FAITH ON A SHOESTRING |
September 07, 2007
FAITH ON A SHOESTRING
Name: Anne Freeman
Posting date: 9/7/07
Spouse: Stationed in Iraq
Milblog url: calmbeforethesand.blogspot.com
While Milo's been toiling away in the sand and heat, I spent most of this weekend at a unit family retreat in the mountains. I feel guilty sometimes, having fun while he's away, but I needed this break. I spent the weekend hiking, biking, swimming, getting massaged, and attending mandatory seminars on how to build a healthy marriage. As much fun as I had, I came to dread those seminar sessions. They were helpful sometimes, but I take offense at being subjected to extensive Biblical teaching and group prayer at mandatory, government-funded information sessions. I take offense at being taught how to "achieve victory in Christ," and told that "those who belong to Christ are already victorious." If I don't belong to Christ, am I not victorious then?
I was raised in an Evangelical Baptist family, and as I grew up I began to chafe at the hypocrisy inherent in the beliefs I was raised with. I questioned, I learned, and I left the church for another path. It's a real point of contention with my family, so we just don't talk about it. I wonder if we ever will, or if it's just better this way. Family issues aside, I've run into even more problems as a "non-Christian" in the military. I know the Chaplain's office is supposed to meet the needs of all, but I can't help feeling like Christian traditions are being jammed down my throat at almost every turn. How is it appropriate to recite Bible verses and lead group prayers at mandatory information briefings? The worst part is that when I express my discomfort over being placed in such situations, the response of my Christian counterparts is so often, "Oh please, it's not hurting you any."
What they don't understand is that it is.
As I mulled these issues over in the travel journal I keep for my mother-in-law, I wondered how any devout Christian woman would feel in my shoes. What follows is the best I could do to share my situation.
Let me try to explain where I'm coming from here. You're a military spouse -- imagine your family has been stationed in a country where your religion is not welcome. The only comparison I can come up with is Islam. Imagine being stationed in a Muslim country; one where the constitution defines Islam as the state religion, and a portion of every paycheck is paid to the Church of Islam. Imagine that a large portion of those Muslims believe that your religion is the product of Satan, and that you "worship the devil".
Kind of Uncomfortable, huh?
Now imagine that there are no other Christians in your new community, and no Christian services. The Chaplain's office promises to include everyone, but they offer only Muslim services because there just aren't enough Christians in the community to warrant your own service. What's more, they read the Koran to you at nearly every public event. They spend more time trying to convert you than helping provide you with spiritual support.
Maybe you consider trying to find other Christians and start a prayer group. So you ask the Chaplain's office and they promise to email you with info, but they don't. While you're waiting for your email, you see a vitriolic letter in Stars and Stripes. Apparently, some Christians in the next community started a prayer group at their chapel, and the community is protesting. Imagine that Muslims in that community refuse to use the same building as someone of your faith. The letter writer goes on to call Christianity the product of Satan, and Christians unfit for service in the Army and the community.
Lonely yet? 'Cause I sure am.
I am living in a community with no other members of my faith. I am surrounded by people who think my beliefs are either evil or illegitimate. There are no services, no spiritual support groups, no sympathy. The worst part of it all is that my husband is no better off than I am. He is a soldier with no spiritual support network, no spiritual counsel, and no guidance. He is on his own to deal with his family troubles or his existential crises. The very people who promise to support him make it abundantly clear that they support only those whose faith mirrors their own.
I totally understand that Milo and I are in the minority in this community, and that the chaplaincy has limitations. I can deal with all of that. What I cannot deal with is all that plus being forced to partake in a religion that I walked away from long ago. I think the chaplaincy serves an important purpose, and I take comfort in the ability of others to practice their religion freely. What I take offense at is being required to practice with them.
All I ask is the same consideration afforded to everyone else