Last Thursday, despite being in violation of a plethora of its own regulations, the Department of Defense allowed a whole bunch of uniformed military personnel to participate in Shirley Dobson's National Day of Prayer Task Force event on Capitol Hill. As I wrote prior to the event, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) had written not one, but two, letters to the Secretary of Defense listing all of the DoD regulations that allowing this participation clearly violated. MRFF's first letter informed the Secretary of Defense of the regulations prohibiting military participation in events run by non-federal entities such as Ms. Dobson's NDP Task Force, which is usually enough to get things like this stopped. Ms. Dobson's organization, however, attempted to circumvent these very clear military regulations by claiming that the event wasn't run by her organization, but run by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) with the assistance of NDP Task Force, and succeeded.
Despite a second letter from MRFF listing all of the other military regulations prohibiting participation in the event regardless of whether it was being run by Ms. Dobson's Task Force or Congressman Aderholt, the Pentagon allowed a military brass quintet, a military color guard, a military vocalist singing the national anthem, a military speaker, and a military chaplain to appear, providing the U.S. Military's endorsement of the particular religious and political views promoted at it.
I'll get to the stuff about those pesky military regulations that were violated in a minute, but first, you may have heard about one attendee at the event, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA), who had the guts to get up and walk out when Ms. Dobson's husband, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson was speaking. Why did Rep. Hahn walk out on Mr. Dobson? Because he used the platform of this supposedly non-partisan and non-political event to spew forth his anti-Obama venom, calling Obama the "abortion president."
Reading the statements Rep. Hahn made about why she walked out of the event, what struck me is that this congresswoman sounds exactly like so many of the service members who come to MRFF for help.
Despite the incessant claims from the likes of Fox News, MRFF is not an atheist organization, but an organization that defends the rights of service members and veterans of all religions or no religion. In fact, 96 percent of MRFF's clients are Christians -- just not the "right kind" of Christians or Christian enough in the eyes of fundamentalists and dominionists like the Dobsons and those of their ilk in our military.
As I read what Rep. Hahn said about her walking out of the event, I tried to think of a MRFF case that would be a good parallel to show the similarity between MRFF's Christian clients and this congresswoman, and what immediately popped into my head was a case a few years ago at West Point, when about sixty cadets, faculty, and staff came to MRFF upon finding out that retired Army Lieutenant General Jerry "my god is bigger than your god" Boykin was scheduled to speak at a West Point prayer event.
Not only were the majority of those sixty cadets, faculty, and staff at West Point Christians, but about a dozen of them were actually working on the prayer event that, unbeknownst to them, Jerry Boykin had been invited to speak at.
Rep. Hahn, as was noted in articles about her walking out on Mr. Dobson, is the co-chair of the weekly congressional prayer breakfast.
So, right off the bat, Rep. Hahn and about a dozen of the group from West Point that came to MRFF are people who have a lot in common. They are all people who are clearly not just unreligious, not just casual attendees at religious events, but actually involved in organizing religious events.
The next similarity? Both Rep. Hahn and that dozen or so people at West Point who had volunteered to help with the prayer event were taken by surprise.
In the case of the West Point event, the people who came to MRFF told us that, although they were among those actually working on putting the event together, they had been kept in the dark about who the speaker was going to be, and were shocked and appalled when they found out that the speaker was to be a bigoted fundamentalist like Jerry Boykin.
I'd imagine that Rep. Hahn was just as taken by surprise by what she heard at the National Day of Prayer event as those prayer event volunteers at West Point were when they found out that Boykin was to be the speaker at their event.
While the situation at West Point was taken care of, with Boykin "withdrawing" from the event, situations like this happen all the time in the military -- not just with scheduled religious events like prayer breakfasts and prayer luncheons, but at day-to-day, supposedly non-religious events occasions into which completely inappropriate religious and political content is infused. And that's where we get to the big difference between Rep Hahn and the service men and women who come to MRFF.
Rep. Hahn could get up and walk out, and then speak freely about why she got up and walked out. Our service men and women do not have that option. They can't just get up and walk out of what are often mandatory events, and they're even afraid to walk out of non-mandatory events for fear of reprisal or ostracism in a military that is now overrun with people of the same ilk as the Dobsons and Jerry Boykin.
The best these service members can do is to come to MRFF, with the assurance that we will protect their anonymity.
