When I was a kid growing up in the Civil Rights movement, the worst thing you could say about a person was that they were “prejudiced.” Being a prejudiced person in that era meant that you pre-judged someone based on the content of melanin in their skin, certainly not a wise proposition, and we are seeing an unprecedented level of prejudice against our soldiers who happen to be Christian, the chaplains who are endeavoring to give them the best possible spiritual care, and ultimately, against anyone one who believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Some days I feel like I am in pre-WWII Germany, and history reminds us that it wasn’t only Jews who were the objects of Hitler’s hate.
Athens Now has made a concerted effort to expose situations and trends that can demoralize our troops and thus make them less effective on the battle field. In the past few months we have discussed assaults on the chaplaincy and first amendment rights of our soldiers to express their faith, whether it be in sermons, prayers, essays, or taking a stand against something they believe is immoral.
During the beginning days of the shutdown it was even made clear to chaplains that they could face disciplinary action if they engaged in any religious activity at all, and could even risk being arrested! It is amazing that legislators had to get involved by insisting through a resolution that chaplains be allowed to be chaplains during the shutdown, but thankfully Congress moved quickly, and the bill passed handily.
However, it appears that things have sunk to a new low, and it always fascinates me when hard core hate against Christians manages to surface on a camp or a base that is in the Deep South. After all, aren’t we in the Bible Belt? And doesn’t every recruit from south of the Mason Dixon line know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Maybe not.
Camp Shelby in Mississippi was recently exposed to what can only be described as a classic propaganda technique: guilt by association. If you want to lump a good group in with a bad one in order to vilify the former, all you have to do is find some point upon which they agree, make up a bunch of stuff where they don’t, and voila´, you have guilt by association.
I think it is safe to say that most of us, whether we are Baptist or not, are offended by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. These folks are the ones who show up at the funerals of soldiers with horrible placards that disgrace the memory of the one by whom the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and subsequently wound the friends and families of the fallen. However, recently on Camp Shelby there was a “training” session in which soldiers were shown pictures of one of the events “crashed” by Westboro, and then right alongside showed a picture of the logo of the American Family Association. What is the common denominator? Both believe that gay marriage is immoral, as do the majority of Americans, but that is where the similarity ends. Unbelievably, our soldiers were told to “avoid the AFA at all costs.”
Thankfully, other conservative groups have come to the aid of the AFA, which is headquartered in Mississippi, and have sounded the alarm, again. To be clear, to respectfully disagree with someone’s lifestyle does not equal hate, in case anyone needs to be reminded, and our troops need to be protected from propaganda that is itself hateful. Perhaps more importantly, they need to have the chance to learn to recognize it when it comes their way. If you are interested in being a watchman (or woman) for those who watch for us, go to the Family Research Council’s website at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign the petition that would force the DOD to cease and desist with their prejudice and bigotry, and uphold the 1st Amendment rights of our troops.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner