed out that Rock the Fort went well beyond the traditional duties of military chaplains:
‘Rock the Fort’ is not an event designed to minister to the needs of soldiers unable to otherwise access religious services; rather, it is an event designed to proselytize soldiers and community members into the worship of Jesus Christ. The Army has, thus, overstepped this constitutional line by sponsoring this event.
Helmick shrugged the letter off and released a statement claiming the program was perfectly legal because no one was being forced to attend. “I have taken steps to ensure that no soldier in my command is pressured in any way to attend this event,” Helmick wrote.
But as is so often the case when religion is involved, he lied. Soldiers were pressured to attend.
An example of this is Specialist Justin Griffith, stationed at Fort Bragg. Griffith is one of the many “atheists in foxholes” long purported not to exist. In an email to FriendlyAtheist.com, Griffith wrote about the promotion of Rock the Fort:
I personally received several e-mails from my command inviting me to attend this meeting, and I also received numerous verbal invitations. I am the (not so) proud owner of several flyers and posters that were printed up and handed out to all of the soldiers who attended various events around the post.
That kind of aggressive promotion does not sound like it fulfills Helmick’s promise “to ensure that no soldier in my command is pressured in any way to attend this event.” In the military, an “invitation” coming from your command is pressure. But there’s a very good reason why Helmick made that promise, whether or not it was kept. He was covering his ass. Lately, our troops on military bases around the country are being strong-armed into attending these events, and if they don’t, they are being punished. In fact, military bases across the country have become hotbeds of Christian proselytization aimed at our troops.
The first Rock the Fort event was held at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri on October 4, 2009. From the BGEA website:
Chaplain (LTC) Michael Thomas, who serves the men and women at Fort Leonard Wood, was instrumental in connecting the BGEA with the base. He credits the communities surrounding the base with helping to make Rock the Fort a success. “The surrounding community was incredible,” he explains. “Because of our need to have counselors, my team went to local churches, invited them to be part of the event, and asked them to come to counselor training. The outpouring was great. People came and received the training. The next day, they were there and ready to help soldiers during Rock the Fort.”
They brought local church members to the base for “counselor training?” I wonder who paid for that. You, perhaps?
On August 1, 2010, 29 Marines assigned to the Ohio-based 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, were baptized in the ocean in an area used for amphibious assault training as part of Operation Sword of the Spirit. They were on their way to Afghanistan. “”The spiritual and religious foundation that we’re able to develop here allows us to perform our job the way we need to in a very challenging environment,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Lawrence Kaifesh. The story was published in an L.A. Times blog. A Jihadist Web site, Ansar Al-Mujahideen, published the article under the title “Crusaders Baptized Before Leaving For Afghanistan,” which no doubt did wonders for attendance in terrorist training camps. From an Alternet.org article by Bruce Wilson:
Pentagon policy prohibits military officers from endorsing particular religious beliefs, especially sectarian religious beliefs. Lt. Col Kaifesh’s prominent presence and high-profile participation at the mass baptism seems to indicate endorsement not just of Christianity but also of claims that Christian indoctrination, and building something called “spiritual fitness,” are valid and even indispensable to training American troops for combat.
A program called Free Day Away offers hundreds of service members each week a relaxing, fun time away from the stress of basic training if they’ll sit through an intensive hellfire-and-brimstone Baptist sermon designed to convert them to Christianity.
A May 30, 2008 USA Today article reports that U.S. Marines handed out coins that promote Christianity to Muslims in Fallujah, which infuriated Sunni officials. The coins were inscribed in Arabic; one side asked, “Where will you spend eternity?” and the other held the bible verse John 3:16. Tribal leader Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Zubaie said the soldiers were acting like missionaries rather than Marines. U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Hughes downplayed the incident and insisted the military prohibited “proselytizing any religion, faith or practices.” This is what military representatives say whenever their caught doing things like this — but they certainly don’t seem to prohibit it with any conviction, and in some cases it seems blatantly encouraged by those in charge.
Donald Rumsfeld put bible verses on top secret strategic briefings during the Iraq war. Verses like, “Here I am, lord, send me,” (Isaiah 6:8), “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast, o lord,” (Psalm 139:9 – 10), and “Therefore put on the full armor of god, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13) were boldly featured on the covers of these military documents. How can anyone in the military say with a straight face that this kind of behavior is prohibited?
In September of this year, ArmyTimes.com reported that the Army was investigating claims that 80 soldiers in Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, were pressured to attend one of the Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts, a Christian program, and were punished for not attending. The concert featured BarlowGirl, a Christian rock group described as “tender-hearted, beautiful young women who aren’t afraid to take an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.” There’s more of that cognitive dissonance so common in Christianity — “tender-hearted” and “beautiful” paired with “aggressive” and “warrior-like.”
Pvt. Anthony Smith, now stationed in Arizona, was one of those 80 soldiers who were punished for not attending the concert. “It’s not a problem to hold a Christian rock concert on an Army post; it’s a problem if soldiers who didn’t want to attend were compelled to attend or feel punished for not attending,” Smith said in the ArmyTimes.com article. “That is not consistent with Army policy.”
In his account of the May 13, 2010 event, Smith says that instead of being dismissed for the day, his entire company was marched to dinner and told to reform after their meal outside the dining facility. From there, they were marched back to the company area, where many of them had heard they would be given a choice as to whether or not they wanted to attend the concert. No such choice was offered. They were then marched to the theater, and two Muslim officers left the formation in protest. They were urged to fall back in and told they would be given the opportunity to leave once they reached the theater. Smith continues:
At the theater we were instructed to split in two groups; those that want to attend versus those that don’t. At that point what crossed my mind is the fact that being given an option so late in the game implies that the leadership is attempting to make a point about its intention. The ‘body language’ was suggesting that ‘we marched you here as a group to give you a clue that we really want you to attend (we tilt the table and expect you to roll in our direction), now we give you the choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us.’ A number of soldiers seemed to notice these clues and sullenly volunteered for the concert in fear of possible consequences.
Those of us that chose not to attend (about 80, or a little less than half) were marched back to the company area. At that point the NCO issued us a punishment. We were to be on lock-down in the company (not released from duty), could not go anywhere on post (no PX, no library, etc). We were to go to strictly to the barracks and contact maintenance. If we were caught sitting in our rooms, in our beds, or having/handling electronics (cell phones, laptops, games) and doing anything other than maintenance, we would further have our weekend passes revoked and continue barracks maintenance for the entirety of the weekend. At that point the implied message was clear in my mind: ‘We gave you a choice to either satisfy us or disappoint us. Since you chose to disappoint us you will now have your freedoms suspended and contact chores while the rest of your buddies are enjoying a concert.’
Nine of the punished soldiers, including Smith, filed formal complains. Smith said he was surprised that two of the soldiers most offended by the treatment they’d received were Christians of the Catholic denomination. One had been raised in Cuba and was especially offended because the incident brought back vivid memories of the oppression he had experienced there.
But this wasn’t Cuba. It was the United States Army.
Another soldier from the same company described the incident in the same way, adding that he is not the type of person to fold under pressure. He declined to attend the concert and was punished, but he said others went to the concert only out of fear of punishment. “Making somebody feel that pressure is a violation of human rights,” he said. “We are allowed to think what we want about religion and not have to feel pressured into doing things, and at that moment there was definitely pressure to go to that concert simply because people don’t want to have their free time taken away.”
These are men and women who’ve had the courage to offer up their time, bodies and lives to fight for the freedoms we so often take for granted — freedoms like the ability to choose what religion, if any, we believe in and practice. And yet there are people in powerful positions in the United States military who are trying to deprive them of that very freedom! What’s more infuriating is that they seem to be getting away with it.
The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series was started by Major General James E. Chambers. An article on the Army.mil website states, “At 16, he was reborn as a Christian.” The article also claims, “At Fort Eustis, he promoted a series of concerts, featuring Christian performers, aimed at awakening Soldiers’ spiritual awareness.”
That is very deceptive. The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series was not designed to “awaken” anyone’s “spiritual awareness” — this is another lie that Christianity tells about itself. This series was designed specifically to convert soldiers to Christianity.
Chambers’s deceptive tactics are not uncommon in the U.S. military. Christianity is being force-fed to troops in a number of ways, and many within the military are using their position in the Middle East to push Christianity on foreigners of different religions.
