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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Secular Blue Yonder





After 20 years of teaching a course on Just War Theory that utilized certain Bible verses in it's cirriculum, historically ignorant, free-speech bigots within the United States Air Force have succeeded in suspending the course...




"The use of Bible passage and other elements was just inappropriate,” he said. Mikey Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, hailed the military’s decision to suspend the course. “We’re very pleased that the Air Force did it,” Weinstein told Fox News Radio. “Had they not done that, we would have filed an immediate class-action lawsuit in federal court to force their hand.”

Weinstein said the officers who complained are Protestant and Roman Catholics, noting the class was simply “unconstitutional training.”

“The United States Air Force was promoting a particular brand of right-wing fundamentalist Christianity,” he said. “The main essence was that war is a natural part of the human experience and it’s something that is favored by this particular perspective of the New Testament.

Weinstein said he was particularly concerned about a passage of Scripture that was taught from the New Testament book of Revelations. The passage, chapter 19, verse 11, describes Jesus as a mighty warrior, Weinstein said.

But David French, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, said there is no violation of the Constitution. “Just-War theory has been a vital part of American military history for the last several hundred years,” French said, dismissing the complaints as what he called “another attempt to cleanse American history of its religious realities.”

“It’s about cleansing religion from the public square and building a completely secular society and military, said French. Commander Daniel McKay, a retired U.S. Navy Chaplain, agreed, telling Fox News Radio he was deeply concerned by the military’s decision.

“Why is it inappropriate to give our people guidelines that have withstood the test of time – to give us moral guidance,” McKay asked. “I think there are certain segments within our society who are making concerted efforts to take us away from our Judeo-Christian values, principles and morals,” he said."




I don't know for sure, but I would guess that the verses mentioned were addressed in a purely clinical sense in this course, trying to reason with cultural Christians who might be uneasy about pushing the Big Red Button. I find the timing rather interesting given the recent push to have atheist chaplains in the military. This whole, sorry incident is just another reminder of just how poorly understood the Establishment Clause really is and how well anti-religious lobbyists and attorneys have indoctrinated the last generation of Americans.



The Establishment Clause barred the federal government from establishing a national, state church as had existed in England and Scandinavian countries at the time. It did not prevent individual states from establishing their own and somehow the fact that Massachusetts had an official state religion (Congregationalist) up until 1833 is NEVER mentioned lest that detract from the atheist mantra that the Establishment Clause was meant to avoid any interaction by government with religion like the plague.



42 comments:

Stormbringer said...

Atheists are getting more power (and more obnoxious) all the time. They say it's not a religion, but they push for religious rights (come on, military "chaplains" is a calculated insult and power play). They wonder why their group is not respected and trusted?

JD Curtis said...

Right. Reminds me of today's article, '72 percent support WTC cross'.

That little calculated objection didnt work out to well.

GentleSkeptic said...

I don't know for sure, but I would guess that the verses mentioned were addressed in a purely clinical sense

Then why don't you take 30 seconds and find the first Google hit for "Christian Just War Theory Vandenberg Air Force Base"?

Too difficult? Too partisan? S'OK: I got it for ya.

Atheists, Christians Agree: Jesus Wouldn't Launch Nukes

A curious mix of vigilant atheists and devout Christians are celebrating the Air Force's decision to suspend a Christian-themed course taught to nuclear missile launch officers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. For almost 20 years, military chaplains presented these officers with slides filled with biblical references such as "Revelation 19:11 Jesus Christ is the mighty warrior" and Christian literature, such as St. Augustine's Just War Theory, in an attempt to dismantle the moral and ethical qualms of annihilating human beings with nuclear weapons. Surprise! Not everyone liked it. Last week, the Air Force suspended the course after 32 missile launch officers reported the religious bent of the briefings to the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Cue a Bill O'Reilly Culture Warrior™ moment? Not so fast. It seems both believers and non-believers are pleasantly amenable to the policy change.

But not JD. He's super-mad about it, 'cause HE understands that Jesus would TOTALLY press the big red button. Personally I'm just disappointed because I'd predicted that your next up-in-arms post would be about the gays beating up on Allen West.

JD Curtis said...

I left a comment on the Sun-Sentinel article you linked to about Allen West. We'll see if their famous 'open-mindedness' permits it past the moderators.

Insofar as the Bible is concerned, it CAN be taught in US schools. I don't see why it can't in this case.