Rep. Hahn's comment that "James Dobson hijacked the National Day of Prayer -- this nonpartisan, nonpolitical National Day of Prayer -- to promote his own distorted political agenda" is exactly what MRFF has been saying for years. In fact, "hijacked" is exactly the word we've used over and over to describe not just the National Day of Prayer, but many other events and programs in the military that are supposed to be either inclusive of all religions or not religious at all. The fundamentalists and dominionists (a term that will be explained when I get to what Shirley Dobson said at the National Day of Prayer event) have indeed "hijacked" our military.
Before getting to the rest of what happened at this year's National Day of Prayer event, I just want to say that we at MRFF and many, many other people around the country applaud Rep. Hahn for both literally and figuratively taking a stand.
Now, on to the rest of my National Day of Prayer 2014 "postmortem."
Needless to say, every violation of Department of Defense regulations that MRFF said would be violated was violated. I was going to list all of these many violations, but decided not to do that here. For those who want the list, you can get that from the two letters from MRFF to the Secretary of Defense that I linked to above. What I want to get to here is the "why" behind those regulations that prohibit the military's participation in these kinds of events.
It's all about the endorsement, or perceived endorsement, by the U.S. Military of the opinions espoused at these events, whether those opinions be religious, political, or even commercial.
If a military officer denigrated the President of the United States in the way that James Dobson did at the National Day of Prayer event, that military officer would be subject to court-martial under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for "contemptuous words against the President."
While it wasn't one of the uniformed military officers who participated in the event who uttered the "contemptuous words against the President," the conspicuous presence and participation of uniformed military personnel at the event give the impression that the United States Military approves of and endorses that contempt against the president.
And it wasn't only James Dobson's speech that the military's presence at last Thursday's event conveyed an endorsement of. It was all of the Christian supremacy, bigotry, and religious discrimination that the event represents -- the kind of discrimination and promotion of a particular religious view that is prohibited by a slew of military regulations.
The first words out of Shirley Dobson's mouth when she took the podium after a performance by The United States Army Band "Pershing's Own" Brass Quintet, a joint forces color guard, and a uniformed military vocalist singing the National Anthem, all of whom are prohibited from appearing at religious services, were: "I think that we should all stand and applaud the military for being part of this prayer service this morning."
Ms. Dobson, of course, made it very clear that this was a "Judeo-Christian" event (yeah, they had a couple of messianic rabbis praying to Jesus for the "Judeo" part). But it's the "dominionist" part of Ms. Dobson's opening speech that I want to focus on here.
We at MRFF are constantly having to make it clear that we are not an anti-Christian organization (which should already be sort of obvious given that 96 percent of our clients are Christians), but are only fighting a small, but disproportionately powerful, subset of Christians who have invaded the military in alarming numbers -- the fundamentalists and dominionists.
So, what exactly are these "dominionists" who I'm talking about here? Just like it sounds, the "dominionists" are a subset of Christians whose goal is "dominion" over everybody and everything. How many Christians are dominionists? Well, let's just use the figure from the Truth Project, a project spawned by Focus on the Family, the organization founded by James Dobson. The Truth Project puts the number at 9 percent of all professing Christians -- the Christians who have what they call a "biblical worldview." To these people, the other 91 percent of Christians are not true Christians.
How do you spot a dominionist? Well, one big tip-off is that you'll hear them talking about something called the "Seven Mountains Mandate," something that was mentioned by several of the speakers at lat week's National Day of Prayer event, including Shirley Dobson herself.
First, let me make one thing clear: "Dominionism" is not a term that people like us at MRFF came up with to use as a derogatory thing to call these people. This is their term.
Ready to be scared? Go watch a video of one of the leading dominionist voices talking about the Seven Mountains Mandate. Or even just read this one quote from that video:
"Well, the church is the equipping place, but the world system is where we haven't gone. We've been going into all the nations to plant churches. We haven't been going into all the nations to invade systems. We have to start to bring the Word of God, the teaching of Christ, into the systems. What systems? The governments need to be led by people with principle. That's how you overthrow principalities, is people who have anointing and principles occupying high places. The media, right now the economics world, the media world and the government world is shaping every minute that you're bumping into when you have a conversation....and education. What we need are believers going to the top of these systems because it's where the high places are that Satan occupies the strong man's house. And if you want to plunder the strong man's house, you've got to go where the gates of Hell are located."
Yes, this is the goal of that 9 percent of Christians with the "biblical worldview" -- people like the Dobsons, and those of their ilk who are already "occupying high places" in our military.
And where did this Seven Mountains Mandate come from? Well, it started back in 1975 when three men, Francis Schaeffer, Loren Cunningham, and Bill Bright (husband of Vonette Bright, from whom Shirley Dobson took over the National Day of Prayer in 1991), were allegedly told by God to take over the world. How they were told by God to do this was to infiltrate and take over seven "mountains," also sometimes referred to as "spheres" of culture -- business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. (See websites like this one, or just google "seven mountains" for others.)
