Friday, June 03, 2005

MUST-READ: The Air Force Academy and Evangelical Christians

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful. Tread lightly. Those evangelical Bombeckians are a rough bunch.  

Posted by Matthew Peek

Friday, June 03, 2005 4:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me the football coach thing was a little over the top. On the other hand where I grew up the schools routinely invited religious leaders of various belief systems to participate in ceremonial exercises. No one cared because there was no overt effort on the part of any of the persons invited to give an invocation or otherwise participate to advocate their own religious beliefs. I realize most people who read this blog probably believe the fact these situations arise are a symptom of the anti-religious left. I would submit it is more like the chicken and the egg---which came first---the hyperventilating christian or the hyperventilating non-christian (or whatever)? I doubt we will ever know but both sides need to take a deep breath and learn to ignore what they don't want to hear. 

Posted by Anonymous

Friday, June 03, 2005 9:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Your call for mutual tolerance is appropriate, but I doubt a very good case can be made for the proposition that Christian/religious excesses gave rise to the secularization of our society. I don't see any "chicken or egg" puzzle here. Just my opinion. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Friday, June 03, 2005 9:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe I implied it was Christian/religious excesses that led to this type of debate. The point was, I think, that for every lawsuit to exclude religion from anything that barely touches on the public property (schools, etc.) there has been an equal reaction in the other direction. I have been amazed for years how school districts nationwide, even prior to becoming a lawyer, have mistakenly believed that because of the first amendment they could not allow a religious group to meet after school as an extracurricular activity on the school property. I hope you don't think because the ACLU has been hijacked in many areas by partisan fools that there are not those who still believe that all speech can be expressed on government property regardless of who is behind it as long as it is equally open to all. I haven't really paid too much attention to your Boy Scouts issues, but I believe I would agree with you if the debate comes down to the scouts being able to use government owned land as long as any other group can gain equal access. A secular society does not, despite the probable dictionary definition, imply a place where religious beliefs have no basis. I would hope that a better definition is where someone's beliefs are respected regardless of whether they are generated by some religious basis or not. 

Posted by Anonymous

Saturday, June 04, 2005 12:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: We are in agreement. Thanks. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Saturday, June 04, 2005 5:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Ralph for bringing to light an easily discernable fact ( that the cadet quoted more than one figure head of a religion) that only you have had the clear mind to point out. Common sense seems to go out the window with hysteria. Any one who has read the e-mail can see that this was in no way an attempt to "sell" any religious beliefs. Much less evangelic christianity given the presence of other religious prophets qouted. Some people called this poor young man an idoit for what he wrote, but the only idiot I see is the person who looks at this e-mail and sees anything more than a soon-to-be-graduate leaving some quotes he found to be inspiring to his peers for moral support, is the real naive-lacking-common-sense idiot. Wake up America. 

Posted by Anonymous

Thursday, June 30, 2005 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger TS said...

Nice Blog!!!   I thought I'd tell you about a site that will let give you places where
you can make extra cash! I made over $800 last month. Not bad for not doing much. Just put in your
zip code and up will pop up a list of places that are available. I live in a small area and found quite

Saturday, October 01, 2005 8:29:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Austin said...

I like yuor blog. Please check out my adopt a dog blog.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 2:16:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home