West Point’s Miracle on the Hudson
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi
Ready for a good news story? As this letter of gratitude from the Office of the Superintendent shows, an incredibly improbable meeting between formerly bitter enemies was held 3 days ago on the banks of the Hudson River at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. How do I know? Because I was one of those formerly bitter enemies, and I was there.
But first, a little backstory to this miracle meeting.
Let it never be said that there’s such a thing as a “lost cause.” Likewise, let us be on guard at all times against those who seek to reduce the world to hurtful stereotypes alone. As the founder and president of the 5-time, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated civil rights advocacy organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), I’m often on the receiving end of such vile mischaracterizations, ranging from the silly (“ Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan”) and the vile (“Jewish lawyer Whine-stein”) to the, well, unprintable. We at MRFF would certainly be doing no good service to anyone if we slipped into such erroneous means of judging the broad range of honorable people who comprise our armed forces. However, we never hesitate from calling it exactly as we see it, as is certainly the case when we denounce the vile monsters who comprise the militant evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, Dominionist bigots both in and out of military uniform. These religious extremist predators are rabidly foaming at their mouths to reduce our cherished Constitutional protections to rack and ruin.
Likewise, we don’t shirk our responsibility to offer justifiable commendations to those who deserve it. Such merit is rare making it all the more critical to recognize it.
Case in point: U.S. Army Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., the brand new Superintendent/Commanding General of the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.
Lt. Gen. Caslen takes two things very seriously: his commission as a flag (General) officer within the U.S. Army, and his religion as a devout evangelical Christian. This choice is his to make. Caslen, like the rest of us, is Constitutionally allowed to practice his faith however he sees fit, provided that he doesn’t step beyond the bright boundaries of the laws of the land in America. However, when you don the uniform of a United States servicemember, the only faith you should proselytize is that of American patriotism and unyielding fealty towards the Constitutional values contained therein. Your paramount duty is to support and defend that Constitution and adhere to all of the Department of Defense’s directives, instructions, and regulations. One may practice their faith, or practice absolutely no faith at all, however they choose to do so, without compromising their religious principles, provided they practice in the proper time, place, and manner.
So, to make MRFF’s stance exceedingly clear, the Christian faith and the Christian faithful are no issue for us, none whatsoever, regardless of what the “American Taliban” and its legion of gutter publications and conspiratorial, rumor-packed telecasts, radio programs and scurrilous blogs claim. Our MRFF client base of over 34,000 servicemembers, DoD civilian personnel, and armed services veterans is 96% Christian (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) in composition. We by no means seek to witch-hunt every Christian in the armed forces (as our defaming detractors incessantly suggest) – to attempt to do so would be unspeakably reprehensible, not to mention foolish beyond words. However, whenever proselytizing occurs in uniform, in the military workplace (which could be a tank, Humvee, foxhole, or cockpit), during the duty day (which for many servicemembers can be a 24/7 ordeal), and/or from superior to subordinate, you’d better damn well expect MRFF to come out swinging for those oppressed.