On July 18, air force Brig. Gene. John Teichert assumed assignment of the 412th test wing on Edwards Air Force Base. Less than a month later, on August 12, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation served one Complaint of 22 pages & # 39; s against him for violating military rules and regulations on religious conversion, based on the online record at Teichert Christian ministry website, "PLUS"(" Prayer at Lunchtime for the United States "), which has been in business for more than five years, well before his last promotion Within a week, the MRFF, a watchdog group established in 2005, received a report from the Ministry of Defense began.
According to a press statement from MRFF founder and president Michael L. Weinstein, a former air force officer, on the Teichert website he has "LGBT individuals who are denounced, American society in general, and, of course, delivered election vote mandate guidelines" insisted that only certain categories of Christians should be elected for a public office.
Military officers enjoy the same freedom of religion as everyone in America, so the religious faith of Teichert is no problem in itself. But military service brings with it special limitations on how religion is expressed, especially if that expression is supposed to undermine military efficiency, a point at the heart of the MRFF's complaint.
For example Air Force Instruction 1-1, Paragraph 2.15.4. states the following:
Flyers giving comments and opinions on internet blogs they host or on other people's internet blogs do not post comments on those blog sites that can reasonably be expected or intended to degrade the morale, good order and discipline of members or units in the US armed forces, service-discrediting or affecting public confidence in the United States Air Force.
The complaint was submitted on behalf of 41 clients with Teichert's new command (of which 32 identify themselves as Christians), "many of whom are in mortal danger of retaliation, were they personally identified in this matter, something that MRFF suggests is an equally problematic issue, "as the text explains. Elsewhere, the MRFF complaint states that Teichert's specific form of jealousy is not "diversity, unity cohesion, good order and discipline, religious tolerance, and esprit de corps, " all considered core values of the 21st-century army.
"Our clients feel mentally raped by this general, and he was their commander," Weinstein told Salon, by comparing these conditions with the Tailhook Scandal, which made sexual intimidation in the army a major national problem. According to him, this is much more hidden. The complainants did not feel like they could confront Teichert or even talk openly with him, Weinstein said, "because once again, when you do, you're done."
Weinstein summarized the problem in this way: "When you tell someone – and you are a general in the air force [speaking] to a subordinate – that you lack integrity, character, honor, honorableness, intelligence, courage, etc., because of the chosen religious belief or lack thereof, there is no difference between that and tell someone that they are stupid because of the color of their skin or because they were born without a penis. "
Teichert fervently believes that America was founded as a Christian nation, and has fallen away from its original exalted state. The cultural resonance of these views – although they represent fake history – helps to provide cover for activity otherwise it would cause indignation.
"Can you imagine what would happen if, instead of Brig. Gene. Ernest John Teichert, we had Brig. General Mohammed Assan and it turned out that he had prayed for the United States during the Lunchtime and that it was completely Islamic? & # 39; Early Weinstein. "There would be blood in the streets."
Prior to his current assignment, Teichert was the wing commander of Andrews air base, home to Air Force One, the president's plane. So Teichert alone is not the problem. "We wants to know who else knows more, & # 39; Weinstein said. Seniors from the Ministry of Defense and Air Force "knew what this man did and were complicit, but did not do anything."
Weinstein's customers are faced with a situation that is difficult to access for outsiders, he explained. Weinstein himself graduated from the Air Force Academy – one of six in his family – who served as a military attorney at the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps for seven years. His family has served in all major US combat actions from the First World War to the current war on terror. MRFF, founded by Weinstein, represents more than 57,000 active service soldiers, reserve members, DOD civilian personnel and veterans, of whom 96 percent identify themselves as Christians. So he knows what he is talking about.
"The army is unbelievably tribal, hostile, municipal and ritualistic, "Weinstein said." Everyone who is above you has incredible control over you. You can lose freedom if you even dislike them a bit. We have, I think, 12 of our clients killed in action. It was very difficult. We still had a dozen who committed suicide. & # 39;
Teichert & # 39; s defenders (quoted in this story from Air Force Times, for example), have tried to claim that he has simply been engaged in private religious practices, of which everyone agrees that it is a protected constitutional right. But the fact that 41 complainants have come forward strongly suggests.
The complaint asks for an investigation into whether Teichert's behavior interferes with or infringes civil liberties or equal opportunities of service members and citizens under his command, and also whether it is in conflict with a number of important provisions of Air Force instruction 1-1, including the following (in addition to Paragraph 2.15.4. cited above):
Paragraph 2.11: "Every Airman is free to practice the religion of their choice or subscribe to no religious faith at all. You must confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose views are different from your own. "…
Paragraph 2.12: Leaders at all levels must find a balance between constitutional protection for their own free practice of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against the establishment by the government of religion. They have to take care of it their words and actions can not reasonably be interpreted as an official approval or refutation of, or extension of, a preferential treatment for any belief, belief or absence of belief. …
Paragraph 2.15.5, Use of social media [Excerpt]: When you express personal opinions on social media sites and can be identified as an Airman, you must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of the air force. Although service employees can use their rank and service in general, even if they act in a personal capacity, they are not allowed to do this in situations where the context may imply an official sanction or approval of their personal opinion. [Emphasis added.]
