Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Religion at USAFA

The Pentagon released a study that indicated that growing evangelical Christianity among the Cadets results in a lack of toleration and understanding for Jews and the practitioners of a variety of different sects and belief systems. There was no overt religious discrimination, the report said, but there was a failure to recognize a line between what was permissible and not permissible in the expression of beliefs.

The root of the whole issue at USAFA is personal evangelism on the part of believing Cadets. Some of those who had no faith system or practiced (or didn't practice) other belief systems felt the Cadets intruded into their life.

What officials tend to forget is that those in the military tend to be "gung ho" about almost anything they feel is important. The Bible teaches Christians they are to "go, teach, baptize, and teach" those who are unbelievers. Christianity also teaches that "there is no name given under heaven whereby we must be saved except the name of Jesus." In other words, sincere Christans may tolerate other individuals, but they are not called upon to tolerate or accept their belief systems as legitimate. Those opposed to Christians sharing their faith tend for forget that. Further, they often discount Christianity and consign it to the ash heap of "other systems."

This is not something new! One reason the Roman government persecuted Christians was for their "lack of tolerance." Religions were assimilated into the Roman Pantheon and were considered the "religion of a specific people or region." The Romans considered Christianity acceptable as long as they were seen as a "Jewish sect." Christianity, however, broke out from that identity when they scattered abroad. Everywhere Christians went, they preached an exclusive gospel. The silversmith riot in Ephesus was directly due to the fact that Paul taught Ephesians Christians that Diana was no goddess and the believers quit buying the little silver idols the silversmith's manufactured.

Genuine Christianity can accept individuals, love them, care for them, but they can't ignore them. At the same time, Christianity can not tolerate false doctrine and false teaching even in the name of pluralism. Just as there can't be two contradicting truths, there can't be two contradictory religions. If Christianity is the truth, Wicca, Islam, Judaism, or what have you can't be true. Consistent evangelism doesn't reflect disrespect for individuals. It does indicate genuine concern for if Christianity is true -- and the others are not -- then an individual's eternal destiny is at stake.

My son graduated with the USAFA Class of 1992. I was more than pleased with the quality of the officers assigned to the Academy for teaching and training. Many of these individuals were Christians. I did not agree with all of them in all things, but I was grateful for the consistency of their lives and their commitment to God and country. There were Bible studies and prayer times for the Cadets, but no forced anyone to attend. As far as I could tell, there was respect for others regardless of their belief system. My son never indicated to me that anyone was intrusive or intimidating in their concern for others.

All of this is part and parcel of the atmosphere of the USA in today's world. In our "politically correct" world, it doesn't matter what you believe. Well, I don't buy that. For some indication about how Christians should behave in 21st Century USA, you should make a thorough study of the New Testament and the history of the early church.