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, former Air Force judge advocate and assistant counsel in the Reagan White House, founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) in 2005 to address these activities, which not only violate military regulations but the U.S. Constitution. From an October 4, 2007 Christian Science Monitor article:
He (Weinstein) charges that several incidents in recent years — and more than 5,000 complaints his group has received from active-duty and retired military personnel — point to a growing willingness inside the military to support a particular brand of Christianity and to permit improper evangelizing in the ranks. More than 95 percent of those complaints come from other Christians, he says.
“There’s an eschatologically obsessed version of Christianity that … is trying to make American foreign and domestic policy (compatible) with their biblical worldview,” Weinstein charges. And “there’s improper pressure within the military command structure to make members join them.”
Democracy Now reported on efforts in the military to proselytize in Afghanistan. Amy Goodman reports:
The former prime minister of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, has called for an investigation into allegations that US soldiers are trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. He said, quote, “This is a complete deviation from what they are supposed to be doing.” His comments come after a report on Al Jazeera showed footage of soldiers at Bagram Air Base discussing how to distribute Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari.
The report included footage of commanding officers and chaplains instructing troops on how to proselytize without directly violating regulations — and without getting caught. It included Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, telling troops the following:
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, get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into kingdom. Right? That’s what we do. That’s our business.
Let’s go back to the Rock the Fort program in North Carolina. As I pointed out earlier, it was organized by BGEA under the leadership of Franklin Graham. Graham is honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The National Day of Prayer has been the center of controversy lately. In 2008, the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged in federal court the law designating the National Day of Prayer, and in March of 2010, District Judge Barbara Crabb declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, a ruling that is now being appealed.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is an evangelical conservative Christian non-profit group founded in 1983. According to its website, “The National Day of Prayer Task Force’s mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer.” This means you — whether you like it or not. The task force’s mission also includes “mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.”
Shirley Dobson, wife of one of Christianity’s foremost hate-mongering media figures James Dobson of Focus on the Family, has been the group’s chairwoman since 1991. The executive director is John Bornschein, who is currently writing a book titled, The Front Line: Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. These people sure do love war, don’t they? The group claims to represent “a Judeo Christian expression” of the observance of the National Day of Prayer, but like everything else Christianity says about itself, this is deceptive. It is limited exclusively to Christians and no other faiths, Judeo or otherwise, are welcome. Anyone wishing to be involved with the task force must sign an agreement stating that they believe the bible to be infallible and salvation to come only through acceptance of Jesus Christ. Its “Vision and Values” includes fostering “unity within the Christian church” and to “publicize and preserve America’s Christian heritage.” Those last three words are Christian code for the lie that these militant Christians have worked so hard to spread over the last 30 years — that the United States was created on Christian principles by Christian founders as a Christian nation to be ruled by Christians for Christians. They use the National Day of Prayer as a forum to push their “Christian nation” agenda. Franklin Graham is the 2010 honorary chairman of this group and has made his utter contempt for all other religions quite clear.
In describing Rock the Fort on BGEA’s website, Fort Bragg Chaplain Antonio McElroy said, “People are excited that we are daring to step up by faith and do this. We have the support of the leadership and the post, and we are getting a response from the local community that is supportive.”
Notice McElroy’s use of the word “daring.” Interesting choice. McElroy and everyone else involved in this program, including the leadership at Fort Bragg and Franklin Graham at BGEA all know that this violates the Constitution of the United States. But — and this is important — they don’t care. They’re doing it anyway — and they are daring anyone who disagrees to do something about it. They are pretty confident that no one will because they are protected by the one thing no one in America wants to touch, the one thing people have been conditioned not to question or criticize: Religion.
These are not the condescending and annoying Christians who smilingly ask if you know Jesus Christ and offer to give you the “good news” of the gospel. These are militant, power-hungry people who are determined to enforce their religious beliefs with the help of the federal government. They are Christian nationalists.
What is a Christian nationalist? For a thorough explanation — and a terrifying look at what it means for America’s future — I strongly recommend that you read Michelle Goldberg’s book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. But for the sake of brevity, a more concise definition can be found in the book The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action by influential evangelical Christian pastor and writer George Grant. In the book, Grant writes:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ – to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less…
Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land – of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.