Now, last Thursday, as I was kind of listening to what Ms. Dobson was saying at the National Day of Prayer event, but not listening very closely because I was recording it to watch later, I caught her reference to the Seven Mountains Mandate in her opening remarks. I didn't really think much of this at the time since it was not at all unexpected. It was only when I was listening more closely later to what she said that I heard something very alarming. Ms. Dobson had made a change to what the seven mountains are, making the military a separate mountain. Here's what she said:
"This country continues to slide perilously away from the ideals that have sustained us through the darkest times. We desperately need concerted prayer for our country, especially in these seven centers of power, which would be the government, the military, education, business, the family, the church, and -- um -- missed one -- the media."
Yes, Ms. Dobson had replaced the "arts and entertainment" mountain with a new, separate "military" mountain, where the original seven mountains had just lumped the military into the "government" mountain.
Just like Mohammed when he tried but failed to move a mountain, the Dobsons and the other dominionists are going to the "military" mountain.
This 9 percent of Christians with their "biblical worldview," as they call it, have already been quite successful in their infiltration of the military, which is why MRFF exists and now has over 37,000 clients, the overwhelming majority of whom are Christians from the other 91 percent. Unfortunately, it is the 9 percent who have the power -- the power to get the Pentagon to completely disregard a slew of military regulations and allow uniformed military personnel to participate in and endorse their dominionist message.
In addition to the opening ceremonies with the Army's "Pershing's Own" Brass Quintet, the joint forces color guard, and the military vocalist singing the National Anthem, there was a military speaker, Air Force Major General Joseph S. Ward, Jr., who began his remarks by saying that he was there "to represent" all of the members of our military who are currently serving in uniform, completely disregarding the fact that many, many of those service members whom he claimed to be there "to represent" would vehemently oppose his message, the gist of which was that the military service and religious faith are "inextricably linked," "go hand in hand," and "have forged an inseparable union."
Immediately following Maj. Gen. Ward was an Army chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Brittian, also taking the podium in full uniform, and introduced by James Dobson as "representing the Pentagon."
Ironically, the broadcast of the event was interrupted by technical difficulties right as Chaplain Brittian was delivering his prayer for the military, with a message from God (TV) appearing on the screen apologizing for the temporary loss of transmission.
And then came the keynote speaker, this year's National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman, Anne Graham Lotz, who continued the incessant God's-judgment-is-raining-down-upon-bad-bad-America theme of most of the speakers who had gotten up before her -- you know, the typical natural disasters and crazy weather and every other bad thing that's been happening being caused by God because he's pissed off.
Here's a bit of what Ms. Lotz also included in her lengthy list of what she dubbed "disasters" for America:
"... lack of faith in God, lack of fear of God -- and, listen to me, that's in the church. Outside the church, you have secularism, and humanism, and atheism, and agnosticism. An army is invading, destroying us in the very fabric of our nation, and that's a disaster."
Now, did you catch Ms. Lotz's thing about the "lack of faith in God" being a problem "in the church?" That's another telltale dominionist statement, and why "the church" is one of the seven mountains. Sounds kind of weird at first, but it makes sense if you stop and think about it for a minute, right? Since this 9 percent of Christians think that they are the only ones who are "real" Christians, the existence of the other 91 percent of Christians in "the church" makes the church a mountain that needs to be conquered.
There was only one speaker at last week's Dobson-hijacked National Day of Prayer who kept his remarks to what is appropriate for what is supposed to be an inclusive event. That one speaker was Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, the Chaplain of the House of Representatives, who delivered a prayer for the nation that was inclusive, acknowledged other religions, and did not end in Jesus' name. Rev. Conroy even quoted James Madison on religious freedom -- a quote in which Madison said that the major sects in this country don't have the right to govern the minor -- the very antithesis of the dominionist agenda.
Not unexpectedly, Rev. Conroy didn't get any applause or big "amen" from the audience for his appropriately inclusive remarks and prayer, let alone the standing ovation that the most overtly non-inclusive, agenda-driven speakers got.
In closing, I just want to let the Dobsons know that while they managed to succeed in getting their prized military endorsement for their utterly unAmerican dominion-fest this year, the fight is far from over. Be assured, MRFF will still be here when next year's National Day of Prayer rolls around, and between now and then we will be there fighting tooth and nail against those of your Christian dominionist ilk in that military "mountain."