Friday, October 24, 2003

Generally Speaking

You should know that I am not a religious man. Not in the context of any organized religion anyway. On the other hand, I am not an anti-religious man. Throughout history religion has played a major part in each race or people, and each country where human beings have sprung. I recognize its existence, and the role it plays in our society.

Recently, Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin has been placed in the spotlight based on some comments he made at church. What do I think about this?

In the military we are taught that we do not wear our uniforms to any organization or function we attend so that it does not give the appearance that the military is endorsing such a gathering. In fact, we are even discouraged from wearing our uniform outside the performance of our normal duties. For example, you don’t go to the mall in your uniform on the weekends to shop.

As with most things I comment on, I have not done a weeklong in-depth research into all of the facts of this case. My opinions spring from basically what I know by listening to the radio, watching the news, and reading brief news articles on the subjects. That being said, I’m not sure if the General wears his uniform to a civilian church, or to a church on a military base.

Now that I think about it, this should not be the issue either. The problem as I see it, is not that the general spoke his mind, based on his faith and belief system, or even that he slammed another religious belief in the process. The big problem is that he did it in uniform, and as a general. If he was talking wearing a suit and tie, this would have gone nowhere, but he was wearing a symbol of our country, and preaching against another religion in that uniform.

Every Sunday many military folks attend church, and say things like, “Lord please help bring our military home safely.” Some may even say, “watch over our military and protect them in their duty.” These comments are fine, and welcome in the spiritual uplifting that they provide to friends and family that hold the same belief system.

To quote Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility”. A general of the United States has great power, and great responsibility. Just as a political leader has to be careful what they say, how they say it, and to whom they say things, a general does as well.

Wearing of the uniform is not something you parade around in to impress people. You should not go into church in uniform so that everyone at church knows you’re a general too. A suit would be more appropriate in a civilian church setting on a day-to-day basis. Especially if you’re going to climb up on the soapbox and start preaching with a big dose of political commentary mixed in.

There is freedom of speech in this country, and that’s not what this is about. He has not been told he cannot speak his mind, or do so at church. Again, the issue was that he was doing so as a general of the United States military by wearing his uniform. This is wrong. And again, not wrong because he wore his uniform to church, but wrong because he began speaking about issues that can inflame a current situation.

Despite what Christians may think, there are many U.S. service men and women who are not Christian. I was one of them. Occasionally things would come out like Bible study after work, or praying in some meeting that would make me a little uncomfortable. If you start allowing leaders to attempt to rally their troops based on Christian teachings, eventually those troops are going to start feeling just as divided as the country does.

In the military we all shave our heads and wear the same uniform for a reason, so that we are all one big happy team. Start dividing that team by race, sex, or religion, and you will have a big mess on your hands.

If a general stood in a mosque, in uniform, and began telling of the joys of Allah we’d string him up big time. Or perhaps a general may stand up and pray to the goddess for strength and end the prayer with blessed be. How would you react then? Don’t whip out the, “well our founding fathers B.S.” either until you have read most of my articles on this site.

As I have mentioned time and again in my writings, we must be careful where religion is brought into the mix. Unfortunately, many of the Christian faith have not left the crusades behind them, and still believe that because they believe, the rest of the world should too.

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