JD Curtis said...

I couldnt reber the part about teaching the Bible in school, but I found it.

It's called Stone v. Graham.

"..the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like" Link

Unless that was overturned of course. I havent heard that it was though.

GentleSkeptic said...

If you'd like to see how scripture was leveraged to justify the nuclear option, go here.

Apparently Anders Brevik couldn't possibly be a "real" Christian because Real Christians don't dig through the BIble looking for scriptural justification for mass slaughter. But when the USAF does it, we should defend the right of Christians to do so in a government capacity.

I'm curious as to how you square these positions.

GentleSkeptic said...

Insofar as the Bible is concerned, it CAN be taught in US schools.

Well that depends on what you mean by "taught." But you're getting that from WND, so I understand the confusion. I have no issue with teaching the Bible, comparatively, as literature, because that's what it is. That's all it is. Human literature. In that sense, of course it's "important."

I'm not sure what you think you're proving by referencing Stone v. Graham … "in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public classroom in the State, was unconstitutional, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacked a secular legislative purpose."

Perhaps you were thinking of Abington Township School District v. Schempp? In which "the Court decided 8–1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp, and declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional"?

The reading of the verses, even without comment, possesses a devotional and religious character and constitutes in effect a religious observance. The devotional and religious nature of the morning exercises is made all the more apparent by the fact that the Bible reading is followed immediately by a recital in unison by the pupils of the Lord's Prayer. The fact that some pupils, or theoretically all pupils, might be excused from attendance at the exercises does not mitigate the obligatory nature of the ceremony for . . . Section 1516 . . . unequivocally requires the exercises to be held every school day in every school in the Commonwealth. The exercises are held in the school buildings and perforce are conducted by and under the authority of the local school authorities and during school sessions. Since the statute requires the reading of the 'Holy Bible,' a Christian document, the practice . . . prefers the Christian religion. The record demonstrates that it was the intention of . . . the Commonwealth . . . to introduce a religious ceremony into the public schools of the Commonwealth.

Whatever Jefferson or Madison would have thought of Bible reading or the recital of the Lord's Prayer in ... public schools ..., our use of the history ... must limit itself to broad purposes, not specific practices. ... [T]he Baltimore and Abbington schools offend the First Amendment because they sufficiently threaten in our day those substantive evils the fear of which called forth the Establishment Clause. ... [O]ur interpretation of the First Amendment must necessarily be responsive to the much more highly charged nature of religious questions in contemporary society.

There are persons in every community—often deeply devout—to whom any version of the Judaeo-Christian Bible is offensive. There are others whose reverence for the Holy Scriptures demands private study or reflection and to whom public reading or recitation is sacrilegious.... To such persons it is not the fact of using the Bible in the public schools, nor the content of any particular version, that is offensive, but the manner in which it is used.

GentleSkeptic said...

Unless that was overturned of course. I havent heard that it was though.

It wasn't. Still unconstitutional.

GentleSkeptic said...

SLIDE 35

"We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured." —Wernher von Braun

Wernher von Braun, of course, "used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps and captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians to help build the V-2 rocket, a weapon responsible for the death of thousands of British civilians."

So, there you have it. Ex-SS Nazi Biblical "ethics" in a USAF PowerPoint slide. In 2011.

Theological Discourse said...

Doesn't matter if believers and unbelievers agree or not you illogical moron. If atheist and Christians agree that the first amendment is unconstitutional, does that make it so? Agreement between athirsts and christians doesnt = legal truth. There is nothing unconstitutional about the slides.

Joe Conservative said...

"Establishment" Clause? I always thought THAT was opposed/limited by the "Free Exercise" Clause. ;)

The Left has been at war against Christians at the USAF Academy for years, now. They HATE religion. It's standing in the way of a new Marxist utopia.

Joe Conservative said...

As for "Just War" Theory, there's nothing MORE unjust THAN war. So the moment you start to use "justice" as an excuse to justify perpetuating an "injustice", I think you might be headed for trouble.

Maybe they should just call it "Tit-for-Tat Theory"... or "Will to Power Theory"... because war is, as Carl von Clauswitz has stated, "an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will."

Joe Conservative said...

G_d will vindicate the winner. Perhaps we should leave it at that.

