Winner 2013 Webby Awards for Best Political Website
Top Banner, Site wide
Apr 20, 2014

 Choose a size
Text Size

Top Leaderboard, Site wide

Drought Adds to Syria’s Misery

The Divide

Truthdig Bazaar

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

more items


The Cancer From Within

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Nov 7, 2007
Cadet Chapel

The famous Air Force Academy cadet chapel, once a place of nondenominational worship and reflection, seems to have become a focal point of evangelical indoctrination and conversion.

By David Antoon

“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  ...”
    —Oath of Office

“Our mission is to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.”
    —Air Force Academy mission statement

“We will not lie, steal, or cheat. ...”
    —Air Force Academy honor code

“Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience. Professionals, and especially commanders, must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates.”
    —Religious Toleration (Air Force Code of Ethics, 1997)

Forty-two years ago, at the age of 18, I took the oath of office on my first day as an Air Force Academy cadet.  The mission of the academy was not only to train future leaders for the Air Force but for America as well, because, in the end, most academy graduates do not serve full military careers.  The honor code became an integral part of everyday life.  These are the values that I, and most graduates of the 1960s and early ‘70s, took with us from our four years at the academy.


Square, Site wide
I, as did many graduates, underwent pilot training followed by tours of duty in Vietnam. Like military men and women of today, we did our best to become technically competent and professional leaders.  Never, during my four years at the academy and subsequent pilot and combat training, was the word warrior used; nor, whether as a cadet or officer, did I ever encounter “Christian supremacist” rhetoric.

In April of 2004, my son, after receiving a coveted appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, asked me to accompany him to the orientation for new appointees.  This 24-hour visceral event changed my life forever, and crushed my son’s lifelong dream of following in my footsteps.

The orientation began with a one-hour “warrior” rant to appointees and parents by the commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida.  The fact that the word warrior had replaced leadership was a signal of what was to follow.  I later learned that cadets, to determine when a new record was established, had created a game in which warrior was counted in each speech Weida gave.

My son and I then made our way to the modernist aluminum chapel, where I expected to hear a welcome from one or two Air Force chaplains offering counsel, support and an open-door policy for any spiritual or pastoral needs of these future cadets.  In 1966, the academy had six gray-haired chaplains: three mainline Protestants, two priests and one rabbi.  Any cadet, regardless of religious affiliation, was welcome to see any one of these chaplains, who were reminiscent of Father Francis Mulcahy of “MASH” fame. 

Instead, my son’s orientation became an opportunity for the academy to aggressively proselytize this next crop of cadets.  Maj. Warren Watties led a group of 10 young, exclusively evangelical chaplains who stood shoulder to shoulder.  He proudly stated that half of the cadets attended Bible studies on Monday nights in the dormitories and he hoped to increase this number from those in his audience who were about to join their ranks.  This “invitation” was followed with hallelujahs and amens by the evangelical clergy.  I later learned from Air Force Academy chaplain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran who was forced to observe from the choir loft, that no priest, rabbi or mainline Protestant had been permitted to participate. 

I no longer recognize the Air Force Academy as the institution I attended almost four decades earlier.  At that point, I had no idea how invasive this extreme evangelical “cancer” had become throughout the entire military, that what I had witnessed was far from an isolated case of a few religious zealots.

In order to better understand this shift to a religious ideology at this once secular institution, I called the Academy Association of Graduates (AOG).  Its response:  “We don’t get involved in policy.”  What I didn’t know was that the AOG, like the academy, had affiliations with James Dobson’s and Ted Haggard’s powerful mega-churches.  When Dobson’s Focus on the Family “campus” was completed, the academy skydiving team, with great ceremony, delivered the “keys from heaven” to Dobson.  During some alumni reunions, the AOG arranged bus tours of Focus on the Family facilities in nearby Colorado Springs, Colo.  I also learned that the same Monday night Bible studies discussed at orientation were taught by bused-in members of these evangelical mega-churches and that some spouses of senior academy staff members were employed by these same religious institutions.  It seemed that my beloved United States Air Force Academy had morphed into the Rocky Mountain Bible College.

