[Vision2020] A Really Awful Week For The Gospel

keely emerinemix kjajmix1 at msn.com
Mon Sep 6 12:14:03 PDT 2010

This has been a really bad week for the Church whose Savior is Christ Jesus and whose members, unfortunately, are behaving just atrociously.  

The screeching protests about an expanded Muslim Center at Ground Zero, the vicious lie that Islam is a great religion for pedophiles, the public Koran burnings, and the continued insistence that President Obama is a secret, swarthy Muslim out to entrap and disable our country have  been in large part made by evangelical Christians -- the people most identified with Jesus Christ, whether by similarity or, as is the case here, by contrast.  Evangelicals, and I am one, are considered within the Church itself and outside of it to be those who hold most dearly to a high view of the Bible, a personal and transforming encounter with Christ, and the importance of bringing the Gospel to the world.  The public nature of that identity means that how we act, what we do, what we say and how we say it is, more than any other "Christian thing," what people will link mention of Jesus or the Gospel to.  I shudder to think what decent non-believers must think of Christianity after a week like this.  

Those evangelicals who screech and holler about a country threatened by "Muslim terrorists," godless liberals, a socialist, terrorist-embracing President, and a sentimentalist, Islam-affirming culture, and who do so as good Americans fervently committed to the Constitution, honor neither it nor the Bible when they try to violate the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment and the notion of peaceful civil engagement spoken to "aliens and strangers" -- that is, Christians, who believe we are "not of this world," but of heaven -- in the Scriptures.  Hatred of Muslims is not a Christian virtue, it's not a civic virtue, and it's not possible among those who claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  If we can't engage with a culture, even a hostile culture, in truth and love, then it's best we not engage at all.

Likewise, Christians who whip up hate by tapping into the wellspring of bigotry and anger in this country and who then claim innocence when the floodwaters of violence and hate engulf the culture, are not only steadfastly anti-American, but also anti-Christian.  Christians who demonize others who also call Abraham the father of their faith are guilty of the sin of bearing false witness when they lie about Islam, and they're guilty of malice and division when they use differences in belief to call for the subordination of those with whom they disagree.  There are certainly parts of the Jewish Old Testament, which Christians revere as the very word of God, that, apart from context and without proper exegesis, make my faith appear violent, unjust, and even barbaric to those unfamiliar with God's Word and the redemptive culmination of his purpose represented by the New Testament Gospel.  We don't appreciate being tarred as a people eager to stone adulterers, sack foreign villages, or enslave those who owe us money, and most of us have an answer to what the Gospel -- indeed, the Christian faith -- really entails.  What possible justification is there, then, for doing unto other faiths what we would never want them to do to ours?  Can any Christian truly envision the Apostle Paul striding into Ephesus and holding a public burning of silver statues of the goddess Artemis?  Would he whip up a crowd to trash the philosophies of the various Greeks worshiping there and demonize them for their belief in what Paul claimed, in reasoning respectfully with them, was a god unknown now revealed in Christ?  

I am not a Muslim.  I am a Christian, which means, among many other things, that I don't hold to or believe in the doctrines of Islam.  Muslims don't believe in or hold to the doctrines of Christianity, either.  But the respectful reasoning together modeled by the Apostle can only honor God.  I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; in fact, I would gladly die for the glory of the One it points to.  But I am ashamed of those of my brethren who have demonstrated recently not actions born of the Spirit of God but of the spirit of this fallen world, and I grieve at the damage they've done -- to the Muslim people, to the President, to civil engagement in our culture, and, mostly, to the testimony of what Christianity really is.  I apologize, with all my heart, for the ugliness displayed in Christ's name.  

And who am I to apologize?  No one, really, except for one woman who has made many mistakes in her own  testimony for Christ.  That doesn't relieve me of, or excuse me from, the burden to offer something better . . . and I can't try to offer something better without pointing out that what's being offered now is really, really, awful.  

I'm so sorry for it all.

