The Power of Peer Pressure

Here is a letter from a Christian officer posted here at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. I am posting the entire letter here. The officer is afraid to speak up for his rights as a moderate Christian in the face of his superior officer’s pushy Evangelical Fundamentalist Christianity. He gives some background about the events:

To Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation:

My name is (name withheld) and I am a (officer rank withheld) in the U.S. Army currently stationed stateside at Fort (military installation name withheld). I, my spouse and my children are Methodists attending church regularly on both Wednesdays and Sundays. I will always remember today as the low-point of my long (number of years withheld) year career in the Army. I have only myself to blame. Today I firmly established myself as a shameful person. Mikey, I write about 3 things; Rick Warren, my cowardice and your bravery. Today, I watched President Obama’s inauguration on the television set up in our Brigade staff conference room. I attended as a member of (unit level designation withheld) staff along with over 40 other senior officers, senior enlisted and a few senior Army civilian staffers. There had been much talk here about Pres. Obama’s selection of the evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the ceremonies.

This reiterates the pattern the MRFF is seeing from the complaint letters they are receiving. The majority of complaints are coming from moderate Christians who are now discovering first hand for themselves the treatment that non-Christians routinely get. Their religious viewpoints are being discriminated against by conservative Christian officers in power.

Our current Commander is a very intolerant and “serious and committed born again Christian” as he always describes himself to all his subordinates. At every military assignment I’ve ever been to it’s always the same thing; if you are not a born again “serious” Christian you are branded as pretty much worthless. My current Commander is bad but not the worst I have seen. I have served 2 combat tours; one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I have seen those under my command killed and grievously wounded. I was wounded twice. I have been awarded many combat medals and decorations. I have also stood by silently while my combat superiors have openly and repeatedly proselytized me and my troops. I did nothing. I have stood by and watched them continuously proselytize the Iraqis and Afghans. I did nothing.

It looks like the other Christians are “not Christian enough” for these “serious and committed born again Christians”. This man has served under fire and watched his men get seriously wounded and killed, and himself wounded as well. And yet he cannot bring himself to protest these pushy and obnoxious Christians shoving their religion on everyone around them. He did nothing, being afraid for his career and family.

Today, after Pastor Warren ended his invocation by praying in the name of his personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Commander jumped to his feet clapping and yelled “God Bless him for having the courage to pray for all of the lost souls in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ!” [Click here to see video of Warren’s invocation]. About a third of those attending also clapped. I did not. That was until our Commander turned around to survey everyone’s reaction to his statement. When that happened, the officer next to me started to clap and the one to my left clapped too. I felt like I was in a spotlight as the Commander looked at me and the female officer in front of me who had also not clapped. Then she clapped. And then I clapped too. I tried not to but could not muster up the strength to be the only one in the room not clapping in support of our Commander and Warren. I know what I should have done but I just couldn’t. Despite the many fierce combat situations I have been in, including hand-to-hand, I just couldn’t. I hate myself for this failure. I hate myself for my cowardice. I hate myself.

This is the insidious power of coercive peer pressure. A good and strong man is reduced to conforming to the group against his will in order to enjoy the his place in the group. Is this what the Fundamentalists want? People forced to pretend they worship? How does this in any way honor the god they supposedly believe in?

I have heard and read about all of the death and other threats being made against you, your wife and children. I listened to the voice recording of the death threat that you released made against MRFF client Spc. Jeremy Hall. I heard about that church being burned down when you spoke in that town. All of you show bravery especially when the chips are down. I had my chance today and I showed fear and cowardice. I can’t stand what I did today. I have been a client of MRFF for over three years now but no one knows it other than my spouse. We are both afraid of anyone finding out. I have heard other Army personnel talk of being MRFF clients but they usually try to keep it very quiet. Everything you are fighting for, Mikey, is the right fight. I’m not guessing and not assuming; I have lived it. I am living it. I will continue to live it. Trying to complain up the chain of command is as useless as filing an IG complaint or other administrative action. No, it’s far worse than just useless. It can and will brand the complainer as a target for revenge.

Why is it that it’s the non-believers who file all the lawsuits? Are we so used to the bullying by Christians in power, we know how to either stand up for ourselves or stay hidden? Why don’t the Christians who are harassed by these bullies stand up for themselves? Are the moderate and liberal Christians so used to the their privilege that they have never been in such a situation before and don’t know how to handle it?

I have seen it happen and fear it could happen to me if I stood up to it. I have a family and am not that far from being able to retire in peace and quiet. MRFF is the only outlet for military people like me. I hope this e-mail message can help other people (there are so many of us) be willing to contact MRFF and allow you to fight on our behalf against the multitudes of “serious and committed born again Christians” who control all of our careers and lives. Your lawsuit is important to us all. Please don’t stop your fight and please don’t hate me for not fighting. I hate myself enough for everyone.

(name and rank withheld)
Fort (military installation withheld)
(unit designation withheld)

All I can hope for is the new administration tries to stop the dangerous power grab by the religious conservatives in the US military forces. But I’m disheartened by the choice President Obama has made of leaving in the current Secretary of Defense.

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