The academy chaplain staff had grown 300 percent while the cadet population had decreased by 25 percent:  from six mainline chaplains to 18 chaplains, the additional 12 all evangelical.  The academy even gained 25 reserve chaplains, also nonexistent in earlier times, for a total of 43 chaplains for about 4,000 cadets, or one chaplain for every 100 cadets.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

By R. M., November 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How can this still be news?...anyway here goes…
“Those that can, do…Those that can’t, re-enlist.”
The military will forever be a repository for those individuals that don’t realize they are just that…
They will be followers until death and they will let some uncaring political hack determine when that shall happen.  They can dig their own hole as far as I’m concerned…just leave some of the planet for reclamation by those that do care.

BTW…Don’t impeach Cheney or we’ll end up with VP Jebb Bush or VP Mitt Romney as incumbents in 2008.

Prosecute his ass afterwards.

Report this
driving bear's avatar

By driving bear, November 8, 2007 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment

reply to #112288 by cyrena on 11/08 at 4:17 am

Cyrena sorry to disappoint you but I stand by my statement that is sour grapes on the part of the secular left. What really bugs you is the fact that you can’t force your believes on the cadets of the USAFA. In the battle for hearts and minds face it , your side lost, and christian conservative who are true christian are winning and that makes you fighting mad. So in the words of the Eagles song “Get over it”

Report this

By purplewolf, November 8, 2007 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

# 112290 Doug Chambers:

KISS- keep it simple stupid. These people are told over and over that they are Gods selected people. Whatever they do is right and anyone who does not do and believe as they do is wrong and therefore it is okay with God to destroy them, after all they are inferior and have to be destroyed. This is their mindset. This has played out in history numerous times. These radical right winger evangelical soldiers claim to believe in the sanctity of life-as long as you do it our way and as for respecting others, this is the furthest thing from the truth. If they respected others, they would accept other peoples views on their own spiritual beliefs or non-belief and let it go at that and not force their own views or beliefs onto others. By the very fact these cadets are urged to harass their tent mates to accept Jesus as their saviour smacks of ignorance and arrogance that so often accompanies those whose religious fevers have caused delusions of grandeur.

Having had exposure to a variety of Christian denominations in my past, I have watched most all of them try their one-upmanship as to my God’s better than yours. Pathetic how religion reduces people down to the point of being savages. I even have a family member who gets as extremely irrational and violent as these brainwashed born agains. Whether you agree with them out of the same belief or out of fear of harm to yourself or family and not of burning in hell, as that is hearsay, but to the damage these misguided Christians do unto others who chose their own way to believe or not. Saying you believe that Jesus is your personal saviour out of fear doesn’t work.I believe that Jesus would agree with me.Forcing someone to do it your way really doesn’t make it happen in reality, you just think so but it doesn’t make it fact.

We have only to look into the history of the Salem witchcraft trials,to see what out of control, religious organizations,this time it was the Puritans,can inflict unto others by the lies of others,including the lies and deceptions used by the authorities to convict the innocents and thus keep the insanity alive.We have only to look at the Bush administration to see that the lies are still alive today. It is sad to see that since this country was stolen from the original peoples,by these very same religious groups,that things have not really evolved much since that time. And now they are on another “witch hunt” to destroy everyone else who is not of their beliefs.

I don’t care if these people think they are living in the end of days and are in a headlong race to bring it about faster, I would rather be left out of their madness,because that is what it is. To live as I feel is right for me and my family, not your idea of what you think I should be, was one of the founding ideas this country was built upon. After all I do not force my beliefs unto you and would never even consider it after all thats called respect,something the evangelicals have a lot to learn about.The reason people fled from other countries was from religious persecution and now thanks to a group of misguided leaders(?) we are returning to what people were running from to begin with. Ironic isn’t it?

It has been stated that the return of the crusades are coming shortly.No surprise here.Let’s all advance to the past.

Report this

By Gadlaw, November 8, 2007 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gee Chris, nice touch at the end where you called David Antoon a “a bloviating hippie who probably just hates the current President” - Well done, name calling is something that always advances an argument. Of course, using that particular set of words marks you as a FOX News viewer, a Bill O’Reilley fan since I believe he says that every day. Well, you know Chris, the point which I’m sure you missed is that the Air Force Academy has been turned into an evangelical outreach. This is wrong. That’s the issue. You shouldn’t have to be a evangelical christian to serve your country and if you’re a atheist or Buddhist or Mormon you shouldn’t have to put up with that crap. It’s not allowed in the Air Force proper and it shouldn’t be allowed in the Academy. See - all done without name calling.

