Friday, December 31, 2010

Kali on a Candied Coconut Croissant

Well, this is disturbing. Ed Brayton notes that:
While I was on vacation, Chris Rodda reported here on a very disturbing new development in the ongoing battle between the military and the constitutional rights of non-Christians. The Army sends out a mandatory survey to soldiers to gauge their "spiritual fitness" and if you do not give answers that reflect religious belief you are deemed to be spiritually unfit.

The survey is called the "Soldier Fitness Tracker" (SFT) and it is part of a larger Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program designed to help support the well-being of Army personnel. And it turns out that there is also "Spiritual Remedial Training" that goes along with it if you aren't deemed sufficiently "spiritual."

Some of the yes/no questions on the survey include:

I am a spiritual person.

My life has lasting meaning.

I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.

I believe there is purpose in my life.

When Sgt. Justin Griffith, the man who is organizing the Rock Beyond Belief event at Ft. Bragg this spring, answered those questions honestly he was deemed to be spiritually unfit and was "red barred." Al Stefanelli explains what that means, according to the text of the survey itself:

A red bar means that you face some significant challenges in this area. This means that you should focus most of your attention on this area, though you should also note that placing too much emphasis here could result in other dimensions dropping. The key is to properly balance where you need the most development with the areas you are already doing well in.

The survey then informed Griffith of his alleged problem:

Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you.
. . .

If you "fail" this test, as Griffith did, you may be subject to Spiritual Remediation Training. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers has more details on that training and its pervasively religious content.

It gets worse:
[T]his remedial training program is overseen by a chaplain named CH Lamb, who is endorsed by the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC) and Jim Ammerman. CFGC is the endorser of a platoon full of truly insane fundamentalist chaplains like Gordon Klingenschmitt. I've reported on Ammerman's utter lunacy before. Imagine having someone like Klingenschmitt in charge of deciding who is spiritually fit to be in the military and it becomes obvious what a serious problem this is.

While I suspect that many Pagans could truthfully answer these "spiritual" questions in ways that would allow them to "pass," one wonders exactly why our military is even asking such questions. And how such fundie whackjobs came to control our armed forces in the first place.

/hat tip to JR in comments at Eschaton.

Picture found here.


Teacats said...

Wow! That is so disturbing on many levels! And not a far stretch until those questions are indeed tailored to reveal EXACTLY what kind of beliefs you may/might hold! And if you choose NOT to answer then you are subjected to brain washing? NOT Very enlightened in the 21st century!

Hecate said...


Indeed, it does seem as if the 21st Century is yet to begin. Happy New Year!

Aisha said...

they ask the questions because those that don't have a spiritual life whatever your religion generally have greater issues with mental health problems. there have been studies showing that those without a reason to fight or a meaning to their life tend to take what would be considered 'small hits' a lot harder and are more likely to commit suicide. Do I think there should be 'retraining' no, each has his or her own right to their own thoughts, but i would rather have someone who has some belief in the greater good of humanity than someone who believes we are all doomed and therefore aren't worth living. I didn't say it always works out that the "faith-filled' are as good as their faiths request them to be but having some belief in the inherent worthiness of life is necessary for the man sitting behind the controls of the apache helicopter to decide not to just open fire on anything moving.

gidget commando said...

I think I like your Kali exclamation even better than "sweet shiverin' Shiva on a surfboard!"

There's so much fail in that "spiritual fitness" thing that they'll need an entire new zip code to hold it all. I hope the Mikey Weinsteins and allies of the world kick their collective can.

Makarios said...

Chris Rodda has written about this:

"Spiritual fitness" is the military's new code phrase for promoting religion, and the religion being promoted is Christianity. There are spiritual fitness centers, spiritual fitness programs, spiritual fitness concerts, spiritual fitness runs and walks, and so forth.

This year, for example, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and Fort Lee, Virginia, have been holding a spiritual fitness concert series. At Fort Eustis, it's actually called the "Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concert Series." This is a Christian concert series. All of the performers are Christian recording artists. Photos from one of the Fort Lee concerts show crosses everywhere, and one photo's caption even says that the performer "took a moment to read a Bible passage" during her set. In some cases, attendance at Christian concerts held at basic training installations has been mandatory for the Soldiers in training.

More at the link:

Makarios said...

Old post, but this just in:

Soldiers Forced to See Chaplain After Failing Army's Spiritual Fitness Test