In the press statement of Weinstein he states that "Teichert has his position in the USAF of higher functions inextricably intertwined "with his ministry and conversion on the PLUS website. Paragraph 2.12. is continually violated, because there is no disclaimer makes it clear that they are The personal views of Teichert, unlike official ones. On the contrary, Teichert parades his rank often and repeatedly represents a misrepresentation of American history to repeat his views and provide them with ersatz legitimacy and a semblance of official sanction. As Weinstein notes, Teichert has also attacked America in a way that is unthinkable from a hypothetical general who was Muslim.
In a early post, from April 2013, "Unrecognizable from the original – Hebrews 13: 8," Teichert overflows about the way America has changed since its inception, which he assumed was almost perfect, slavery and everything, because it so called by being Christian.
"It is clear that American Christians have steadily drifted away from the Lord, following in the footsteps of an aggressively liberalizing society," writes Teichert. "How did we, both as a people and as a nation, reach such a position that is largely unrecognizable from where we started? The answer is a series of small compromises." What compromise does he have? The abolition of slavery? Voting rights for women? He does not say.
That is just one of many such messages. In July of that year Teichert has the theme of "omission,"Writing:" Evil triumphs in our nation because the good does nothing. "He quoted a series of 12 previous reports about how the" sins of omission are clear among us, "and criticized He America with a persistence that everyone would get left of Genghis Khan accused of betrayal.
This is all justified, it seems, by the mythology of America's so-called pure Christian origin, which supports a multitude of false or distorted historical stories. This is a subject long studied by Frederick Clarkson, senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Massachusetts.
"Teichert's blog posts embody a sort of historical revisionism that historian Frank Lambert calls" creating a useful past & # 39 ;, "Clarkson told Salon. "This is done by selecting facts from history and suggests that they support contemporary conservative Christian political views and candidates, or, more importantly, an interpretation of the constitution.This is how Christian nationalists create a history that they use to not only to justify their favorite politicians and issues du jour, but often the more profound vision of political domination that we call Dominionism & # 39;
In its strongest forms, the ideology known as Dominionism is clearly anti-democratic and unameric. Laws passed by overwhelming majorities are invalid if they violate God's Law & # 39; – separating the varieties, for example, which was long regarded as a biblical mandate in the pre-civil rights South. For obvious reasons, most American dominionists of the 21st century protect or conceal their beliefs, sometimes even themselves. But their underlying logic is largely influential, says Clarkson:
Once one has arrived at the idea that the United States is established as a Christian nation, and that this means based on Christian or biblical principles (they are often used interchangeably), one has a self-issued license to serve as a spokesperson for God. serve and the founders. Political opinions have the character of revealed truths.
Teichert has a method in his blog, in which he quotes a biblical passage, and sometimes a quote from a founding father or other remarkable person who leads him to say that "Christian citizens" must choose Christian candidates (of the right kind, of course) who then have to pursue a policy based on Christian principles, because that is what God wants from his Christian nation.
Although this is deeply misleading – and eerily reminiscent of the reasoning behind the Al-Qaida or ISIS interpretation of Islamic doctrine – nothing would lead to Teichert expressing these views as a citizen. He is not. He is a senior military officer who commands thousands, with the duty to promote unity rather than division. The danger that Teichert can form in that order is rooted in a fundamental historical untruth trapped in a April 2016 blog post in which he claimed that "at the start of the Revolutionary War between 98.4% and 99.8% of Americans were Christians," referring to a book promoted by Glenn Beck, who has long been obsessed with "proving" that George Washington was an orthodox Christian. (Which would prove nothing if it is true, and has been carefully refuted.)
Teichert's supposed statistic is both false on his own terms and deeply misleading, Clarkson responded by email:
That percentage is stupid and is not confirmed by contemporary fair, showing that only about 17% of the population in the colonies were church members at the time of the revolution. But whatever the number or percentage, there was also a wide variety of Christians in the colonies, including Congregationalists, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Reformed, quakers, Mennonites and Presbyterians. So when someone says Christian, this meant different things for different people. The same applies today.
To claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, one must ignore such facts, since the establishment of the United States has set in motion the dismantling of 150 years of mini colonial theocracies; that there was no question of God or Christianity in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights; [and] that this was because the framers recognized that the glue that would hold a religiously diverse people together would be religious equality in the eyes of the law.
In short, the power of America as a nation – and even its existence – depends on avoiding the kind of religious conflicts of exclusion where Teichert deals with. The original motto of our nation says it all: E pluribus unum. In the same spirit, after quotes from George Washington's own correspondence on the subject of military chaplains serving religiously diverse troops, the MRFF notes that our nation's father "concerned about even the & # 39; slightest anxiety & # 39; about religion and objection made against everything that would force people into a way of worship that they did not confess & # 39 ;.