Report this

By Chris, November 8, 2007 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe the Air Force Academy is “different”, but what this guy is really suffering from - and don’t deny we’ve heard it before - is a case of “OMG things just aren’t the way they used to be!!!”

A bit of background - I attended the U.S. Naval Academy over 10 years ago.

First of all pal, the U.S. Air Force Academy didn’t even have a “tradition” when you attended (USAFA enrolled its first class in 1959, and even then at a temporary site).  So maybe what’s going on there right now is the “actual” tradition that’s evolved over time. 

Second, you’re talking about the laughing stock Academy of all the Academies.  I’ll be the first to admit that those poor saps at West Point have it worst - with outdoor formations every day, and the most depressing architecture known to man outside of Rikers Island.  However, even the Naval Academy has a 150 year tradition.  No air conditioning, no Colorado Springs Skiing.  “The USAFA isn’t the place it was when I was there”?  You’ve got that right - now, each room has AC, carpeting, a refrigerator and a TV.  Cry me a river.  No wonder you have a good football team - try convincing a good football player to go to a place known for its “$85,000 education, shoved up your a$$ one nickel at a time.”

As for the whole Christian thing (I’m an atheist, I could care less) - the Naval Academy used to have MANDATORY mass for Midshipmen (back when they had mandatory Saturday class).  We used to have a Chaplain make us pray EVERY day at lunch.  You know what I did at that time?  Not piss and moan about secularism, that’s for sure.

Why don’t you just let you son do what he wanted to do for his country, which is serve?  The last thing he needs is your nostalgia in the way, or the stigma of having the dad who can’t keep himself from insulting the institution who made him the man he is today.  Kids today need to be reminded about being “warriors” because they’ve been completely coddled.  They have to be reminded that sometimes, you have to drop a nuclear weapon on top of 45,000 hapless civilians (which your beloved institution certainly played a role in).  That’s why we had Memorial Hall at the Naval Academy - to remind us of all the warriors who went to “war” and gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I’m not going to tell you to be ashamed of yourself - but I am going to say that you sound like a bloviating hippie who probably just hates the current President.

Report this

By lawlessone, November 8, 2007 at 10:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fundamentalist leaders blamed Katrina on the supposedly debauched folks from Louisiana and the recent fires in California on the heathens from Hollywood.  Does that mean our continuing debacle in Iraq and our savaged economy on the sociopath Fundamentalists who have been taking over the military?  One thing is clear.  If Christ were alive today and saying the same things he apparently said back then, Fundamentalists would surely hate him.

Report this

By Nathan, November 8, 2007 at 10:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

lol nice quote Robert Giacobbe,  Ripley is truly a fountain of wisdom.

Report this

By SamBrown, November 8, 2007 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If christianity is so great why do these cadets need to be coerced into “believing”?
It’s really something that these christians don’t see anything wrong with using their power to promote their brand of religion.
Shameless christians blind to their own faults, no surprise is it?

Report this

By Tim Kelly, November 8, 2007 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is stupid.  For decades liberals have defended the Constitution and resisted the onslaught of the Military Industrial Complex and Christian supremacy, but Scott Ritter and David Antoon get a forum?  It has taken both of them decades to see what we have said FOR DECADES, and even now I doubt either of them would consider themselves liberal nor agree that the military needs to be dismantled. 

Please stop giving former and current military personnel a forum for their views.  They have the rest of the world for that.

Report this

By Douglas Chalmers, November 8, 2007 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

#112310 by Verne Arnold on 11/08 at 6:09 am: “Beauty…in the eye of the beholder, uhh!”

To me, it has a hashed-up Gothic appearance - Star Wars version!?!?