That, in a nutshell, is what Christian nationalists (also known as Dominionists or Reconstructionists) want — to rule the United States … and then the world. They are contemptuous of democracy and fully intend to overthrow the United States government and turn this nation into a theocracy. That is their plan and they aren’t too secretive about it. The Tea Party movement smacks heavily of Christian nationalism. Listen to its leaders and supporters — Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich and others — and you will hear Christian nationalism and all of its lies reflected in their words.
Christian activists are working across the country to establish this theocracy. They are infiltrating public schools with stealth evangelism and getting Christian nationalists elected to public office so they can illegally appropriate government funds to Christian activities and organizations. And they are also infiltrating and attempting to take over the U.S. military to transform it into god’s army — an army that will enforce Christian beliefs here at home and abroad. These people believe we are currently engaged in a religious war, and the enemy in that war is the Muslim religion. Their intention is to use god’s army — which they are currently engaged in building as they attempt to stealthily take over the United States military — to convert or kill the enemy. But it is not only the enemy abroad that they are determined to vanquish.
In her book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, Michelle Goldberg writes about a group called American Veterans in Domestic Defense (AVIDD). Goldberg writes:
The group says it exists to “neutralize the destructiveness” of America’s “domestic enemies,” which include “biased liberal, socialist news media,” “the ACLU,” and “the conspiracy of an immoral film industry.” To do this, it aims to recruit former military men. “AVIDD reminds all American Veterans that you took an oath to defend the United States against all enemies, ‘both foreign and domestic,’” its Web site says. “In your military capacity, you were called upon to defend the United States against foreign enemies. AVIDD now calls upon you to continue to fulfill your oath and help us defend this nation on the political front, against equally dangerous domestic enemies.”
… thousands of Americans nationwide have flocked to rallies at which military men don uniforms and pledge to seize the reins of power in America on behalf of Christianity. In many places, local religious leaders and politicians lend their support to AVIDD’s cause. And at least some of the people at these rallies speak with seething resentment about the tyranny of Jews over America’s Christian majority.
AVIDD is the kind of group that sounds so extreme, it’s tempting to dismiss it as harmless lunacy. But don’t. These people mean business, and they are dangerous. While you’re laughing at them, Christian nationalists are going about the business of taking over our government and military so they can turn them against us — because that, they say, is what Jesus wants them to do. If you do not agree with what they’re doing and do not believe what they believe … then you are the enemy.
Let’s call this movement what it is: Un-American. Christian nationalists are enemies of America. People like Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick. Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers, Chaplain Antonio McElroy and Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are anti-American insurgents working to destroy what the founders of this nation created. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to call their Constitution-violating activities a threat to national security, especially when you consider how terrorists who already want to do us harm will respond to those activities and use them against us. These people — these subversive, militant Christian nationalists — are a greater threat to this country than the terrorists themselves. The Christian nationalists are already here, and many hold positions of power in the government and military. Their goals are the same as the those of the terrorists — to bring about the fall of this republic and its democratic process so they can step in and enforce their religious beliefs on the nation and the world. The only thing that separates the two is that they do this in the name of different imaginary friends.
These Christian nationalists have gained so much ground over the decades that it’s easy to become frustrated, to feel helpless. But now and then, opportunities arise to push back at these theocratic efforts. Thanks to SPC Justin Griffith, there’s something we can do.
Griffith is heading up the organization of a program called Rock Beyond Belief. Here’s a description of the event in Griffith’s own words:
Rock Beyond Belief is an ambitious project that will be putting on a free festival consisting of secular speakers and musicians, both big name and small. We are a small grass-roots outfit, but we have the backing of many major secular and military foundations. Currently we are focusing on a large-scale event that will be on the main post parade field on Fort Bragg. Eventually Rock Beyond Belief wants to spread the message to many other military installations.
