The issue of religious tolerance has created challenging times for the United States military. All the service branches are trying to protect the rights of both those with religious beliefs and those with none. The choices made by military leaders exist in a pressure-packed environment framed by their oath of service, the Constitution, military guidelines, public opinion, and their own personal beliefs.
Recently, Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commander of Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, became the focus of a Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) demand for an official investigation into his conduct, specifically a personal website that calls the nation to pray for itself and its future. The MRFF, led by former Air Force captain and activist attorney Michael L. (Mikey) Weinstein, alleges that Teichert is violating the Defense Department policy concerning religious proselytizing.
Retired Four-Star Gen. Roger A. Brady has had discussions with Weinstein regarding these kinds of religious issues and pressures. He was once the personnel director for all Air Force personnel, and he finished his 41 years of duty in 2011 as 33rd commander of all US Air Forces in Europe and led the joint NATO Allied Command from Ramstein, Germany. General Brady is a longtime Christian who now sits on the board of trustees for Mid-Atlantic Christian University and serves as the deacon over adult education at his local congregation of the Church of Christ.
Brady led the 2005 inquiry into whether religious intolerance and discrimination were occurring at the United States Air Force Academy. Brady’s team found no outright or intentional religious discrimination, although it did discover some overzealous evangelism and a lack of awareness of how it adversely affected some cadets.
In a recent interview, Gen. Brady recalled his experiences and offered his viewpoints on the challenging issues facing Christians in the military.
Is there a conflict between the culture of the military and an officer who wants to live out his or her concept of Christian leadership in the military?
Sometimes people may assume that it’s harder to be a Christian in the military than in other occupations. With very few exceptions, I believe the opposite to be true. There’s not a natural rub between Christian leadership and the military.
Have you witnessed any discernible trends in military personnel becoming more—or less—faith-conscious over the decades of your career?
In some ways—and this is just my observation of people—I believe the generations coming behind me in the military may be more open and expressive about their faith than my generation was. But at the same time, the institution [of the military] itself is definitely becoming more nervous about expressions of faith.
Why is that?
I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, there have been instances of Christians who abused their position in promoting their faith, though I think that may be exaggerated by the attention it gets when it occurs. The second is that we are in an era where many people want safe zones, and some feel unsafe where people hold a view different from their own. It’s very easy to be offended and, so the thinking goes, if someone offends me, surely the system must do something about that. All of this tends to make the situation a bit more difficult than it might have been in the past.
What do you think of the approach the military is taking regarding believers in the ranks who wonder about sharing their faith with others in the military?
I become concerned at times that some people seem to think there should be almost a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for Christians in the military. The government ended that policy with regard to gender orientation, but there are some who would like to apply it to people of faith, as in, “I don’t care if you’re a Christian, but don’t tell me about it.”
The question of witnessing to your faith comes up occasionally. Between peers, I frankly see no issue at all. Not everyone agrees with me on that, by the way. But I really do not care if peers have spirited discussions about faith. We argue about everything else that’s important in life and some things that are not very important. So why should we worry about that? Young people all over America argue about everything under the sun, and that’s part of what education is about. So why should Air Force Academy students who are elite people of all faiths and no particular faith not have the opportunity to figure out who they are and what they believe with their peers? It’s actually part of their development.
Those opposing views have surfaced in the rhetoric and actions of Mikey Weinstein, whom you have had discussions with, and Air Force Reserve Chaplain Capt. Sonny Hernandez. Weinstein argues against most forms of religious expression in the military, while the Air Force Times has noted that Hernandez has posted a blog saying Christian service members who support religious liberty serve the Constitution “and not Christ.” What are your thoughts on these views?
These individuals you mention represent the extremes. I believe there is a reasonable middle ground. Actually, I think the most effective witness is our example. Sometimes I remind people of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi as illustrative of one who personified Christ with his daily behavior. He’s thought to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” I think that’s pretty good guidance.
Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today