[Vision2020] A Really Awful Week For The Gospel

Bill London london at moscow.com
Tue Sep 7 12:24:50 PDT 2010

your elegant prose deserves wider reading.
Perhaps you could talk with the Daily News managing editor Lee Rozen about publication in the paper......BL
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: keely emerinemix 
  To: Tom Hansen ; vision2020 at moscow.com 
  Sent: Monday, September 06, 2010 12:14 PM
  Subject: [Vision2020] A Really Awful Week For The Gospel

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

    Courtesy of the Army Times at:


    Soldiers allege punishment over Christian concert 

    Army officials launch inquiry

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

    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 continues.

    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 private.

    “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 ended.

    “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 com­mand.

    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 wronged.

    “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, Fla.

    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.

    Lauren 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.


    The Christian rock band BarlowGirl was performing in concert at Fort Eustis, Va., when some soldiers protested that they were punished for deciding not to attend.

    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

    "Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."

    -- Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.


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