A Spiritually Transformed Military with Ambassadors for Christ in Uniform
Throughout the U.S. military, with chapters on virtually every military installation worldwide, lurks an organization of over 15,500 fundamentalist Christian military officers who think their real duty is not to protect and defend the Constitution, but to raise up "a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit." These officers belong to an organization called the Officers' Christian Fellowship (OCF), and range in rank from future officers in ROTC and at the U.S. military's service academies to generals and admirals.
Unlike the other fundamentalist Christian para-church military ministries, which employ retired military personnel to be their "insiders," about 80 percent of OCF members are true insiders. They are current military officers, many of them commanders with authority over large numbers of service members and even entire bases and larger commands.
When people ask why our service members don't just complain through military channels about religious issues, and instead come to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for help, our answer is usually just to say that these service members are afraid to go to their military superiors. Most people, however, probably don't understand why so many service members have this fear of going to their superiors and filing formal complaints, so I thought a little more of an explanation might be helpful, and explaining a bit about OCF is a good place to start.
Imagine for a moment that you're a service member whose entire unit just received an email blast from your superior officer on your official military email, with the subject line "Why We Serve." You open that email to find a lengthy religious message that ends with the following:
"We are blessed to be able, through our lives in the military, to demonstrate the message of salvation to those who have not heard or received it. It was by God's grace through faith that we were brought fully into His family and presence. Our love for Him motivates us to serve Him in our military, to serve and work for our families, and to serve and work to enable the message of salvation to reach those who have yet to accept Him as Lord and Savior. As Jesus spoke in the Gospel of John.
"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (John 14:21)."
You know that it is completely inappropriate and against military policy for your superior to be using official email to send religious messages to their subordinates. You want to report the officer who is sending out emails like this, but who do you report them to? Your chain of command, right? But wait, the first link in your chain of command is the officer who just sent out the email. And if you go file a complaint through other military channels, it'll get back to the officer who sent the email, who has the power to make your life miserable. See the problem?
(The above was a real situation reported to MRFF. The content of the email titled "Why We Serve" was an essay from the OCF website, written by a retired 3-star general and past OCF president.)
What if you're being hounded by one of the fundamentalist Christian para-church ministries on your base? You know it's wrong for your superiors to be allowing people from this ministry to invade your barracks to "encourage" you to attend their next Bible study. But it's your chain of command who are allowing this, so they must approve of it, and you're smart enough to realize that complaining to the very people who are allowing this to happen would be a very stupid move, especially if you are a soldier in a basic or other training situation. The last thing you want to do is stand out as being non-religious or of the "wrong" religion.