6 years, 10 months ago
Military.com recently carried this ridiculous account of a dustup over General Petraeus and religion.
Gen. David Petraeus is used to controversy surrounding the war in Iraq, but his publicized thoughts on an Army chaplain’s book for Soldiers put him squarely in the middle of the ongoing conflict over religious proselytizing in the U.S. military.
The book is “Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel,” by Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William McCoy, and according to Petraeus’ published endorsement of the work, “it should be in every rucksack for those times when soldiers need spiritual energy.”
But the endorsement – which has spurred a demand by a watchdog group for Petraeus’ dismissal and court martial on the grounds of establishing a religious requirement on troops – was a personal view never intended for publication, the book’s author now says.
“In the process of securing … comments for recommending the book I believe there was a basic misunderstanding on my part that the comments were publishable,” McCoy said in an Aug. 19 email to Military.com. “This was my mistake.”
In addition to Petraeus, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling also is quoted plugging the book in press releases and advertisements and on the jacket.
McCoy, writing in response to Military.com’s Aug. 18 inquiry to Petraeus’ office for comment, said the two generals’ endorsements “were intended for me personally rather than for the general public.”
In response to follow-up questions from Military.com, McCoy said he has asked that all distribution of the book be halted until a new “graphic overlay” for the back cover is produced “so there is no further public misunderstanding.”
McCoy did not respond to questions on the timing of the endorsements, and why it took so long before the officials learned their endorsement has been used in print. Petraeus’ endorsement has been on the book since its 2007 publication, while Hertling’s plug first appeared on the 2005 edition. Both also are quoted in newspaper ads for the book and on the book’s Amazon.com Web page.
Patraeus spokesman Col. Steven Boylan said the general has been Iraq since the beginning of February 2007, “and unless someone [like Military.com] notes it, we would not be aware of it,” he said in an Aug. 19 email. “We don’t get the stateside papers in Baghdad and I doubt very much that Gen. Petraeus goes to Amazon.com much, if at all.”
Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, believes McCoy is taking the fall for Petraeus and Hertling’s improper endorsements. Weinstein said it “strains credulity” that Petraeus never knew that his private written endorsement of the book was in the public domain since last year.
Weinstein is a former Air Force judge advocate general and White House counsel during the Reagan administration. His group has been fighting in the courts to keep improper proselytizing out of the military. Now, he said, he intends to incorprate the Petraeus and Hertling endorsements into an ongoing lawsuit against the Pentagon for an alleged pervasive and permicious “pattern and practice” of religious liberties violations in the military.
What a idiot – Weinstein, that is. Let’s cover some basics before we offer a terse response to him. The basics has to do with some brief observations by Rousas John Rushdoony concerning religion and the American system.
I first encountered Rushdoony at L’Abri, a Christian community high in the Swiss Alps. The year was 1964. Francis Schaeffer, the founder and director of L’Abri, had recently come across a little book by Rushdoony called This Independent Republic: Studies in the Nature and Meaning of American History, and he made it the basis for a seminar with the students at L’Abri. We gathered in the living room of Chalet les Mélèzes, where most of the community’s meetings were held. It was before Schaeffer became a popular sage for many evangelical Christians, and so we could study such a text informally, though we always did so with care.
The topics covered in the Rushdoony book were wide-ranging. The chapter that Schaeffer chose for the subject of his seminar focused on the difference between the American and the French Revolutions. Drawing on scholars such as Peter Drucker and James C. Malin, Rushdoony challenged the propriety of calling America’s defensive war against Great Britain a true revolution. According to him it was instead a “conservative counterrevolution,” whose purpose was to preserve American liberties from their usurpation by the British Parliament. It owed nothing to the Enlightenment. By contrast, the French Revolution was the direct result of the Enlightenment, along with the organizational strategies fostered by various secret and esoteric societies.
Though at the time I was too much a novice in history to judge the accuracy of his thesis, I was drawn to the clarity and cogency of Rushdoony’s arguments. Those were heady days at L’Abri, which in the sixties was a seedbed for ideas that captivated our imaginations and sought to link every area of our lives to a Christian worldview. A Christian historiography containing such a powerful critique of the point of view most of us received in school was for me a great stimulation. Rushdoony taught us that the American Constitution, with its eloquent absence of references to Christian faith, was a secular document only in appearance. In fact, it was deliberately fashioned as a minimalist document by men of genius whose primary purpose was to ensure the vitality of local government. Here Rushdoony added a distinctive perspective, one which would become a leitmotif throughout his long career, and one which would have a wide impact on other figures in his circle.
In Rushdoony’s view, the Constitution did not need to include a Christian confession because the states were already a Christian establishment or settlement. The First Amendment prohibited laws respecting the establishment of religion because religion was already established at the local level. There were sabbath rules, religious tests for citizenship, laws regarding heterosexual fidelity, blasphemy laws-all of them strongly connected to biblical law. The First Amendment was intended to protect the states from interference by the federal government.
The confusion of church and state would involve, for example, sanctioning a particular denomination such that they got financial breaks (e.g., viz. taxes) that other denominations did not. Public displays of religion, or the notion of a world view as the basis for a system of laws, is not breaking the barrier between the institutions of church and state. Further, barriers between church and government are not the same as barriers between religion and laws. All laws are based on some world view, and America has as the basis for its system of laws Judeo-Christian philosophy.
Now. Given this as backdrop, it makes no sense whatsoever for Mr. Weinstein to be troubling himself and us so with such childish arguments. He should find a way to contribute to the global war on terror, and quit pestering General Petraeus. Weinstein has officially become annoying to TCJ. The good General endorsed a particular book as good for his soul. So what? Doesn’t Weinstein have to go cut his grass or take out the trash, or something else useful?
TCJ hears Weinstein’s wife calling. You have chores, now. Run along.