Report this

By Joe Clover, November 8, 2007 at 8:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

America is fast becoming a fanatical religious state in the same way as their “enemy” Iran or so called “friend” Pakistan. All religious nuts should keep their beliefs to themselves and stop bothering sane people with their views from the middle ages. Have we learned so little from history that this is even possible? Have all the scandals involving these evangelical nuts taught us nothing? These phony people are using religion in the same ideological and stupid way as the fascists in Germany did before and during WOII. I don’t believe in Jesus and I am bothered by people who try to force Christianity on me but I can live with that but I am definitely actually scared that these people are at the buttons of the most powerful war machine in the world.

Please Americans, hold true to your great secular constitution and banish these religious nuts to the fringe of society where they belong! As an European I am afraid of these kinds of examples and I am more and more convinced that things are moving in the wrong direction in the US.

Report this

By bachu, November 8, 2007 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

that is my kind of church, F-16 in the parking lot. And the church itself looks like a weapon. wonderful!

Report this

By Verne Arnold, November 8, 2007 at 7:09 am Link to this comment

#112256 by Douglas Chalmers on 11/08 at 12:27 am
(1108 comments total)

“The famous Air Force Academy cadet chapel…”

What an incredibly UGLY building, uhh!

Well, I think it pretty cool, but I sure don’t like what’s going on inside!!!!

Beauty…in the eye of the beholder, uhh!

Report this

By Verne Arnold, November 8, 2007 at 6:59 am Link to this comment

#112287 by Inherit The Wind on 11/08 at 4:12 am
(52 comments total)

So, George W. Bush is putting all the pieces in place for declaration of martial law and ending our American Democracy.  6 years ago, NO president could ever hope to illegally do so—tne non-political military was the guarantee.

You must be an old fart like me…“7 Days in May”, terrific movie.
Ironically, Nixon had a “think tank”, The Rand Corporation, do a feasibility study on what would be acceptable to the American people in order to suspend the presidential elections: Their conclusions were; civil unrest and the growing threat to the stability of the government based on the civil unrest would be acceptable to the American people as a reason to “delay” the presidential elections of 1972.
I would suggest we are never “safe” from a threat to our constitutional form of government….diligence…always…they will attack when we least expect it or when we are most afraid.

Report this

By Douglas Chalmers, November 8, 2007 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

#112263 by purplewolf on 11/08 at 12:50 am: “...It is not for man to decide who should be destroyed because they choose to believe differently that your brand of religion….”

How can people be controlled and used as killers (oops, soldiers) if they are allowed to believe in the sanctity of life and to respect others?

Of course, teaching that “my” religion is better than yours is the ultimate hypocrisy. That was how the West was won, uhh.

Report this

By cyrena, November 8, 2007 at 5:17 am Link to this comment

#112244 by driving bear on 11/07 at 9:52 pm
“I am glad the USAFA cadets are more religious. Sounds to me like the secular left has a case of sour grapes.”

Herein lies the disease….the cancer…in thinking like this. It is thinking born of ignorance, that has manifested itself so overwhelmingly, just because of the ignorance.

Just these 2 sentences from driving bear show how he hasn’t a clue to what ‘religious’ means.  He hasn’t a clue to what ‘secular’ is, and so he doesn’t know or understand how ‘secular’ is neither left or right. He hasn’t a clue to what secular even means. And, if he knew what ‘religious’ meant, than it would mean, (at least from his statement here) that he would welcome a US military institution guided by Islam, Judaism, Mormons, the worshippers of Jehovah, Hinduism, or the African Methodist Episcopal’s, and all other varieties of Christians. Somehow though, I don’t think this is what he has in mind, and obviously didn’t read the article, since the concern here is not about ‘religion’ in it’s broad meaning, but rather about Christian Supremacists, of the Evangelical variety, and that is not even in the same universe as the Christianity practiced by the Jesus for which it was named.

So here’s a lesson in religion DB. Christian comes from the name Jesus Christ. He was a prophet, and the one who’s teachings are the tenets of Christianity. Supremacist would not have been in his vocabulary. YOUR brand of it is the epitome of hypocrisy and heresy.

While I’m at it,  let me break down what secular is for you, since your ignorance clearly shows there as well. Secular is what our democracy is based on. What it means DB, is our political structure of government is a DEMOCRACY, guided by a Constitution. And, that democracy, as embodied in the Constitution, allows for EVERYONE to practice his/her own religion, based on whichever choice of religion that happens to be.