Joe Conservative said...

btw - When the augers take auspices before the battle, and the chickens refuse to peck, should we retire behind our walls and await more "auspicious" beginnings? I suspect that if the length of the enemies lines before and opposing opposite us are longer than ours in length, we should, but if not... damn the chickens!

GentleSkeptic said...

There is nothing unconstitutional about the slides.

As you noted, a Christian saying so doesn't make it true.

Speedy G said...

a Christian saying so doesn't make it true.

How about a Deist saying it? ;)

Speedy G said...

Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”

Speedy G said...

Nietzsche, WtP

493 (1885) - Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live. The value for life is ultimately decisive.

534 (1887-1888) - The criterion of truth resides in the enhancement of the feeling of power.


"Feeling" smug and all "truthie" there, Skeptical?

GentleSkeptic said...

Speedy G:

I really have no idea what you're on about, given how wide-of-the-OP-mark you are, but by all means, enjoy your Nietzsche.

Andalé & Areba.

Speedy G said...

Don't tell me... Objectivist? Logical Positivist!

You "logical positivists" kill me. Bertrand Russell was a chump. Get over him.

Nietzsche, WtP 512 (1885) - Logic is bound to the condition: assume there are identical cases. In fact, to make possible logical thinking and inferences, this condition must first be treated fictitously as fulfilled. That is: the will to logical truth can be carried through only after a fundamental falsification of all events is assumed. From which it follows that a drive rules here that is capable of employing both means, firstly falsification, then the implementation of its own point of view: logic does not spring from will to truth.

Thersites said...

for the record - it's "arriba".

JD Curtis said...

Bertrand Russell was a chump. Get over him

"Russel was a radical socialist and a radicalimmoralist as well. He was involved in multiple marriages and divorces. The president of one of the divorce courts that was granting a divorce to his wife said that he was not only a roue who committed multiple adulteries, but committed adulteries of the type that no decent adulterer would commit. He seduced everybody who came into his path. He was invited to stay at the home of a physician friendof his for two nights. On the second night, he spent the night seducing the man's teenage daughter. No wonder he didn't want to be a Christian-it would definately have interfered with his sexual mores."

Kennedy, D. James; Absolutes in a Relativistic Age, pgs. 16-17

GentleSkeptic said...

Don't tell me... Objectivist? Logical Positivist!

OK, I won't tell you.

Still have no idea what you're on about. But you have managed to turn a post about Biblical Just-War Theory as leveraged in USAF PowerPoint presentations on the ethics of nuclear war into a Neitzsche-heavy Bertrand-Russell-bashing session, all without in any way weighing in on the OP; congrats on that.

But really, do tell us: Biblical Just-War theory in the U.S. Air Force … yes or no?

Thersites: thanks for the correction.

No wonder he didn't want to be a Christian-it would definately (sic) have interfered with his sexual mores.

Ah yes: the unassailable sexual mores of devout Christians.

JD Curtis said...

Yes, some self-professed Christians do not have what they say they possess. Thanks fr the news flash GS

Back on topic...

" Two military ethicists agree that a controversial Air Force ethics course, incorporating Bible passages and Christian theology, presents appropriate subject matter but needs revision.

“As clumsy as this lecture seems to be, it would be equally bad to try to drive out, from any presentation about just war theory, its intellectual history,” said Monsignor Stuart Swetland, a former Naval officer who has taught military ethics courses and now holds the Endowed Chair for Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland." Link

Speedy G said...

So what "ethical" words of advice do you suppose an atheist give the USAF's best and brightest in the void of an excluded "Just War Theory"?

"Ask no quarter, grant no quarter!"

"Kill 'em all , there's no final accounting!"

"If no one see's you do it, it's like it never happened!"

"Just say you were only following orders...."

"It's not like human beings have any intrinsic value..."

Joe Conservative said...

How about, "the State is the only authority on these matters".

Joe Conservative said...

I wonder if it has ever occurred to the brainiacs objecting to this course that War represents a period of disorder generally outside the regular "Constitutional Order". Else why have a UCMJ and not simply allow the Courts to function?

Lincoln used his "War Powers" and suspended Habeas Corpus, didn't he? Can't the President just make a Finding and issue an order to ignore the "Establishment Clause" for training those in the military subject to UCMJ and NOT the Constitution?

Joe Conservative said...

Hey, if they can defend a "no homo" policy, why can't they mandate an accurate teaching of history?