We are not interested in just being a counter-event to the offensive Rock the Fort concert. We are also not interested in putting on an anti-christian, anti-religious, or anti-anything event. Rock Beyond Belief is A Day of Fun and Entertainment for the Rest of Us. In the spirit of Richard Dawkins’ Out Campaign, we are embracing the fact that just by coming out and saying “we are non-theists, and also we are your firefighters, your military members, and your neighbors” we help to shed the negative connotations and debunk the myths associated with being a non-believer.
This is still in the process of growing, but it is going to be a major event. Guest speakers so far scheduled to appear include Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education and a key player in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Trial about creationism and public education; Margaret Downey, former president (and current board member) of the Atheist Alliance International, founder of Freethought Society, and many other influential organizations; Michael Werner, former president of the American Humanist Association, Hemant Mehta, of the popular blog FriendlyAtheist.com, Jen McCreight, blogger at BlagHag.com and originator of the “Boobquake” meme; Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Nobel Peace Prize nominee; Ed Brayton, who maintains Dispatches from the Culture Wars and is the co-founder and president of Michigan Citizens for Science and co-founder of the Panda’s Thumb. Musical guests will include singer/songwriter, anti-folk legend and indie comic book artist Jeffrey Lewis; John Boswell (aka Melody Sheep), the man behind Symphony of Science, a musical project designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form; David “Spoonboy” Combs, whose solo side project balances the deep philisophical questions of the day with the optimism of youth consistently delivered through very catchy tunes.
This is just the beginning. The list of guests is growing rapidly, and when it’s done, it will include some very big names. Justin is currently working to create a lineup of celebrities and newsmakers, but they can’t be announced just yet because scheduling isn’t firm. Rock Beyond Belief will be held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and it will be admission free. The only catch — there’s no date set yet. But that’s coming.
This is an effective, visible, and very productive way to respond to and raise awareness of the military’s quiet tolerance of the religious proselytizing it so dishonestly claims to prohibit and the unfair treatment of troops that has been its result. And you can help.
Rock Beyond Belief is still in the planning stages, but it’s growing fast. To keep up with the rapidly developing details, GO TO THE WEBSITE. If you can make donations of any kind or are interested in finding out how you can help, email Rock Beyond Belief at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Americans tend to be a patriotic people. However we may feel about our political administrations and the decisions they make, we are supportive of the men and women who step up to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country. We are in awe of their bravery and dedication, and we tend to defend them passionately in gratitude for the way they defend us. But right now, they are being increasingly abused by the very military that is responsible for them and that abuse is largely unknown among the American people. This is not a theist/atheist issue, nor is it a Christian/non-Christian issue. This is a problem that is upsetting people of all religions and no religion because it involves the mistreatment of our troops and the routine violation of military regulations and the United States Constitution. To a greater extent, it is a threat to our national security, both because those committing these violations have intentions that are not in America’s best interests and because this abuse of our military and troops is fueling the fires of our enemies abroad.
Rock Beyond Belief is an event that will raise awareness of this problem while it provides a day-long festival of fun and music for a large audience of our troops and the public. While it is still being organized, you can help simply by getting the word out. If you have a website, post a link to this blog and to the Rock Beyond Belief website. Send them in emails to friends, your local newspaper, radio talk show hosts — to anyone who might be able to spread the word.
We have plenty of enemies on the outside who are determined to do us harm — we don’t need to lend a hand to the enemies within this country who are determined to reverse the last 235 years of freedom and progress begun by our founding fathers. By remaining silent, by not at least voicing our opposition, we are lending them a hand.
This might sound familiar:
The ideologists of the conservative revolution superimposed a vision of national redemption upon their dissatisfaction with liberal culture and with the loss of authoritative faith. They posed as the true champions of nationalism, and berated the socialists for their internationalism, and the liberals for their pacifism and their indifference to national greatness.
That sounds a lot like a description of what is happening in the United States right now — especially the part about “authoritative faith.” But it’s not. It’s an excerpt from the book The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology by Fritz Stern. Stern is a refugee from Nazi Germany and a respected historian and fascism scholar.
How many times have you heard conservative Christians say they want to “take the country back?” If we remain silent, if we do nothing, if we dismiss them as harmless nutjobs, they will take the country back — all the way back to 1930s Germany. Don’t let that happen.
Get involved. Say something. Do something. Rock Beyond Belief is a wonderful opportunity. Take advantage of it.