I don't see them, but there may well be valid reasons to object to the expansion of a Muslim community center on privately-owned land near Ground Zero.  That's not the point here; legitimate debate requires that debaters not lie, scream, and stoop to falsehood and bigotry -- the lowest common denominator of American political rhetoric


From: debismith at moscow.com
To: thansen at moscow.com; vision2020 at moscow.com
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 21:01:06 -0500
Subject: Re: [Vision2020] Soldiers Allege Punishment Over Christian Concert

This is shameful, but hardly 
Given the enormous swing to the religious right in 
the US, the military will be heavily inhabited by those who espouse 
Fundamentalist views. The military has long been using training videos which are 
odious in their portrayal of non-Christians as the "enemy"; forced 
prayer is not uncommon, and Muslims, Athiests, Wiccans, and Buddhists have all 
been targeted in some units for being "un-American". Don't Ask Don't 
Tell may be repealed someday, but the beat goes on. Some group 
must be the "outsiders", and the military always 
uses this in order to utilize it as the(outdated) means of gaining loyalty 
in the ranks.
When a nation which was founded to counter enforced 
religion then begins to enforce religion through its military, we have a serious 
problem. Of course, this is likely to go unaddressed as the Glen Becks, Sarah 
Palins, and Rush Limbaughs continue unchallenged to spew their vilification of 
anyone who is not white, born again, and wealthy. Unless the "left" gets off 
their collective duffs and begins to fight back, this country is on its merry 
way to becoming a theocracy..........
Debi R-S

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  Tom Hansen 
  To: Moscow Vision 2020 
  Sent: Monday, August 30, 2010 5:32 
  Subject: [Vision2020] Soldiers Allege 
  Punishment Over Christian Concert

  Courtesy of the Army Times at:
  Soldiers allege punishment over Christian 

  officials launch inquiry

The Army is investigating alle­gations that soldiers were 
  pres­sured to attend a Christian con­cert — and punished when they 

Pvt. Anthony Smith says he was one 
  of 80 soldiers in Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Va., who were 
  punished for opting not to attend a Christian rock con­cert on post. The 
  soldiers were confined to their barracks, ordered to clean and were barred 
  from using cell phones and other elec­tronics, according to Smith and 
  another soldier who has asked to remain anonymous.

The Army is conducting an investigation into the incident, 
  ordered by Lt. Gen. John E. “Jack” Sterling, Training and Doctrine Command 
  chief of staff, TRADOC spokesman Harvey Perritt said. Perritt and a Fort 
  Eustis spokesman declined to offer details while the investigation 

Col. Thomas Collins, an Army 
  spokesman at the Pentagon, said the military should not impose religious views 
  on soldiers.

“It’s not a problem to hold a 
  Christian rock concert on an Army post; it’s a problem if soldiers who didn’t 
  want to attend were com­pelled to attend or feel punished for not 
  attending,” he said. “That is not consistent with Army poli­cy.” Smith 
  said he believes his spiri­tual life should remain 

“The religion thing being shoved 
  down my throat is really something that doesn’t work for me,” said Smith, now 
  in Arizona with the 640th Aviation Support Battalion. “As far as what I 
  believe, I believe there’s some­thing out there, but it’s a really 
  personal thing with me. If I have a relationship with God or that entity, it 
  is not anybody’s busi­ness, ever.” BarlowGirl, the Christian rock­ers 
  who played at Eustis as part of a Commanding General’s Spiritu­al Fitness 
  Concert Series, describe themselves on their website as “tender-hearted, 
  beautiful young women who aren’t afraid to take an aggressive, almost 
  warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.” 
  The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is readying a federal lawsuit, 
  according to its founder, Mikey Weinstein. He blasted the commander who 
  originated the concerts as a “walking neon sign of Defense 
  Department-sanctioned, ignominious fundamentalist Christian supremacy and 
  excep­tionalism.” On the evening of May 13, Smith was with A Company, 1st 
  Battalion, 222nd Aviation Regi­ment, which was in training at the Army 
  Aviation Logistics School. The student leader and the duty noncommissioned 
  officer, a first sergeant, assembled the company in formation and marched it 
  to the mess hall for dinner. After dinner, the unit was marched to the parking 
  lot just outside the concert venue.

“As soon 
  as they told us we were marching to chow because we were going to this concert 
  togeth­er, people started to f---ing freak out, people started to get 
  angry,” Smith said. “There were several Muslims in the company, and 
  peo­ple started getting upset right away.” Smith said A Company appeared 
  to be the only group entering the concert as a unit.

