Help Me Out Here

Monday, November 10, 2008
This advertisement was in my November 10th issue of Newsweek.

It...irks...me. And I can't figure out why.

At first I was just curious if this "Brian Waite" and his acolyte were real sailors, or models. Chaplain Waite is certainly a real Navy Chaplain - he wrote a book called For God and Country, and he's earned those decorations. I don't know about the acolyte, although his Dolphin is accurate...LT Waite is currently assigned to the Naval Submarine Support Command, and it makes sense that he would serve submariners.

So it's not a question of credibility. LT Waite is a Christian Chaplain, and one would assume he might use Bibles provided by the American Bible Society in his ministry.

So what's my problem?

I honestly don't know. Perhaps it's the idea that this "American Bible Society" is using symbols of my service to proselytize and evangelize. Perhaps it's the pervasiveness of evangelical Christianity in the Armed Forces today. Perhaps it's the insinuation that sailors in combat zones are inevitably drawn to the Bible, a corollary to that stupid "there are no atheists in foxholes" canard.

I don't know. But I am irked.

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Edited 11/10/2008 2:30 p.m.: I need to trust my instincts. While I can see why an anti-Islam author might be just the spokesperson the American Bible Society would want, I wonder how the non-Christian sailors feel about him?

28 comments:

John the Scientist said...

Here's my problem with this. We're trying desperately to convince our ME allies that the WOT is not a Crusade. This is a nice piece of counterpropaganda they are handing the enemy. They think that their spiritual agenda matters more than US strategic interests, and, quite possibly, the safety of our servicemen and women.

Nathan said...

I see that you've resolved your questions before my arrival.

The thought of Military Chaplains has always hurt my head...even before my apathy about religion set in. I certainly don't see how a guy who is preaching the dangers of Islam is capable of ministering to any and every random sailor who comes to him.

Jeri said...

As I read through his statements in the first article - I gave up about 2/3 of the way through and didn't have the stomach to tackle the 2nd - I had an insight.

All his rhetoric about the Muslims taking over America? On the school board, in office, etc? That's kind of how I feel about Christian theocracy.

In fact, in discussing politics with a very politically & religiously conservative friend, he indicated he was afraid Obama's fiscal policies amounted to socialism. I disagreed, but told him that given the choice between socialism and theocracy, I'd prefer the former.

Sigh.

Janiece Murphy said...

Nathan, I really should wait before I hit the "publish" button.

Military chaplains do serve a purpose - most are trained in the faith traditions of all major religions, and act as de facto counselors for sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen who need them. They also provide support for shipboard libraries and other MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) endeavors. Because people of faith so outnumber agnostics and atheists in the Armed Forces, I do believe they provide a service that means a great deal to many service members.

In fact, I served with one at the Naval Training Center in San Diego who was a great guy - personable, accommodating, open-minded, educated and gracious. He was Russian Orthodox, but the only reason I knew that was because I asked. He considered his duty to be helping everyone - regardless of creed - in whatever way they needed.

When Chaplains think their mandate includes pressuring service members to convert to their faith (for their own good, of course), then I have a problem. A HUGE problem.

Jeri, you know what kills me? When Christians claim they are the persecuted minority. Really? In what universe are Christians the minority in the United States? And I have news for them - taking away your unearned privilege so that non-Christians don't feel like outsiders in our secular society is not persecution. It's fairness.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

"Perhaps it's the pervasiveness of evangelical Christianity in the Armed Forces today."
Yes. it is teh pervasiveness of evangelical Christianity in our whoel society. And how, if you wish out loud that they would just keep it to themselves, then you are unpatriotic. Or unAnerican. or something. And that if you are NOT a vocal Christian, you are a PAGAN. Or HEATHEN. Or just NOT WORTH LIVING.
Jerks.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

And this obvious pagan can't type for shit.

Janiece Murphy said...

That's okay, Amy. We love you for reasons OTHER than your mad typing skilz.

Random Michelle K said...

If I remember correctly, there was a case recently regarding the Air Force (Academy I think).

There were complaints that there was an extreme amount of pressure exerted upon cadets not just to be Christian, but to be evangelical Christian.

But I can't remember any more details, and I'm too tired to look it up.

Janiece Murphy said...

Michelle, go to bed.

You can find info on the insinuation of evangelical Christians in the military at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, linked in the post.

Eric said...

On top of what everyone else has already said, from John's excellent point about the propaganda value to the uncovering of Waite's bigotry, let me just add that there's something horribly paternalistic about the way the photo is composed. The differences in age and rank hardly seem to justify the image of the chaplain seemingly reading the Bible to the other man, who is positioned as if he's, like, eight or something.

I mean, if I were hired to do the photos for this ad,* I'd show the men, say, standing and conversing about the Bible (perhaps even show the sailor--forgive me for not being familiar with his actual rank--holding the book while the chaplain points out something he's obviously explaining to the younger man). Something. That picture is really just terrible.


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*Sounds unlikely that I'd be doing a church ad? Funny, true story: while I studied for the Bar and immediately after, while I waited for my results, I had a job through a temp agency--as a church secretary. They loved me--I showed them how their computer worked. I adopted a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" policy insofar as religion was concerned--they never asked me where I went to church and I never told them I'd been an atheist since around seventh grade or so. Nice people, but the stuff they had me copying for their Sunday School classes was kind of creepy. Probably not creepy to a Christian, I mean--they were Lutherans--but there was one thing, for instance, where the kids were supposed to do a "connect the dots" that resolved into a crucifix, which to me is sort of like a connect the dots of an electric chair or a noose or something--but hey, that really is just me, I'm sure.

