Saturday, January 10, 2009

Religion, Wright-Patterson, and an Accepting Regional Culture

Tip 'o the lid to Mr Anonymous Poster who commented on the gay and lebsian thread on a religous angle vis a vis Wright-Patterson.

I've always suspected an unholy alliance between the military and conservative Christianity, usually grouped under the term "fundamentalism", though this is a narrow term describing just one theological stream in conservative Christianity. It seems this is or might be an issue at Wright-Patterson, and would no-doubt contribute to a homophobic culture emanting from the base and its contractors.

As we all know one of the primary opponets to aspirations of the lesbian and gay rights movement is organized religion, which in this country means the the Protestant conservative Christian denominations (but also the Roman Catholic church). A community or institution where these religous trends are strong would be, ipso facto, not that accepting gays and lesbians beyond a grudging "love the sinner/hate the sin" kind of tolerance.

The source is the website of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton. It didn't take long at all to google this up:

Religous Intolerance at Wright-Patterson

At public speaking engagements, Mikey Weinstein says he often reads a letter he received in July 2006 from a former contractor at Wright-Patt. Back at home in Albuquerque, he reads from the letter on the phone:

"I worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for just over a year as a civilian contractor...Staff meetings were prefaced and closed by fundamentalist Christian prayer sessions, and the senior NCOs who led the prayer sessions made it clear to the military trainees that they were judged on whether or not they enthusiastically participated. The trainee air persons were given the choice of attending fundamentalist Christian religious prayer ceremonies on Sunday or being assigned to particularly onerous substitute duties. It was made very clear to them that decent evaluations and a successful training period leading to a tolerable term of enlistment or a career in the Air Force included completely embracing fundamentalist Christianity...I was appalled to find groups of senior officers praying as a decision-making aid...Once I got to know people and heard more conversations, I realized that for many officers, the war in Iraq is not at all politically motivated, but religiously motivated. It is a fundamentalist Christian jihad that will bring on the apocalypse and rapture, which is what they want...Hearing this from people who hold destructive atomic and nuclear weapon systems is terrifying to me...immediately after I renewed my contract, I was repeatedly and aggressively proselytized and told to ‘get with the Jesus program and help spread the word of Jesus.’"

Then there's this:

Another issue that came up, Casey Weinstein says, was religious content sent out through official base e-mail.

"It was called The War on Christmas (an excerpt from the book by former Fox News anchor John Gibson) and it was sent out to a bunch of people using official e-mail that just trashes on people who have problems with Christmas being in the workplace."

Casey Weinstein went to his direct supervisor to discuss this e-mail.

"Now apparently, he heard that I had complained about the Christian prayer in Jesus’ name on Thanksgiving, which was supposed to be a secular prayer," he says. "So he flipped out. He started yelling at me, with the door open, in front of subordinates, basically just ruining my credibility in the squadron. I got back up and got in his face and showed him the regulations and showed him the regulation about not being allowed to use e-mail for those purposes, here’s the appropriate prayers, and he backed down really quickly."

"In the military, they want complete and team players," Mikey Weinstein says. "Anyone who says, ‘That’s great, but you’re in violation of the bedrock principle of our country, which is our Constitution — It’s asking too much of a young trooper to stand up. And it’s very hard to say, ‘No sir, no ma’am, you can’t do this.’"

Casey Weinstein’s wife, Amanda, also graduated from the Air Force Academy and was on active duty at Wright Patt. She is a Unitarian. Together, they attend Temple Israel, a Unitarian church, and a Buddhist fellowship.

"I gained this new perspective of what it’s like to be a minority in the military," she says. "Because for me, I never had to ask to get Christmas off. I never had to ask to get Easter off. And all of a sudden, I have to ask to get Yom Kippur off and go to services. And I’d ask and they’d just say no — here in Dayton. And then I was repeatedly told no, I can’t go to Yom Kippur services by our exec, a captain, and finally Dad had to get involved and say, ‘No, she can go to services.’"

More at the link.

Now this might all be just special cases in a very large institution. Or it might account for why the point spread against gay marriage was higher here than in any other urban county in the state. If one adds Bellbrook, Beavercreek and Fairborn (since, unlike Akron or Toledo the heart of our metro sits right on a county line)to the numbers for Montgomery County against gay marriage, the point spread might could well be worse.

And recall the little controversy from last year about the Sugarcreek Mosque. Not saying there is a base connection with that little spat, but more an illustration of the less-than-tolerant attitudes conservative Christianity can foster.


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