GentleSkeptic said...

Ah. I see what happened; JD invited Speedy over for a Snark. Welcome.

Unfortunately, Speedy is unwilling to actually take a position, and his questions/projections are manifestly unserious. It would appear that this passes for clever where he's from. Oh, well.

The Vandenberg course misrepresents the nature of the idea of just war,” (Johnson) said. “It not only presents just war as a specifically Christian idea, but its way of describing its Christian nature is at odds with the teaching on just war of major strands of Christianity.

“Medieval just war thinking was 'Christian' in a broad, undifferentiated sense as a product of a Christian culture and as having been contributed to by Christian canonists and theologians,” Johnson explained. “But that is not the same thing as calling it 'Christian' in the narrow sense used in the Vandenberg course.”

Weinstein says that the group of Air Force officers who brought the course to his attention consisted mostly of Catholic and Protestant Christians, rather than atheists or agnostics.
Link

So there's your "brainiacs," ConJoe: Protestants and Catholics. It should be noted that the USAF voluntarliy discontinued the training. Which would suggest that the burden of persuasion lies on those advocating for its continuance.

(Monsignor Stuart Swetland) criticized the Vandenberg course for its heavy reliance on Biblical allusions – which he said were helpful in a limited way, but largely extraneous to the Church's just war tradition.

“A just war presentation is about ethics that anyone should have access to, through reason alone. You don't need to proof-text with Scripture. I think that's not the best way of teaching in any setting, let alone in a multi-faith setting like the military. Pedagogically, it's not the best method.

Msgr. Swetland also noted that the Catholic Church's just war teaching rules out any use of nuclear weapons that would indiscriminately kill both civilians and combatants, such as the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

“One of the problems that the chaplain instructor at Vandenberg might have, is that the very weapons he's talking about are the kinds of weapons that, more than likely, if ever launched, would be both disproportionate and indiscriminate,” Msgr. Swetland said, explaining why most possible uses of nuclear weapons are intrinsically evil."
Link

Once again, JD didn't read the whole article that he linked to.

From the comments: "This reminds of back in the 1980s when the Catholic Bishops presented a statement on nuclear disarmament and Reagan was asked by someone in his cabinet if he was worried about Catholics refusing to fire the missles. He responded that he wasn't because there were more than enough Baptists to replace them with." (!!)

"We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount." —Gen Omar Bradley, Slide 34

Speedy G said...

Pedagogically, it's not the best method.

lol! Like that's an argument against teaching it to begin with.

It should be noted that the USAF voluntarliy discontinued the training.

That's how the ACLU bullies a lot of agencies and private companies into complying with it's unconstitutional principle's as well. Sue one, frighten a million. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have both made millions upon the principle.

Which would suggest that the burden of persuasion lies on those advocating for its continuance.

I would think that the argument for its' continuance is self-evident. The men of the USAF have their fingers on the nuclear button. You wouldn't want a pair of them to "go rogue" on us, would ya? You don't want a bunch of "good little Nazi-order followers" fingers on the pickle button, do you?

ps - Firebombing German and Japanese cities wasn't exactly a picnic either... the nuclear issue aside.

btw - I suspect most of the students who take the course will be able to figure the whole "ethics" thing out, once they've set their own minds to the task, regardless of Constitutional issues of separation of Church & State. If Protestants and Catholics were objecting to the course, it's probably becuase the lessons weren't "Christian orthodox ENOUGH" to suit their own particular "brand"s.

Speedy G said...

ps - I still remember my Naval Weapon's instructor's words on the difference between "tactics" and "strategy".

"Tactics is when you drop a load of napalm on a Vietnamese village. Strategy is when you drop a case of Hershey bars in the village, wait for a crowd to gather, and THEN drop a load of napalm on the village."

Nobody took THAT man to court.

Speedy G said...

btw - Has Murat arrived with the canon yet? The peasants are revolting! Remember 13 Vendamiaire!

Speedy G said...

I love a "whiff of grapeshot" in the morning!

GentleSkeptic said...

It should also be noted that JD's "historically ignorant, free-speech bigots" are all "missile launch officers – both instructors and students" and that "the class was suspended the same day the complaint was filed."

JD linked to that, but he'd never tell you that's what it says.

It should also be noted that JD originally said "I don't know for sure, but I would guess that the verses mentioned were addressed in a purely clinical sense in this course, trying to reason with cultural Christians who might be uneasy about pushing the Big Red Button."