Many of the most worrying messages identified by the identified MRFF clients were related to Teichert & # 39; s division between religious warriors. The general often writes as if he were at war with America himself, and certainly with anyone who does not share his own form of fundamentalist belief. Here are a few examples:
- In June 2014 He wrote"We are involved in a war between fundamentally opposing ideologies."
- In December 2014, He wrote about "the enemies of Christ."
- In October 2015 He wrote"God has entrusted us to subdue our own kingdom – the America of the 21st century."
- Also in October 2015 He wrote"In the America of the 21st century, we may feel that we have landed behind enemy lines in enemy controlled territory."
- In April 2016 he wrote that "the opponent has made the first photo's of the current fight."
- On July 28thth from this year, He wrote, "Far too often Christians go against other Christians who are not very different from themselves, sometimes with great violence and struggle. … Whenever this happens, it is a dark day for the cause of Christ when there are many real enemies that should be the focus of our forces. "He concluded with the words:" PRAY FOR UNITY PRAY BIBLE-BELIEVE CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA TO PREVENT CORRECTLY REAL LIABILITY. " [All-caps in the original.]
There is an important, or almost invisible, layer of cultural influence at work that probably affects how this case is perceived, and even how it takes place in military bureaucracy. This is known as "secularized evangelical discourse" [SED]ie an ideological orientation derived from evangelical Christian roots, but then is expressed in public in religious non-particularist terms & # 39 ;, as described in a recent article for the journal Social Forces, "Christian America? Secularized Evangelical Discourse and the Boundaries of National Homes," by Jack Delehanty, Penny Edgell and Evan Stewart.
Even if evangelicals decrease as a percentage of the electorate, the persistence of SED claims a powerful influence on culture, these scholars claim. In practice, this means that Teichert's deep divisive Christian conversion is instinctively defended by many people who do not share his most extreme beliefs and who will undoubtedly be horrified by a website that expresses similar views from an Islamic (or Hindu or Jewish) point of view.
READ MORE: Why does CNN integrate a right-wing radio station that promotes violent, extreme rhetoric?
My first thought was that you could see the range of influences at work in terms of concentric rings of influence: hardcore dominionist beliefs on the target's dandruff, first surrounded by Christian nationalism and then by secular evangelical discussions. That metaphor "seems to be a little too straightforward", said co-author Delehanty at Salon.
"I think that Dominionism can also exist separately from Christian nationalism, because it is more of a theological position than a political one," he said. Delehanty pointed to the infamous example of the fanatical extremists in the Westboro Baptist Church, who in most respects would qualify as Dominionists, but "believe that the nation and all people in it" are totally depraved "- so disgusted and hated by God that there is literally no point in trying to organize a nation around its favor. & # 39;
Edgell, another co-author, agrees. "WHile, the bullseye metaphor is very suggestive, what happens is more about overlapping, "she said." When are the nationalist and dominionist tensions in a way that one strengthens the other? "
Their paper concentrates on four particularly important SED statements and is widely shared by Christians who might otherwise not have extreme positions or even be particularly pious:
- that religious identity is important for good citizenship,
- that religious belief is a criterion for strong political leadership,
- that the rules of society must be based on divine will,
- that public institutions must more than take account of religious beliefs and practices.
The paper found that SED enjoys majority support, which goes far beyond evangelical demography, but with qualified power. Visions are generally divided into four groups – fierce opposition, moderate opposition, moderate support and fervent support. There is no sensible center & # 39; that in this respect as well as opposite to & # 39; both extremes & # 39; state, said co-author Stewart. "Even among the moderates, the consensus on the symbolic role of religion is limited.In general, people agree on how governments should adapt to religious belief and devotion, but the role of evangelical ideas in symbolic boundaries remains a source of contention. "
Another surprise is that "even strong supporters of SED hesitate to support explicit Christian prayers in schools and government funding of religious charities," Stewart suggests: "Even the most conservative Americans use religious ideas as a source of symbolic borders more than as a basis for law and policy. "
Edgell made a related point: "Talking about symbolic boundaries can drown out the debate on a substantive agenda, and substantive agenda items are difficult to talk about on their own terms." An example would be the way in which the MRFF, the foundation of Weinstein, has often been attacked as "atheistic" or "anti-Christian", although it is customers and members who overwhelmingly identify themselves as Christians.
This opens up a whole new range of questions about how war issues from religious culture will be framed and reformulated in the coming years. But as far as it goes under the orders of Teichert, it comes down to this: their life is not a symbolic toy for the improper exercise of power by a general by treating them as such. Although many of those who have raised complaints about the general's behavior are as Christian as he is (or maybe so), that is essentially irrelevant. Those who profess other religions or wear no uniform at all have the same flag and swear the same oath of allegiance to a nation whose constitution is completely silent about God.