Sunday, November 19, 2006

For What Reasons?

(Part one of a series)

With the recent focus on the case of Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart, and the law suit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for first amendment rights, I have often wondered about the exact reasons of why some people in our government have expressed opposition to the practice of Paganism on military bases. Yes, I know that a lot of it has to do with people wanting to deny Wicca legal religious status, but what are the arguments that they use to uphold their point of view?

In an essay in the book Religion in America, Robert L. Maginnis states a few problems with Pagans serving in the military. He says that Wicca undermines

....military values, adherence to norms, willingness to kill, and recruitment and retention among the majority who hold a generally theistic worldview and regard witchcraft as an abomination.

How does Wicca do all this? He goes on to say,

Wicca represents a direct affront to Christian and Jewish teaching.”
He never really expands on this statement. Here are the reasons that Robert Maginnis argues that Wiccans shouldn’t be allowed:

Military Values

So what are these so called military values? According to Maginnis, three of the values include military discipline, order and readiness. I don’t see how being Wiccan could have a negative effect on those three things. For that matter, I don’t see how being Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc could have a positive effect on those three things.

Adherence To Norms

What norms are we talking about here? Just because those of the Wiccan faith do not hold the same beliefs that Christians do, please do not automatically assume that Wiccan don’t adhere to any sociatal norms. Wiccans hold jobs, have families, take vacations and participate in PTAs meetings and politics. By implying that Wiccans don't follow society's norms, Maginnis is really trying to say that Wiccans are not normal.

Well, what is normal? Going from a psychological perspective, there is such a huge range in what is considered normal. Everyone has some behavior or habits that others look upon as a little strange. But those habits are not enough to say that those people don't follow sociatal norms.

Cultural and regional differences also has a huge impact on what is considered normal. The norms that I am familiar with and follow in Minnesota are not always followed in, say, Mississippi, let alone in another country. Yet, we don't go around saying that people are not normal because they are from a different region or country.

Willingness To Kill

For this point, Maginnis uses the Wiccan Rede to demonstrate that Wiccans will not be able to participate in combat. Yet, earlier in the article he mentions that there were 2228 Buddhists in the military services in 1998. They, too, hold a pacifist point of view but Maginnis doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with including Buddhists in the military services.

Maginnis uses this argument to say that Wiccans will not be "ready" to fight when they are called to action. However, as he is mentioning the Wiccan Rede, Maginnis fails to mention that one of Christianity's own commandments is "thou shall not kill." Wouldn't that also effect the readiness of the military (using his own argument)?

Recruitment and Retention Problems

By this, I am guessing that Maginnis thinks that our Christian military personnel will leave in droves. If this argument was true, wouldn’t there currently be more Pagans than Christians in the military? Based on the numbers that were stated in Maginnis’ own article, I would have to say that the recruitment and retention of personnel of the Christian faith seems to be just fine.

In the counter-essay, the author, Chad Anctil, states that his experience as a Wiccan on base was very different. He never hid his religion and was allowed to practice it undisturbed. Only three people in his six year military career ever had a problem. It doesn't sound like people were leaving the military in regards to Anctil's relgious beliefs.

Next Post: Ethical Relativism

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