The Air Force Academy Chapel
Frequent guest blogger and honorary Hedgehog Ralph Kostant submits the following trenchant analysis of the recent kerfluffle at the Air Force Academy over religious matters:
The mainstream media have been filled this week with breathless reports of how a senior cadet and honors graduate at the Air Force Academy, Nicholas Jurewicz, had sent an e-mail containing Biblical quotations to 3000 other cadets. This was portrayed as one more grievous example of evangelical Christian strong-arming at the Academy.
Now, I am an Orthodox Jew, so, yes, I do have a dog in this fight. And, quite frankly, I did think the coach at the Academy who put up a Team Jesus Christ banner in the locker room had gone too far—to me that does smack of potentially coercive religious endorsement in a government institution.
But something about this most recent story bothered me—frankly, it smelled. Almost all of the news accounts mentioned only one Biblical quote, from Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” However, several news accounts mentioned that the Biblical quotes were included among other quotations that Cadet Jurewicz said were meaningful to him. To me, that was the smoking gun that suggested the entire incident was being hysterically overblown.
I have tried, so far without success, to locate a copy of the actual e-mail. But this story from the Colorado Springs Gazette is illuminating. Here is the money quote:
The 22-page attachment contains dozens of quotations on leadership, challenge, war, attitude, love and faith. They’re from a range of authors and famous people, including Erma Bombeck, Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mohandas Gandhi, Isaac Newton, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower and William Shakespeare. Also included are a sprinkling of selections from the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
Plato and Gandhi? Was Jurewicz not only an evangelical Christian, but also an evangelical Greek pagan and an evangelical Hindu? Is he also perhaps a follower of the Erma Bombeck cult? Or is it more likely that he fashioned a farewell message to his fellow cadets, and included quotations that were meaningful to him from a number of sources, including (horrors!) the Bible? Has the hysterical fear of evangelical Christianity reached the point where the Bible cannot be quoted in a secular context as an inspiration and a source of wisdom?
It is fortunate that Abraham Lincoln did not have to deliver his Second Inaugural Address in this atmosphere. In addition to quoting the Bible several times in a short speech, he practically preached a sermon. Speaking of the two sides to the still-raging Civil War, he said:
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
My word, what would Senator Clinton say?
Ralph B. Kostant