Thursday, May 05, 2005

Evangelicals Hitting the Fighting Holes?

The current story of an investigation at the Air Force Academy into alleged religious intolerance has a rough parallel to another allegation of religious intolerance in the military.

The Navy is investigating a chaplain's allegations he was punished for theological disagreements with superior officers, including his objections to requiring sailors to participate in services at a church that accepts homosexuality.

Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt says he was transferred ashore and given a negative job recommendation because of the religious disagreements.

Other actions cited in Klingenschmitt's personnel records include his advocacy for a Jewish sailor who wanted kosher meals and his preaching of sermons that some sailors viewed as proselytizing and intolerant.

In each case, the military is accused of an institutional bias for one "brand" of religion while simultaneously maintaining a hostile climate against other varieties of faith. The stories, so far, are one-sided as the military refuses to comment on in-progress investigations. Even a cursory review of each case's allegations brings to mind many questions.

In the AFA case, the vaunted "report" from
Americans United for Separation of Church and State seemed able to unearth only 15 "cadets and staff" to support its allegations. But just what is the composition of that group? Is it say, 12 cadets and a few professors? Or is it 2 cadets and 13 staff members with axes to grind against the academy administration? Even if all 15 were cadets, that's an infinitesimal sample from a group numbering about 4000. Hard left blogs like DailyKos have also pounced on the "55 complaints" from the AP story, but they have omitted the context of that number. According to the AP story,

The academy said it first learned of reports of religious intolerance in a survey of cadets that included 55 complaints. Some cadets accused evangelical Christians of harassing both Christians and Jews; some of the Jewish cadets said they were blamed for the death of Jesus Christ. [emph. added]

The significance here is that this 55 number does not represent a large number of formal complaints that have been investigated and documented. Essentially, these are anonymous comments submitted on a survey. With such a dubious origin, this "number of complaints" should be viewed skeptically. For a detailed look at this case, check out Hugh Hewitt's column.

In the case of the Anzio chaplain Klingenschmitt, so far all we have is his word against "no comment". Clearly, he clashed with the chain-of-command on several points, and he was in fact sent ashore and administratively punished. The chaplain's Letter of Instruction (administrative punishment) admonished him for sending emails that were critical of the Navy's involvement with a church that supported a gay-lesbian outreach ministry. While this may be a perfectly proper protest, it must be done through the chain-of-command; going around it constitutes insubordination, not a clash of "theology".

Predictably, the left has seized on these incidents to vilify the military in general and to call for the abolishment of the service academies. In this
thread (scroll down a ways), the kind people of Kos call service academy graduates "religiously intolerant sexual predators". As a 1989 graduate of the Naval Academy and submarine veteran, I can tell you that I never observed anything remotely resembling the charges in either case. The Naval Academy mission reads in part "to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically". The left hates to hear this, but moral development cannot happen in a humanistic, relativistic vacuum. If our future officers are to be imbued with the moral foundation provided by religious ethics, it is imperative that midshipmen (and cadets) be provided an atmosphere that endorses religious faith. Endorsement does not constitute coercion, and real harassment must be aggressively rooted out and prevented. But given the awesome destructive power under their control, America's officer corps must have the respect for life that is fostered by the overtly religious features of service academy life.

UPDATE: Welcome, Hugh Hewitt readers!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

On Baseball

"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal." -- George F. Will

"Baseball is dull only to dull minds." -- Red Barber

Although I enjoy just about all sports, there is nothing that compares to baseball. For true baseball fans, the love of the game is something that cannot be explained. You either have it, or you don't. This morning I was treated to a couple of visceral reminders of this truth. First, my wife had TiVo'd Field of Dreams. And although I had a ton of things to do today, I found myself completely engrossed (again) in this gripping film. Baseball is a common bond among all Americans share, even those who don't necessarily call themselves big fans. It has been an integral part of American culture since the Civil War, a fact not lost on Walt Whitman:

I see great things in baseball. It's our game -- the American

Contrast this view of baseball with Bill Plaschke's column in this morning's LA Times. Plaschke references the last Harris poll in which only one baseball player, the Yankees' Derek Jeter, made the top 10. Does this make sense?
Their faces, down to the last drops of brown juice rolling from the corner of their bottom lips, are on television for six months. Their habits, from hemlines to hairstyles, inspire as much childhood imitation as a Hummer full of rappers. More than any other athletes in any sport, they are constantly in America's face. While America scrunches up its nose. We really don't like baseball players anymore, do we?

Plaschke's ire was provoked by the response of the Dodgers' Jason Phillips to MLB commissioner Bud Selig's proposal of a steroid policy that would mandate unpaid suspensions of 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third offense. Asked how he felt about the proposed penalties, Phillips seemed to think that they would be too harsh.

Phillips, who makes $339,000 a year, complained that Selig's proposal of unpaid suspensions ranging from 50 days to lifetime would hurt guys in his tax bracket. "Do I think the penalties are a little harsh? Yes," he said. "Not for, say, the guys who have already been in the big leagues a lot of years and are making millions. [But] put yourself in my position. I play paycheck to paycheck to support my family."

Easy there, big fella. I live in LA, too, and I'm quite sure that any family pulling in over 300g's a year is doing just fine. Phillips isn't the first millionaire athlete to make stupid comments about money, and he won't be the last.

But is spite of this antipathy towards the players, baseball last year set an attendance record and is on track to do so again this year. Why? It costs fans more than 100 bucks to see the game and enjoy a few beverages with the family, but more people than ever are showing up. How can this be? Plaschke knows the answer:

But it is the game we love. It is not the players. Not anymore.

It's been that way for a long time, Bill, maybe from the very beginning. Shoeless Joe knew that, too.

But if I have to explain it, you won't get it anyway.