Quentin Tarantino deals in tawdry fiction writ large -- bloody, and outrageous, as is the case with his latest Best Picture Oscar-nominated exploitation epic, Django Unchained. Even he would be cowed by the pathetic tale of woe that follows.
From the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001, U.S. military servicemembers and their families have borne the tragic brunt of prolonged operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Herculean task at hand, spanning the full spectrum of human endurance, from coping with multiple deployments to the hopelessly bleak, inhospitable frontlines of the War on Terror hasn't fallen on war fighters alone. Indeed, the oozing sores of perpetual anxiety, debilitating depression, and other extreme disorders have proven themselves across military and civilian communities to be communicable diseases, affecting servicemembers and their dependents alike. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has become a household word across the nation, as active-duty servicemembers, for the first time in a generation, are more likely to fall on their own swords and take their own lives than face death in a war zone. This national tragedy continues to play out despite the phasing out of the U.S. role in Iraq and a sharp drop in troop levels in Afghanistan.
Some of the most acute psychological torment has fallen heaviest on servicemembers' children. Speaking as a veteran "military brat" from a family with a long and proud multigenerational tradition of service in our nation's armed forces, I can surely empathize with these youth in terms of the trials that they face.
Enter Tarantinoesque fiction -- except it's real.
It came as a sickening jolt of shock when we at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) learned that a group of savagely opportunistic fundamentalist Christian vultures known as "Club Beyond" are using taxpayer dollars -- let me emphasize that point one more time: TAXPAYER DOLLARS -- and Department of Defense property to aggressively prey on these youth, as well as advertising their activities via the official Army.mil website. Club Beyond's mission, in their own words, is to "'celebrate life with military kids, introducing them to the life giver, Jesus Christ, and helping them to become more like him,' while offering youth a chance build meaningful relationships." [italics added]. All of the foregoing would be just fine and dandy if only the United States military was not subject to the United States Constitution -- but it is. Thus, the just-mentioned "sickening jolt."
In other words, Club Beyond's nefariously unconstitutional modus operandi is the outright, incontestable proselytization and religious indoctrination of vulnerable youth perceived to be "unchurched." Club Beyond is a sectarian enterprise with global reach. It's a subsidiary of a raging fundamentalist Christian parachurch organization called "Military Community Youth Ministries" (MCYM). MCYM offers, get this, "well chaperoned" weekly 90 minute club meetings, retreats, and Bible Study courses facilitated by "staff and volunteers [that] love young people and are available to journey with them through the hard challenges of adolescence, providing positive role models and exhibiting Christ-like behavior." Uh huh. Want some more?
Ok. Well, one of the ways that Club Beyond shows its "love" for these captive audiences is by hosting so-called "Purity Conferences," events where the widely debunked abstinence-only movement is, ahem, propagated. In fact, this year's Valentine's Day was the occasion for one such "Virginity Ball," an event called "Can't Lose." At this "ball," rather than receiving a realistic sexual education, youth enmeshed in a cannonade of hormonal tides of teenage passion are schooled solely in the ways of puritanical self-denial. The "virginity movement" has long been exposed as a transparent, fundamentalist Christian campaign that perniciously undermines reproductive health and cloaks old-school misogyny of the very worst kind in mawkish rhetoric regarding "preserving yourself for your future husband." Yep. That'll work for sure.
In 2012's annual "Wastebook" published by the office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) -- in case you didn't notice, a Republican -- the glut of wasteful "non-defense" spending by the Pentagon earned it the notorious and ignominious title of the "Department of Everything." As our brilliant MRFF Senior Research Director Ms. Chris Rodda uncovered, a not-insignificant portion of these shamefully gluttonous expenditures skirt not only the realm of usefulness in the field of national defense but are utterly devoid of lawful constitutionality as well. A virtual king's ransom has been set aside by the Department of Defense (DoD) for the wretchedly theocratic purpose of "saving souls," with a major portion of this sum going directly towards MCYM. Since 2000, this child-targeting, taxpayer funded, proselytizing monstrosity has received a little known largesse of literally hundreds of lucrative DoD contracts for the explicitly-stated purpose of evangelizing ever-vulnerable military youth. In 2011 alone it received nearly $2 million, and in 2012 this sum increased to nearly $2.5 million! It goes without saying that this treasure of treachery represents a staggering violation of the First Amendment's No Establishment Clause, which clearly prohibits the intertwining of church and state.
As our excellent researcher Ms. Rodda also noted, the cold, calculated, clever, cult-like tactics of these fundamentalist Christian parachurches include luring teens to pizza parties and movie nights, infiltrating the public schools surrounding military bases, and quite literally stalking minors by following their school buses from their on-post school bus stops to their off-post public schools. Wait...did I really say stalking minors by following their school buses? Indeed I did. It would be one thing if these sectarian religious predators carried out this style of proselytizing on their own time and own dime, as is the case with The Gideons International, who leave Bibles in the dressers of seedy motels. What MRFF takes grave exception to is the hideous fact that the DoD contract descriptions THEMSELVES actually command the utilization of these buzzard-like, textbook, ambulance-chasing tactics, totally negating the Constitution's "No Religious Test" mandate (see Clause 3, Article VI). Noting that the military base "Religious Education Director" and other related positions are the exclusive domain of Christians, contracts include the requirement to "ensure [that] all programs and activities are inclusive of all Christian traditions." Further, the DoD contract descriptions urge these state-sanctioned, uber-fundamentalist Christian proselytizing vultures to "use a variety of communications medium that shall appeal to a diverse group of youth, such as music, skits, games, humor, and a clear, concise, relevant presentation of the Gospel." What? No candy, bubblegum, kittens, puppies, and popcorn?
These stinking travesties, odiously repulsive in their own right, represent merely the tip of the tip of a proverbial iceberg threatening not only the bedrock Constitutional protections of our military personnel and their families, but our comprehensive national security as well. The campaign to indoctrinate our military youth, at taxpayer expense, with the apocalyptic dogmas of fundamentalist Christianity goes hand-in-hand with other acts meant to advance a scurrilous Dominionist agenda -- such as the Pentagon's recently-discovered blocking of LGBT websites. Under the false guise of "freedom of religion," Constitutional tramps have been given carte blanche to ride roughshod over the foundational religious rights of servicemembers and their families, most importantly their right to go unmolested by hectoring, seething, salivating fundamentalist proselytizers. The eventual goal of these parachurch entities isn't simply to comfort military youth by assisting them in some sectarian conception of what constitutes a "walk with God." Quite on the contrary, the obsession is to raise a "Crusader force" championing weaponized Christianity -- to be more specific, a twisted version steeped and marinated in poisonous, parochial religious exclusivity, supremacy, exceptionalism, and belligerent fundamentalist backwardness. To underestimate the enormity of the colossal danger posed by this fifth column to America's core Constitutional values, not to mention our strategic national security interests, would be a fatal mistake of literally Jovian proportion.
It must be stopped. It must be stopped now. Perhaps the next DoD Secretary is listening?