Monday, January 18, 2010

More Weapons for the Crusade.

From lezgetreal a horrifying story about the inclusion of biblical citations on munitions manufactured for the US army.

Mikey Weinstein, the slightly crazy, ever-entertaining, absolutely driven founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is quoted in the article.

01/18/09-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Coded Biblical messages in our military’s rifle sights? This might seem like an oddity, but ABC News has discovered that one of the prime manufacturers of military rifle sights, Trijicon, has placed coded references to Jesus and other Biblical passages on rifle sights sold to the Marines. Often the messages are cryptic and would require one to either be well versed in the Bible or be able to look them up. Often they are written in a manner such as “2COR4:6″ so that they may seem innocuous. Instead, this one is a reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 and that passage is specifically “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Another one is JN8:12 or John 8:12 and reads “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Other citations come from Revelations, Matthew, and other parts of the Bible.

Such a practice is not denied by Trijicon. In fact, their director of sales and marketing, Tom Munson, told ABC news that the passages had always been there, and blamed the issue being raised on a group who were “not Christian.” Of course, the fact that these sites are potentially being used by soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq never seemed to fit into their equation. Many Muslims still vilify the West for the atrocities committed by the Crusaders in the Middle Ages, and the images of Americans as Crusaders come to take Muslim lands has been a prime selling point for the bin Laden corruption of jihad.

The practice of inscribing these sites began under Trijicon’s founder Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa. Bindon died in a plane crash in 2003. The company is centered in Wixom, Michigan. According to Trijicon’s website “Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom. We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals.”

The coded references are on the military’s Advanced Combat Optical Guides or ACOG’s, and that the military was not aware of the problem until it was brought to their attention recently. The references are in the same font and size as the sights’ serial numbers.

According to Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, “It’s wrong, it violates the Constitution, it violates a number of federal laws.” Trijicon, of course, claims that they are not violating the law. The MRFF is dedicated to preserving the separation of Church and State within the military. According to Weinstein, a former soldier and current attorney, people have complained about commanders commenting that these guns have been “spiritually transformed [into] firearm[s] of Jesus Christ.” He is also on record as saying “this is probably the best example of violation of the separation of church and state in this country. It’s literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we’re fighting. We’re emboldening an enemy.”

Whether or not the inscriptions violate the Constitution or the law, the wisdom of including them is highly suspect. “It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they’re being shot by Jesus rifles,” according to Weinstein. It also means that the hostile environment that created people such as Major Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter, is reinforced within the very weapons that these men and women are being asked to carry into combat. Additionally, it does give a major propaganda weapon for the Taliban and Al-Qaida to use to claim that the United States is at war with Islam rather than being at war with just the extremists.

Trijicon received around $100 million in contracts in 2008, and in 2009, got an additional $31 million for a new weapons sight.

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Social Capital and the Imbalance of Power.

Daniel Schultz (aka pastrodan) has a piece up at ReligionDispatches about how to build social capital, the antidote to our current power imbalance in US society. It's a great read and references Chris Hayes' recent article at The Nation. I recommend you read the latter than the former. Here's a clip from Schultz:

To put it another way, agree or disagree with her, the Village sees Jane Hamsher coming and they crap their pants. Can you imagine what they'd do with 300 million of her?

It's no accident that the netroots—based in the internet, one of the biggest generators of social capital in recent memory—has been disproportionately effective. We can connect citizens to one another, help them to understand how their fate is intertwined with those of others, and set them on the course to create something together. That's power. No wonder it worries some people who make their living off convincing ordinary people they can't do it for themselves.

I'm not trying to indulge in blog triumphalism here. Plenty of other social frameworks can do the same thing. Remember, I'm reading Block's book for clues about how the church can create social capital.

Rather, like Hayes, I am hopeful about the long-term prospects for our democracy. Or at least I'm not ready to count us out just yet. There are things that can be done to affect the balance of power, as Hayes suggests: public financing, nuking the filibuster, passing the EFCA. But there are other measures than can be taken to bind us to one another and make sure the power stays spread around. They're not sexy, and they're not easy. They're the grunt work of civic engagement: getting to know your neighbors' names, volunteering at the school or the senior citizens' home, going to church or the theater, signing petitions, attending neighborhood meetings, getting to know people across all sorts of social lines.

I realize that some people will think this approach is terribly soft-headed. What we need is power, and lots of it, they will say. That's short-sighted to the point of not being able to see past your nose. Like Hayes says, Obama unleashed the social yearnings of voters in 2008. Along with some favorable conditions, the social strategy made him win in a walk. Why his administration would turn their backs on the very thing that brought them to office, I do not know, but I suspect they will come to regret the insider strategy they have adopted in the past year.

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Getting the Emergency Contraception Conversation Right.

USA Today's Faith & Reason columnist Cathy Lynn Grossman gets the controversy over Senate candidate Coakley's "devout Catholic" comment right. Brown and his daughters can rant all they want: the point isn't to bash devout Catholics but to bring attention to laws that should allow all patients' access to the services they need, despite the denomination of the hospital they are taken to.

The excuse that many give to maintain denominational care in Catholic hospitals is that those who do not ascribe to Catholic doctrine can go somewhere else. And yet our federal government funds these organizations in order to provide health care services to the pluralistic American society.

And with 20% of our hospitals operated by the Catholic Church, 50 of them as sole providers for an entire community, ending up at a Catholic hospital in a time of trauma or crisis is likely.

Grossman writes:

In a hospital emergency room, whose religious freedom matters trumps someone else's beliefs?

In the final ugly hours before the critical vote for the late health reform champion Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, accusations are flying. One of the newest comes from a conservative Catholic group that wants to see a Republican take the slot and, not coincidently, knock out the Democrats' filibuster-proof advantage in the Senate.

CatholicVoteAction is circulating a quote from Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. She was asked by radio host Ken Pittman about the religious liberty rights of Catholic hospital workers who would refuse to administer contraception or abortion-inducing drugs. Her reply:

You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in the emergency room.

To which CatholicVoteAction's president Brian Burch, tagging on a fund-raising appeal, says,

Emergency rooms are NO place for religious discrimination.

Who would disagree with that?

Well, it depends on whether you view discrimination against some patients -- you know, the folks who are having the medical emergency -- is worth consideration. These may include rape victims seeking emergency contraception, or women with life-threatening pregnancy complications, gay couples and single women whose life choices don't match these conservative Catholics' views.

Many may not be Catholic at all and may have very different beliefs about their rights to make faith-based decisions -- or decisions based on whatever is their guiding philosophy. (Saturday was Religious Freedom Day and President Obama, in his proclamation, included people of all faiths and none as celebrants of this constitutional right.)

Mass. State Sen. Scott Brown, Coakley's GOP opponent, backs proposals to allow "medical people with religious principles to find another emergency room care provider to administer a pill or service..." according to Pittman.

Do you think, in a genuine emergency, patients are in a position -- if they are even conscious -- to sit up and tell the ambulance driver or triage nurse to take them to a place or hand them off to someone where they'll get the care they seek? Can ER employees be required to violate their conscience or can must patients play roulette with their health or pass someone else's religious test?

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