Marine Evangelism Flourishes As Humanists Ignored
A new video of Marines, in uniform, singing a Christian praise song during the official Faith Warriors Sunday worship service event a Marine Training. MAAF congratulates Camp Pendleton for providing such outstanding Christian support. MAAF has offered to prepare similar services with the support of a local Navy Chief Petty Officer certified as a humanist leader, a Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant, and new USC Humanist Chaplain Bart Campolo. Unfortunately chaplains have refused any opportunity for humanists to provide services alongside the evangelical events.
The Christian Post called the evangelical video a, “powerful video of nearly 500 U.S. Marines at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California declaring ‘there is no God like Jehovah’.” They quoted the volunteer leader who said, “We would go down there and bring presents at Christmas for the guys in a company called LIMA Company. These were Marines that had been injured during training.” This sounds like great work. Reaching out to troops. Providing optional Christian services to those in need. What we see here is great support for Christians by Christians, but there’s evidence other beliefs aren’t supported.
Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation points to the video to say, “This is what we’re up against.” Raul Martinez, a humanist leader in Las Vegas, says, “I just found it creepy.” Hopefully there is some relief as in this case, worship activities were (mostly) optional and during a faith-based Christian worship service.
MAAF supports a great humanist program at Air Force Basic Training. The program operates with command support outside the purview of the chaplains because the chaplains refused to help. We don’t have pictures or videos of those services because policy states trainees are not to be photographed. MAAF has reached out many times to Air Force Public Affairs in an effort to celebrate this shining light of accommodation of nontheists, but they have declined to tell the story.
This is where I could show video or pictures of humanist services at Camp Pendleton, but we have no way to officially support troops at Camp Pendleton because Chaplains are not open to our support. They claim there is no demand for humanist services yet they seem determined to ignore or stifle any interest in secular services. We find similar attitudes at every installation we reach out to. Christians are catered to by paid chaplains with funding, resources,a advertising, scheduling, and those same chaplains turn our requests for support away. At Camp Pendleton, they proudly post videos of an entire Marine unit carrying a giant Christian cross to emplace on a hill on the installation. That sort of unabashed command-sponsored proselytism sends a loud and clear message that non-Christian beliefs are unwanted.
Chapel services at Camp Pendleton include only token diversity. 39 Christian services (Catholic, Protestant, Gospel, LDS), 4 Jewish services, 2 Yoga, and one unidentified “Sing and Praying”. That’s 46 different events with nothing for nontheists and just 7 not explicitly Christian. For students only, there are three services: A Jewish service once per month, the weekly “Range 314 Service” for Christians, and the event in the video: Faith Warriors. No military commander could consider this representative of the true diversity of belief within the unit.
At least on the surface, reactions of outrage at this extreme evangelical indoctrination of trainees are understandable. There is also reason for concern when these personal, optional activities overflow into military culture. We see that evangelical Christians co-opt public land at Camp Pendleton for Christian shrines, turn unit mottos into prayers, and staff a chaplaincy with an evangelical population more three times that of the general population. But outrage at this video has often implied that personal, private worship is the problem, when that is not the case. It is critical to celebrate that Christians have the opportunity to express their faith. Those outraged should ask not for limits on the Christian activities but why, for all practical purposes, non-Christians are ignored. Calling an event like the Faith Warriors service “optional” discounts the fact that there are no equivalent options for those who don’t want evangelical Christianity. And the massive drop-off in attendance at such events outside the training context shows the strong incentive to attend the nearly exclusive relaxation time even if it means Christian indoctrination. And when chaplains block offers for humanist volunteers, the command should step in to find chaplains who value diversity.
How would it look if humanist services were the only ones offered and Christian ministries were turned away?