COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

Saturday’s In Theory question (“Militant approach to Christianity”) referred to a recent Newsweek article in which it reported that the U.S. military had been accused of using its presence in Muslim countries to spread Christianity in violation of military protocols. Five of the six religious commentators addressed the issue and made thoughtful comments about the conduct.

Pastor Jon Karn did not address the issue. Instead, “as a Christian minister and thinking American” he chose to present his negative opinions of the magazine. He said Newsweek was “grossly partisan” and “patently disdainful.” He referred to the author as a “feminist” and “secular fundamentalist.” These and other disparaging remarks lead him to conclude a reader could not believe this article and therefore it was not worthy of evaluation.

To ensure I knew the issues, I read the article and found it interesting and consistent with what I know on the subject. I found it full of facts, examples and quotes from various people and little, if any, opinion. That is, it was a news report, not an editorial.

As “a thinking American,” Karn should have known that ad hominem arguments are invalid. A first-year philosophy course at Glendale Community College teaches that replying to an argument by attacking the belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim, proves nothing, it only changes the subject. As a “thinking American” I’m sure Roth knows that simply calling Euclid names does not invalidate the fact that the area of a rectangle is the product of its length and width.

As a “thinking American,” Karn could have done his own investigation into both the veracity of Newsweek and of the story. He could have known that the author would certainly have submitted the story to an editor for verification and appropriateness. He could have known that the editor of Newsweek is Jon Meacham, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for biography and who is a very intelligent and religious man.

In addition to Meacham, Newsweek correspondents include such well-known writers as Michael Isikoff, Fareed Zakaria, Howard Fineman and Jonathon Alter. Karn might also have known that Newsweek has a worldwide circulation of more than 4 million and holds more prestigious National Magazine Awards than any other news weekly.

The Newsweek article referenced several sources of relevant information on the subject. Two seemed quite important to the issue. The first was a recent article in Harper’s magazine that discussed the fact that the U.S. military is engaged in an internal battle over religious practices. The second was a broadcast video filmed in 2008 showing stacks of Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari at the U.S. air base in Bagram and featuring the chief of U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, telling soldiers to “hunt people” for Jesus. Since Karn makes no mention of them, I can only assume either he missed reading about these references or disbelieved them also.

Karn does not refer to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation by name, but only an “anti-Christian extremist group.” What he omits is that the foundation has brought a lawsuit against the U.S. government over its conduct in this matter.

Their leader is Michael Weinstein, an honor graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, who spent 10 years as a “JAG,” or military attorney, serving as both a federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, and was in the Reagan administration as part of the White House legal counsel.

Unfortunately, he chose to not include any of the above information in his commentary. Hopefully, he is not representative of all thinking Americans.


 RICHARD BENNETT is a Glendale resident.

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