Now that JD "knows for sure" that his initial "guess" was totally wrong, will he change his opinion? Not likely.

Note also that it's those squeamish "Cultural" Christians (like Anders Brevik?) who might be "uneasy" with the indiscriminate and disproportionate slaughter of innocents, and need to be "reasoned with." True, Righteous Christians like JD are already totally cool with it, no PowerPoint presentation required.

If anyone is interested in a sensible, accessible, historically accurate overview of Just War Theory, I suggest this. (The USAF would do well to just outline that page into a PowerPoint deck.)

"Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society" —George Washington

JD, Why do you hate America?

GentleSkeptic said...

The men of the USAF have their fingers on the nuclear button.

And it's these men that filed the complaint. Seriously: take it up with them.

Speedy G said...

@ GS,

"In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross" - Nietzsche "Der Antichrist" (1888).

But then, you're not a big fan of "truth" so I can hardly see why it matters so much to you. Or actually, perhaps I can. ;)

Nietzsche, WtP 1067 (1885)

...--do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?-- This world is the will to power--and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power--and nothing besides!

Speedy G said...

Note also that it's those squeamish "Cultural" Christians (like Anders Brevik?) who might be "uneasy" with the indiscriminate and disproportionate slaughter of innocents, and need to be "reasoned with."

Especially when you spend your whole life being subjected to resentment filled Marxist Socialist "Just Revolution" theories 24/7.

Speedy G said...

....come see the violence inherent in the system!

GentleSkeptic said...

But then, you're not a big fan of "truth"…

Citation? Evidence? Or are you just back to non-sequiturs now?

You're a much bigger fan of Neitzsche than I, I'm afraid.

GentleSkeptic said...

Especially when you spend your whole life being subjected to resentment filled Marxist Socialist "Just Revolution" theories 24/7.

Again, I have no idea what you're talking about, or to whom. I grew up in the Evangelical church, embraced the Evangelical church, and left the Evangelical church shortly after I became interested in truth. I've never read Marx, never been a socialist, and only read a little Nietzsche as part of my humanities core many years ago. Although I do share your love of Python.

But your projections are successful at portraying you as an American Christian. Ad hominems are what I expect from internet theologians.

Look: as much as I'd love for this to be about Atheists vs. Christians, and you'd like it to be about Marxists vs. Patriots, this story is about Christian in-fighting. Period. The only atheist to be found is the one that the Catholic and Protestant AF missile officers turned to in order to get something done.

What this story reveals is that the Bride of Christ is a house divided, thousands of times over, and only more so as history marches on. A house that, in spite of having the Word of God at its disposal, cannot even come to agreement over the basic tenets of the Faith. And yet we supposedly "need it" for ethical guidance in the use of weapons that the Biblical authors and Church Fathers could not have dreamed of.

Just War Theory was developed for cavalry and infantry with swords and shields, not nations with hydrogen bombs. You're welcome to your medieval theology, but please keep it out of our modern military except as a historical footnote.

Speedy G said...

Again, I have no idea what you're talking about, or to whom.

Cultural Christians (like Anders Brevik?) of the "European" school of the humanities.

What this story reveals is that the Bride of Christ is a house divided

Hence all those different "names" for their various "sects"... hardly a revelation... and not necessarily all "evangelical" (like the secular religion of Marxism).

A house that, in spite of having the Word of God at its disposal, cannot even come to agreement over the basic tenets of the Faith. Again, sounds like the secular religion of Marx, who despite having Marx's own words, needed more "Internationals" than the Christian's did ecumenical councils to come up with a concept of a Triune G_d.

And yet we supposedly "need it" for ethical guidance in the use of weapons that the Biblical authors and Church Fathers could not have dreamed of. ditto vis. Marx, con Clauswitz, Napoleon, et al.

You're welcome to your medieval theology, but please keep it out of our modern military except as a historical footnote. Funny, you don't say the same about Sun Tzu or Machiavelli's "Art of War". Why is that?

Yet, the idea that a Christian might hesitate to push the button has you flummoxed...

*shakes head*

Speedy G said...

Citation? Evidence?

You pooh-pooh Nietzsche's definitions. I happen to think that they're "spot on". Do you think that I cite Nietzsche for MY OWN intellectual growth and development?