Anne C. said...

I think Eric has touched on what I think is the core of the image subconciously. It is posed almost exactly like typical drawings/photos from the 50s, which evoke in me a strong feeling of the Paternalistic Christian Society. Eric spotted the body language indicators, but I think it's also a visual reminder of the culture of the 50s (in the same way the visual look of Austin Powers movie posters were designed to evoke the free-wheeling late 60s and 70s).

It's a throwback to a "golden age" for paternalistic Christians (women and men) and that's what makes me cringe from it.

Imagine if it were a woman chaplain. It's actually a bit difficult because a) the pose is too "manly man" and b) it's so 50s it's hard to imagine a woman in pants in the picture. (I keep getting "pencil skirt!" in my mental picture.)

Keith Wilson said...

Looking at the words separate from the visual, keeping the military aspect in mind, think back to WWII propaganda posters. I see a striking similarity, just updated for a newer age.

Keith Wilson said...

BTW, Janiece, thanks for the kinds comments on my post. It made it worth trying to get #**!#$?? Blogger to do what I wanted it to do.

Janiece Murphy said...

Hehe. You're welcome, Keith.

And I think you hit the nail on the head, and it goes right with what Eric and Anne were saying.

Clearly a one-way conversation, there.

John the Scientist said...

So Eric reminded me to check - this is must be an old picture, because the Chaplain is wearing Lieutenant's Bars (I can never get used to Navy ranks, two bars is a CAPTAIN, damn it :D) rather than Lieutenant Commander's Oak Leaves. The articles IDd him as a LTCDR.

Just exactly how long has he been planning / pulling this crap?

Eric - Navy Rates and Ranks are here. We had to memorize them first year of college, but I always forget the Navy Enlisted Rates. I also memorized the Soviet and Chinese ranks, and once almost got into trouble because I knew them - well more trouble, because I was already in KGB custody at the time... o.O

John the Scientist said...

Dang it, looks like I screwed up the hyperlink.

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, in case you don't want to look it up, the sailor's rate is "Yeoman 2nd Class," meaning he's an E-5 administrative assistant.

But the term "sailor" is pretty much appropriate for any Naval enlisted rank, although it's rarely used for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (E-7 and above). They're referred to as "Chiefs."

Thanks, John - I fell down on the job, there.

Random Michelle K said...

Yeah, well, going to bed didn't help any. I'm still muzzle headed. You'll just have to excuse me for the next month or so. :)

And my impression was similar to Anne and Eric's that I thought this was a WWII era or just after poster or ad initially.

The color doesn't help.

John the Scientist said...

I think Navy uniforms have changed the least since WWII.

Jim Wright said...

Argh!

Been busy this week. Catching up. Wish I'd have seen this yesterday when you posted it.

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Here's the actual issue, from a Navy Regulation Standpoint and UCMJ. Waite is allowed to believe as he wishes, what he is not allowed to do is to use his uniform to promote his ideas. Period.

He is NOT allowed to appear in uniform, nor is the Yeoman, on an ABS poster without the express written approval of the US Navy. And the US Navy apparently didn't give that approval. I called a friend in the Navy PAO office and she was unable to find a record of the request or any approval, she and her boss were also not aware of the ABS poster you linked too. They are now.

This is not the first issue with Waite, and he is already under scrutiny. A summary can be found here.


_____________________

Janiece, did you notice the salad bar Waite is wearing in the poster, including a valor "V" on his NCM? Interesting.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jim, thanks for notifying the PAO. I don't have any contacts in that office, so I appreciate the assist.

I did see the "V." According to his bio linked in the first part of the post, he earned it during Operation Iraqi Freedom...but the bio is supported by his publisher, who has a vested interest in his credentials. They also reference his Doctorate, which was evidently awarded by a non-accredited institution, as detailed in my 4th and 5th links in the edit. I have no idea if he earned the "V" or not - and I'm loathe to accuse the man of foul play on this issue without some reason to suspect.

John the Scientist said...

Oh shit, here it comes again. Retards beware!

Janiece Murphy said...

John, you have no idea.

I've been in communication with the MRFF, and they were very pleased to know about this ad. Evidently they're drafting a letter to the SecDef requesting an IG investigation of Chaplain Waite regarding other matters, and now they'll be including this ad, as well.

There are more details here.

John the Scientist said...

OK, I'm a bit confused. In that video at the bottom of the HuffPo article, Waite is wearing dark brown pants. Is that an actual article of uniform issued in the Navy? Is that his way of trying to dodge the "in uniform" issue?

Hah. And did you notice the nitwit Elmer Gantry wannabe introduce him as Lieutenant Colonel? :D

I mean, I realize he was assigned to a USMC unit, but still...

Janiece Murphy said...

John, that's a good question.

The Navy Officer Corps does not have a uniform that looks like that, but it appeared he was wearing his decorations.

However, Navy Chaplains, Corpsman and some other jobs are authorized to wear the Marine Uniform if they're attached to a Marine unit.

I don't know if Chaplain Waite was assigned to a Marine Unit at the time the video was shot, though.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

This is all just so dandy. Meanwhile, he is earning a good salary as a crackpot officer, while there are loads of enlisted people with REAL degress toiling away for enlisted wages/benefits.
Shitbag.

Janiece Murphy said...

Sorry, Amy. Didn't mean to give you the Hypertension.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

::Breathing deeply::