It also allows for anyone to choose NOT to practice a religion.

So, unless you want to live the way the religious extremists do, say for instance those ‘dreaded’ Islamists, who force their women to cover themselves, (at least that’s what people like you wanna believe) and live by the laws of whatever religion happens to be in place, and be discriminated against if you choose to practice a different one, (like your heresy or maybe you’d like to worship Satan) then you might want to reconsider what secular actually is. Secular allows you to follow your own religion, (nasty though it may be) and not have another one shoved down your throat. Secular means that you will be held accountable only for the laws of the land, those enshrined in the Constitution, and that everyone else is equally accountable to those laws of the land, regardless of their religious preferences.

That’s what secular is Dumbo. It doesn’t mean a lack of religion, and it is not ‘anti-religious’. It means that the Church and the State, (politics guides the State, not the Church) are to remain separate in a democracy. What you appear to prefer is a Theocracy. So, move to Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan. Here in America, we are a secular democracy. If you don’t like our Constitution, you should move somewhere else. Maybe Israel. They don’t even HAVE a Constitution.

Iran does though, so maybe you should stay away from there.

I’ll be sure to pray for you, that this might somehow sink in.

Report this

By Inherit The Wind, November 8, 2007 at 5:12 am Link to this comment

So, George W. Bush is putting all the pieces in place for declaration of martial law and ending our American Democracy.  6 years ago, NO president could ever hope to illegally do so—tne non-political military was the guarantee.

So by politicizing the military with right-wing Christian fanatics with NO ethics, and purging the professional talented leaders, it now is loyal to Bush, not the USA.

And, with the establishment and protection of the private, illegal mercenary force, Blackwater, he is ready.

So he lets the election play out, distracting America.  At the key point, he’ll start ANOTHER illegal war, this time with Iran, and when Americans exercise their right to assemble for redress of grivances, he’ll call out his new storm-troopers who, in the name of God, will mindlessly slaughter anyone who dares question Mad King George.

A radical politicized military is a critical element to establishing the fascist dictatorship he wants and “needs”.

Even if he should give up power and a rational Democrat succeeds him, he will have left in place a military led by people fully capable of the greatest treason possible, all in the name of God and Jesus.

Ironically, in Fletcher Knebel’s “Seven Days in May”, the attempted coup is led by a 4 star general—of the US Air Force.

Report this

By lodipete, November 8, 2007 at 4:08 am Link to this comment

Bring back the draft!!!!!!!!!!!!

Report this

By purplewolf, November 8, 2007 at 1:50 am Link to this comment

If these brainwashed soldiers believe that Jesus is the only real hope for the world, then why are they fighting and killing. Wasn’t it said “thou shall not kill”?
Many Christian churches tell their church members to not fight and destroy your problems, it is far better to tell what is bothering you and let God or Jesus handle it. It is not for man to decide who should be destroyed because they choose to believe differently that your brand of religion. And what if you find out in the end you were wrong, what then?

W.W.J.D.= who would Jesus destroy is the new moniker for this group of radical recruits.

Report this

By Douglas Chalmers, November 8, 2007 at 1:27 am Link to this comment

“The famous Air Force Academy cadet chapel…”

What an incredibly UGLY building, uhh!

Report this

By writeon, November 8, 2007 at 12:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Now, if one links the above article to the bizarre case of the six “missing” nukes that were somehow “mistakenly” transported across the Midwest, one begins to see the outline of a very disturbing picture.

Ultra-rightist, nationalistic, Christians in the USAF with their very own cache of nuclear weapons. Now is that a scary scenario or what?

Report this
G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, November 8, 2007 at 12:30 am Link to this comment

I suppose then it makes perfect sense that America’s number one enemies now are Religious states, who the Christian Right seeks to emulate.

I can’t imagine Jesus going on a bombing run, or engaging in a dogfight.

Maybe that’s why there are so many Chrisitans, but absolutley no Christs.

Report this
driving bear's avatar

By driving bear, November 7, 2007 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment

I am glad the USAFA cadets are more religious. Sounds to me like the secular left has a case of sour grapes

Report this

Page 3 of 3 pages  <  1 2 3


sign up to get updates

Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

Like Truthdig on Facebook