MAAF Requests Inclusion in Spiritual Wingman Toolkit
Click to go to the Add-A-Resource Form, enter militaryatheists.org, and use the quoted text below to recommend the MAAF site be added as a resource. More info below.
The Air Force Reserve Command has created a Wingman Toolkit with a seemingly positive purpose:
The Wingman Toolkit is an Air Force Reserve initiative to empower Airmen and their families to sustain healthy, balanced lifestyles using the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness – Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Social.
Part of the toolkit includes a “Spiritual” section with links to various websites intended to help military personnel attend to questions of meaning, belief, and overall well-being. While “spiritual” is most commonly defined as just god/supernatural, in the military context, they at least claim it includes purely naturalistic approaches such as one might find through h/Humanism, Ethical Culture, Humanistic Judaism, or positive expressions of atheism. These Spiritual Fitness programs have, thus far, proven to be thinly-veiled attempts to promote Christianity.
The Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers has requested additions to the Toolkit to provide resources for atheists and humanists since the articles on the site were essentially Christian and Jewish alone. While biased, the content was generally helpful and not predominantly evangelical. Yet the site provides no nontheistic resources for meaning and overall well-being. And that’s where we could use your help. Drop by the Add-A-Resource Form, enter militaryatheists.org, and use the following text to recommend the MAAF website be added to their resources:
The Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers supports atheists, humanists, and other nontheists in the military. This resource fits in the “Spiritual” section because it deals with core values, beliefs, ethics, and meaning in life. Including this resource will show a commitment to supporting all Airmen equally regardless of beliefs.
* The Facebook page is linked from the website.
If you are in a position to do so, also send the request through your chain of command and EO channels to demand equal treatment. By adding the MAAF site, and potentially others like the American Humanist Association, Center For Inquiry, and Parenting Beyond Belief, the Air Force Reserve command can show its commitment to all personnel. Atheists and humanists generally do not associate with supernatural terms like “spirituality” but if the military redefines the word to mean “meaning” and “well-being”, then the resources provided should match the definition.
Viktor Frankl… defined spirituality as “the very essence of who we all are as human beings. It is the source of our life, our being … that dimension that brings meaning to our lives.” This quote is used in the Wingman Toolkit article on “Spiritual Fitness and a Sense of Purpose“. Also quoted is Chaplain (Lt Col) Ralph DeVaul who says, “for some people, religion is part of their spirituality. For others, it is not.” So far, so good. And what is so refreshing is his proposed “Spiritual Fitness Test” asks questions “what gives you meaning”, “Have your beliefs influenced how you handle stress” “Is there a group of people … who are important to you?” all in the context of a “quest for holistic well-being”. All of these questions could resonate with Airmen whether they were theistic or nontheistic. These kinds of questions can allow servicemembers to make a connection without putting a religious barrier on getting help. Inclusive wording like that used by Chaplain DeVaul would go a long way toward reconciling the spirituality training with nontheists, if only the wording were more widely used and if the resources matched the inclusive terms.
The question is whether this inclusive language is carried out in references of the Wingman Toolkit. The resources listed in the “Spiritual” section included two links to Air Force Chaplaincy websites and two links to Department of Defense (DoD) programs – Real Warriors and After Deployment. The After Deployment site had an essentially Christian approach to Spirituality, asking if the reader “asked forgiveness for my sins” as part of a 16-question assessment. In addition to the four government websites, there were three nominally secular (but not nontheistic) sites about health, meditation, and relationships.
There were six different Catholic websites listed as well as the ultra-evangelical “One News Now” Christian news outlet. (The top One News Now articles as of this printing: anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-Obama, anti-abortion.) This is no resiliency resource. Among 4 military, 3 secular, 6 Catholic, and 1 evangelical resource, we find no diversity.
The last link is the wrong-headed “Virtual Spiritual Fitness Center” of the Army’s Installation Management Command. This site was previously exposed and entirely redesigned by MAAF. The MAAF Chaplain Services Center explains our efforts to reform the site and provides a much better resource if AFRC truly wishes to provide a diverse resource for those who “are seeking spiritual direction yet do not know where to obtain the needed guidance.”
Failing to add nontheistic resources would show that the Wingman Toolkit is intended to spread Christianity (or, apparently, Catholicism) as its preferred and primary Spiritual mission. The exclusively Christian resources and predominantly Christian articles eliminate any appearance of diversity. We have the opportunity to encourage the Air Force Reserve Command to show their commitment to an inclusive definition of spirituality.