Outside the venue, the troops were asked to split into two 
  groups, those attending and those who would not. Smith and the oth­ers who 
  opted out were marched to the barracks, where they were placed on “lockdown,” 
  their activi­ties were restricted until the con­cert 

“Anybody in the military will tell you 
  that lockdown is a form of punishment,” Smith said. “When we don’t want to go 
  to this concert and we’re not allowed to use our laptops or our cell phones or 
  music, we’re not allowed to be sit­ting in our beds — that’s a form of 
  punishment.” Smith and eight other soldiers attempted to file a complaint with 
  a succession of Equal Opportunity officials in their chain of 

Smith said as he went through 
  the ranks, each official tried to dis­suade him from filing a formal 
  complaint, and all but one of the soldiers who first complained with him 
  backed off.

Smith said he spoke with the 
  company commander, who told him he took responsibility for directing the first 
  sergeant to send the unit to the concert.

Smith and the other soldier, who asked not to be identified, said 
  they would be willing to join the planned federal lawsuit. Neither said they 
  want to see soldiers pun­ished; Smith said he wants sol­diers to “know 
  and understand” why he and the other soldiers were 

“I want to help other people; I 
  don’t think that anyone should have to feel this,” Smith said. “I think that 
  somebody should look into these spiritual fitness events because I’m pretty 
  sure all of them are Christian. I guarantee I can’t go to an Army base and see 
  a Mus­lim rock concert described as spir­itual fitness.” Both soldiers 
  said the incident has changed their view of the Army and the country. The 
  soldier speaking anonymously about the incident said he fears people who are 
  irreligious by choice are no longer tolerated.

“We have mob rule, where it is purely Christian in every 
  direc­tion,” he said. “For someone like me, you feel surrounded.” Brig. 
  Gen. Brian R. Layer, who was the commanding general of the Army Transportation 
  School at Fort Eustis during the May inci­dent, inherited the spiritual 
  fit­ness concert series from Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers. A professed 
  born-again Christian, Chambers went on to Fort Lee, Va., and in April became 
  director for logistics at Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, 

As head of Army Combined Arms Support 
  Command at Fort Lee, Chambers duplicated the series, telling a post newspaper 
  in 2008, “The idea is not to be a pro­ponent for any one religion ... It’s 
  to have a mix of different perform­ers with different backgrounds.” 
  Between 2007 and 2009, the Army paid $125,000 to a booking agency for 
  Christian performers for events at Fort Lee and Fort Eustis, according to USAspend­ing.gov, a searchable 
  database of federal spending. The contractor was Indiana-based Street Level 
  Artist Agency.

Several performers who were 
  publicized in the post newspaper and played at Eustis in recent months all 
  advertised themselves as conveying a Christian message: Mark Schultz, Josh 
  Wilson, the Micah Watson Band, Brandishing Steel, True Liberty, Alathea, Phil 
  Keaggy, SonicFlood and Barlow-Girl.

  Barlow, a band member, said in her Twitter feed Aug. 21 that the band “knew 
  nothing at all about soldiers being forced to go to our show.” A federal 
  lawsuit by Military Religious Freedom Foundation would be the third in a 
  series it has undertaken against the Army over the last few years. The two 
  prior lawsuits, which took aim at alleged proselytizing by members of the 
  armed forces, were dismissed.

In January, a 
  federal judge in Kansas dismissed Spc. Dustin Chalker and the foundation’s 
  law­suit against the Defense Depart­ment, ruling Chalker failed to 
  exhaust all available remedies before filing suit.

Chalker claimed his rights were violated when he was compelled to 
  attend military events at Fort Riley, Kan., where prayers were made without 
  regard to his status as an atheist.

Also in 
  2008, a voluntary dis­missal was filed in a federal law­suit in which 
  Spc. Jeremy Hall alleged he was harassed and dis­criminated against 
  because he is an atheist.
  Christian rock band BarlowGirl was performing in concert at Fort Eustis, Va., 
  when some soldiers protested that they were punished for deciding not to 
  In my twenty years of Army service I had never experienced 
  anything even remotely similar to this allegation.
  But then I retired back in 1989, long before enlistment 
  criteria was tragically weakened.
  Seeya round town, Moscow.
  Tom Hansen
  Moscow, Idaho
  is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady 
  dedication of a lifetime."
  -- Adlai E. 
  Stevenson, Jr.

  services made available by First Step Internet, 
 serving the 
  communities of the Palouse since 1994.   
  mailto:Vision2020 at moscow.com

 List services made available by First Step Internet, 
 serving the communities of the Palouse since 1994.   
          mailto:Vision2020 at moscow.com
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