Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Evangelical Air Force

I have posted before about the inappropriate role that a certain brand of religion has played in the US Air Force.  I will always be disturbed by the prominent place of the chapel at the US Air Force Academy.  It is the most visible, dominating piece of architecture on the campus, symbolizing perfectly how powerfully a narrow version of Christianity plays in one of the armed services of the United States.

So, when I see a story like this one, where one of the most senior officers in the USAF quite matter-of-factly puts his Christian vision into his introduction to his command, I am not surprised.
As part of an all-hands meeting with DISA employees, Hawkins apparently showed a power point presentation that contained two slides titled “Ronnie’s Rules” that outline 18 priorities, the first and last of which are “Always put God first, and stay within His will” and “Always remember God is good — all the time!”
As I tweeted, isn't the first loyalty of any soldier, marine, sailor or airman/women (is it an accident that the USAF's term for enlisted person is not gender neutral?), or officer to country and constitution?  God or Gods or demons or trees or flying spaghetti monsters are private matters, not to be prioritized at all and certainly not put above the Constitution.  Sure, there is the whole "so help me God" at the end of the oath, which is more than I really want, but path dependence is a bitch.  Harder to get God out these various things, but separation of Church and State is fundamental for the United States, and I am pretty sure that the US Air Force is still part of the USA.

Anyhow, General Ronnie Hawkins is now, of course, back-tracking, saying that these are the slides he has always used and are just for his edification:
"Those two slides, in particular ...were in no way a directive or expectation I have for our dedicated men and women,” said Hawkins, who previously served as deputy director of command control, communications and computer systems, Joint Staff at the Pentagon. “The rules are my own personal guide posts, or moral compass.”
Um, then why show them as part of your priorities as part of your intro to the staff?  Shouldn't he have learned somewhere along the way that one leads by example and that the power of the office means that your priorities become the troops'?  Oh, they probably don't teach that at the US Air Force Academy because they are too busy praying and evangelizing and bullying folks who do not believe or believe in the wrong God(s).


Steve Greene said...

Appalling. I assume there are no consequences for this. Many years ago I met the head AFROTC officer at NCSU. When he mentioned his assignment at the Pentagon I told him I was Springfield. He then proceeded to complain about all the minorities living in the area. Something really needs to be done about the AF.
[On an unrelated note, they are really making some of these captcha things hard to read-- I just reloaded 4 times to get one I was sure of. You'd think that I'm logging in with a gmail account would be enough.] [Amend that, it told me I was wrong. I've gone through another dozen to be confident]

Steve Saideman said...

To be fair to the AF, I visited the Army War College in the fall of 2008 and got an earful from one army colonel about Obama being the next Hitler. Oy.

Mrs. Spew said...

And as a colonel in the Army, he should not be talking about his commander in chief in that manner as it's a betrayal of his post, yes? What was worse was the story of Airforce soldiers pressured to attend Christian evangelical concerts and punished if they refused. And the taxpayers paid for the cost of the concerts.

SamStanton said...

As a Christian and former member of the USAF, I find nothing troubling in putting my priorities then or now as God, family, country, fellow man ideologically. However, when it comes to practical military matters, priority number one is preserving the life of the man to your right, priority number two is preserving the life of the man to your left, because they will be doing the same for you.

Steve Saideman said...

You can have whatever priorities you want. But how do you feel about an officer telling you to put God first. Especially if his God is not your God? I actually do worry about civil-military relations in the US when one branch of the military seems overly influenced by a particular brand of a religion.