[Buddha-l] Can an Air Force cadet have Buddha nature?

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Sat May 14 10:18:20 MDT 2005

A while back I tried to get folks here interested in the recent Harpers
magazine issue dedicated to influences the Christian right is exerting
in the United States (and therefore the rest of the world). Somehow that
message trailed off into oblivion after some folks got obsessed by a
side issue--whether Max Scheler had really denounced Hitler, as Manfred
Frings had claimed. Perhaps this message will not be similarly hijacked.

One of the Harpers articles I suggested reading was about the city of
Colorado Springs, which many born-again Christians are calling the new
Jerusalem or the Mecca of Protestantism. The story is told in the
Harpers piece of a mega-church that has been built on land visible from
the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The mega-church is
reportedly making huge efforts to win converts among Air Force cadets
and their mentors. The following NY Times item from the Op Ed page
suggests that these evangelical efforts have paid off. A recent film
about the multi-denominational character of America was censored by the
Air Force Academy's head chaplain. Parts about Buddhism, Judaism and
Native American religions were excised. When an ecumenical chaplain
complained of the censorship, she was relieved of her position. More
details can be found in the editorial, given in full below.

How much more of the kind of overt prejudice against non-evangelical
Christians reported in this editorial are we Buddhists, Jews, Catholics,
Wiccans, Hindus, Muslims and Sun dancers expected to tolerate? And if we
agree not to tolerate it, what is the most effective way to resist being
overwhelmed by the Christ-blinded Bush administration? 

**** Item from NY Times **** 
May 14, 2005

Separation of Church and Air Force

Whatever is ailing the Air Force Academy, and the academy has had its
share of ailments over the years, campus pressure on cadets to adopt a
particular set of religious beliefs will not cure it. Last year, academy
officials promised to do something about widespread complaints of
unconstitutional proselytizing of academy students by evangelists whose
efforts were blessed by authority figures in the chain of command. An
authorized investigation by the Yale Divinity School and local news
reports documented numerous instances of pressure on cadets to adopt
Christian beliefs and practices. Such pressure came from dozens of
faculty members and chaplains, and even the football coach, with his
"Team Jesus Christ" banner. 

One chaplain instructed 600 cadets to warn their comrades who had not
been born again that "the fires of hell" were waiting. Pressure to view
"The Passion of the Christ" was reported, extending to "official"
invitations at every cadet's seat in the dining hall. Nonevangelicals
complained of bias in the granting of cadet privileges and of hazing by
upper-class superiors, who made those who declined to attend chapel
march in "heathen flights." 

The cure for this blatant abuse of God and country should be obvious.
But it turns out that the academy's remedial program of religious
toleration is running into resistance. The Air Force's chief chaplain
expressed displeasure at the object lessons dramatized in a
multidenominational educational videotape. "Why is it that the
Christians never win?" the chief, Maj. Gen. Charles Baldwin, demanded to
know after watching the give-and-take of instructional encounters.
General Baldwin had segments cut out on such non-Christian religions as
Buddhism, Judaism and Native American spirituality.

Capt. MeLinda Morton, a campus chaplain charged with helping to fix the
problem, was thoroughly disheartened by the response. She warned that
the altered video program would do little to cure what remained
"systemic and pervasive" proselytizing. The captain, a Lutheran
minister, was removed last week as executive officer of the chaplain

Right now, it is hard to believe that there can be true reform from
within. It is time for the higher chain of command to deproselytize this
institution of national defense. 

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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