The Catholic Military Archdiocese issued a press release on Thursday.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services and Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty recently became aware of a U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief that expressly listed “Catholicism,” “Evangelical Christianity” and other religious groups as examples of “religious extremism” alongside groups such as “Al Qaeda”, “Hamas” and the “KKK.”
The Daily Mail offers some images from what was actually a slideshow presentation that ostensibly had not been approved by the Department of Defense, but was nevertheless being used for training in the U.S. Army Reserve. Remember that it is the U.S. Army Reserve that responds to disaster situations within America. The slideshow lists all Catholics, all Evangelicals, some Mormons and some Jews as religious extremists. It also warns that members of the military are forbidden to be members of any of these groups and are forbidden from passing out the groups’ literature. Holy Cards would logically fall under the definition, as would church bulletins, and any other document.
The slideshow definition of “ideology” would include all religions:
A systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; a way of thinking used by a group or individual to express their beliefs and social values.
It looks like they got that definition straight out of Merriam-Webster, but “ideology” is a term used in politics. Until now, I have never seen the word “ideology” used to directly include (and forbid) religious belief in any government document that has the potential to put my life in danger, as a passionate Catholic.
The definition given for “Extremist Organizations” is disturbing, as well. Violence is listed first here, but violence alone is not what the training brief refers to as extremism. The Catholic Church would fall under the definition not only due to her opposition to “gay marriage,” but also because she claims a certain supremacy over other religions.
A group which advocates the use of force or violence, advocates supremacist causes; based on ethnicity, religion, gender or national origin; or otherwise engages in efforts to deprive individuals or groups of their civil rights.
Twenty years ago, in a college class, I was taught that “extremism” refers to being willing to resort to violence to achieve your political goals. Now, “extremism” can include my blog, and the blog of any other Catholic, Evangelical, Jew, Mormon or any other religious person who believes his faith is objectively true and, as such, has “supremacy” over other religious beliefs. I do believe that my religion is “supreme” over others. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be a member of the Catholic Church. I am not willing to resort to violence, though. In this, I am no extremist, and neither are you if you are a Catholic, Jew, Evangelical, Mormon or other religious person who does not believe in violence.
So, what is going on here, exactly? Why is this happening? Relativists who believe relativism is supreme are classifying the religious as “extremist” for believing their religion is supreme. Pope Benedict referred to this sort of thing as “dictatorship of relativism,”and offers sound advice on responding to it.
Peter Seewald: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism”, you declared in your homily at the opening of the conclave [in 2005], “that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate standard consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
Pope Benedict: That is why we must have the courage to dare to say: Yes, man must seek the truth; he is capable of truth. It goes without saying that truth requires criteria for verification and falsification. It must always be accompanied by tolerance, also. But then truth also points out to us those constant values which have made mankind great. That is why the humility to recognize the truth and to accept it as a standard has to be relearned and practiced again. The truth comes to rule, not through violence, but rather through its own power; this is the central theme of John’s Gospel: When brought before Pilate, Jesus professes that he himself is The Truth and the witness to the truth. He does not defend the truth with legions but rather makes it visible through his Passion and thereby also implements it.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that all desire to be on the top of the heap. He called it the “drum major instinct,” and he said that the cure for it is the humility that is found in the Church, which he personally viewed as including all believers in Christ…the Church that welcomes all of humanity to come to know Christ as our King, and the peace that comes from this.
And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. [...]
[...] And then the final great tragedy of the distorted personality is the fact that when one fails to harness this instinct, (Glory to God) he ends up trying to push others down in order to push himself up. (Amen) And whenever you do that, you engage in some of the most vicious activities. You will spread evil, vicious, lying gossip on people, because you are trying to pull them down in order to push yourself up. (Make it plain) And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct.
Now the other problem is, when you don’t harness the drum major instinct—this uncontrolled aspect of it—is that it leads to snobbish exclusivism. It leads to snobbish exclusivism. (Make it plain) And you know, this is the danger of social clubs and fraternities—I’m in a fraternity; I’m in two or three—for sororities and all of these, I’m not talking against them. I’m saying it’s the danger. The danger is that they can become forces of classism and exclusivism where somehow you get a degree of satisfaction because you are in something exclusive. And that’s fulfilling something, you know—that I’m in this fraternity, and it’s the best fraternity in the world, and everybody can’t get in this fraternity. So it ends up, you know, a very exclusive kind of thing.
[...] But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It’s very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, “You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?”
But that isn’t what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, “Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you’re going to be my disciple, you must be.” But he reordered priorities. And he said, “Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.”
And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, “Now brethren, I can’t give you greatness. And really, I can’t make you first.” This is what Jesus said to James and John. “You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared.” (Amen)
Humility and truth are the key to peace.
And now, I offer an “extremist” training video, for your enjoyment.