Amidst all this hyperbole about how America the Beautiful is going to gallavant across the world making the world safe for secular democracy, it might be worthwhile to step back for a second and look at the U.S. record on the matter. If we look closely, I think we'll find that the military that has been entrusted with this sacred task has a history of shoving Christianity down the throats of anyone senseless enough to join. During my years in the military, I remember being told to bow my head and pray some Christian prayer during virtually every long ceremony. This doesn't sit right with many of us. We're told not to worry though, because the chaplain corps is diverse. Unfortunately, all this really means is that its a diverse group of monotheists (a la Christianity or Judism).
With this in mind, it's interesting to look at the table published in The Washington Post (A4) today. If your a military member belonging to the Independent Fundamental Churches of America, you can smile and praise the lord because there is one minister for every 1.4 of you. (In other words, every time three people from your church join, the military has to run out and get two chaplains just to keep you fellahs in line.) If you're Roman Catholic, you ain't so lucky. There's only one chaplain for every 832 of your fellow church members. But what happens if you're a member of one of them heathen religions that ain't part of America's Manifest Destiny. Well, if you're one of the 4,371 registered Buddhists, there are zero chaplains for you. All you get is a big goose egg.
Lately, Evangelicals, concerned that they only own 95% of the pie, are making waves inside the ranks, leading to recent problems at the Navy Chaplain School in R.I. and to the departure of Army Rabbi Jeffrey Goldman (listed now as a deserter). These devout rabblerousers range from the the pathetic to the ridiculous. (Don't they realize that when you have a virtual monopoly on things, you've got to keep quiet. Don't fight amongst yourselves! . . . Come to think of it, keep fighting!) Personally, I don't see why a bloody penny of my tax dollars is being spent to pay Christian ministers to lead prayers that non-Christians are required to attend. Instead of sorting out which Christian faction is to gain hegemony, let's save a few more tax dollars and reduce the size of government by canning the entire military chaplain program. Then perhaps conservatives' relentless ranting about China's suppression of Christians or Muslim fundamentalists' protection of Islam might sound just a little less hollow.