Why Is the Military Spending Millions on Christian Contractors Bent on Evangelizing US Soldiers?
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Conversion by Temptation
As I've been sitting here writing this post, an email came in to MRFF from a soldier who is currently in Advanced Individual Training (AIT), the stage of training between basic training and and a soldier's first assignment, where the soldier receives training in the particular job they will be doing. During AIT, soldiers are typically given a few privileges that they didn't have in basic training, but not many.
This soldier's email is a a great example of a common strategy that I call "conversion by temptation," where the military ministries and the military itself tempt young soldiers and military children with fun or exciting things to lure them into participating in programs and events where they can be "saved." What young soldier would pass up a vacation at a resort with their spouse that they could never afford on their military salary? That's how the Army's Strong Bonds program gets many soldiers who would never attend an religious retreat to attend evangelical Christian retreats. What teenage kid would pass up a ski trip or week at the beach with the other kids? That's how DoD funded military youth ministries like MCYM lure the teenage kids of our service members.
The email that just came in from the soldier in AIT was about the soldiers in training being granted extra privileges if they attend the programs on his post run by Cadence International. These privileges include being allowed to have pizza and soda on Friday nights if they go to the Christian "Coffee House," even if they haven't reached the stage of training where this is allowed, and being allowed to wear civilian clothes and engage in all sorts of fun activities if they go to Cadence's on-post weekend retreats.
To a non-Christian soldier in AIT, getting the extra privileges and having some fun are worth the price of having to sit through the fundamentalist Christian sermons that go along with these activities, so many of them do it. Others go along simply because they don't want to stand out from the crowd and be singled out as being of the "wrong" religion or not being religious.
Cadence particularly targets soldiers in AIT for a reason -- these are the soldiers likely to soon be facing their first deployment. And this ministry, which, as noted above receives DoD contracts for their work, makes no secret of why they've chosen AIT as its mission field. One of the reasons given by Cadence for the success of its "Strategic Ministry" is: "Deployment and possibly deadly combat are ever-present possibilities. They are shaken. Shaken people are usually more ready to hear about God than those who are at ease, making them more responsive to the gospel." Of course, they must first gain access to these "shaken" soldiers, but that's no problem -- the Army helps them out by allowing them to operate on Army posts and granting the soldiers in AIT extra privileges if they attend Cadence's retreats.
For more details on these and other taxpayer funded schemes to Christianize the U.S. military, see " Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic," the chapter I wrote for the 2010 book Attitudes Aren't Free: Thinking Deeply about Diversity in the US Armed Forces, published by Air University Press, the publishing arm of the Air Force's Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Chris Rodda is the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).