Update: See The Crusade for a Christian Military (Harper's, May 2009).
Most of us when we reach our 80s will relax, reflect and live out our retirements in peace.
Walter Plywaski of Boulder, Colorado, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and Dachau won't hear of it.
Mr. Plywaski is using his time to warn of a growing trend in the American military: A stealthy and creeping fundamentalist Christian takeover of our armed forces.
This won't come as a surprise to readers of Jeff Sharlet's The Family, or readers of the work of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF).
At Mr. Plywaski's request, posted below is his letter that he wishes receives the widest distribution:
At the age of 80 and a Holocaust survivor, my time is limited and thus I must share my thoughts and feelings about the frightening trends in today’s U.S. Military. The stealthy fundamentalist Christian takeover of our armed forces is a strategy all too reminiscent of what brought about the end of all, but two, of my entire family in German-occupied Poland during World War II.
America’s magnificent and unique Constitution prohibits any sort of religious test for all Federal offices and that most certainly includes our military! America’s founders understood the need for a robust separation between Church and State, since they knew of the terrible events in the new American colonies and Europe caused by the invidious unions of church and government.
James Madison wrote that it is precisely the separation of Church and State which strengthens our citizens' most fundamental religious rights. In the America to which I gratefully immigrated, all religions were allowed to flourish and NONE were permitted to be specifically, or even indirectly, favored or recommended by the state. Personally, through sheer luck and the aid of the US Army, I survived the flames that consumed my family and countless millions; an Inferno that sprang up in Germany, a country which rejected such separation.
There is an ongoing and concerted drive to infiltrate our military by Christian fundamentalists who believe in the superiority of their very dangerous brand of faith. This evangelization telegraphs a Crusader agenda abroad while coercing our military's rank and file to adhere literally to a fundamentalist reading of their Bible. This movement has insidiously spread throughout the military, with organizations such as the Campus Crusade for Christ having unfettered access to proselytize new recruits at our nation’s military training installations.
These extremist organizations also have a strong presence at the Air Force Academy and other service academies, and their reach extends to the highest levels of the Pentagon itself with numerous Flag Officers having been implicated in using their rank and position to spread this extreme brand of religious ideology. These organizations have the stated goal to “win” the military for Christ and utilize individual service members stationed across the world as paid emissaries for him. Therefore we must, as a country, stand firmly behind the Constitution to defeat those who wish to destroy the wall of separation between Church and State within our armed forces and the general society.
My life's experience tells me we must try to defeat the onslaught of fundamentalist Christian theocratization of the Armed Forces of the United States. If things continue to proceed as now, our military could all too easily begin its descent into the American equivalent of the brown-shirted Nazis. History has shown all too consistently the extreme danger that religious militarism imposes upon secular democratic societies when these cede their exclusive right to bear arms and enforce the law without racial or religious prejudices. This time, please, let's not wait until it's too late.
If my words convinced you to take note, then please use your influence to halt the takeover of our precious military institutions. Additionally, please consult with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and Mr. Mikey Weinstein, its brave and tenacious founder, (militaryreligiousfreedom.org) and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). These organizations are fighting to save our country from the creeping cancer of super-Christianity invading our military!
I saw the takeover of a continent and saw humans go mad with hatred and bloodlust. Now I can only hope that Americans will awaken to this danger and put an end to the usurpation of power in our military by today’s Christian fundamentalist fanatics, people who want to turn it into a Crusader Army and therefore their own tool.
It doesn't matter if those who would take over our military call themselves Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Devil worshipers; what does matter is that a democratic society cannot possibly hold onto its freedoms under the guns of a militarized theocracy.
Most sincerely yours