|The Bird, USAF Academy mascot|
To be fair, that shot at the USAF Academy may have been cheap. It was two years ago that a group of cadets contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to complain of coercive fundamentalism. Cadets had casually left Chrisitan tracts, pamphlets, CDs, and of course Bibles in their rooms as evidence of the faith they did not have. They attended weekly meetings to avoid the discrimination they believed was meted out on those lacking faith. Said one cadet,"If any of us gave even the slightest indication that we weren't one of their number, our lives would be even more miserable than they already are due to the fact that we are all living lies here. Despite the Cadet Honor Code we all lie about our lives. We have to." I have no evidence that the USAF has not addressed the concerns raised, nor do I really know the extent of the problem. Being a pluralistic Yankee, I hope they have.
|intolerant or not, I love the tetrarchs|
But let's take the cadet at his word for the moment. His situation is an interesting comparison to Andrew the Tribune, who served under the co-emperors Maximian and Diocletian. When the Persian army violated the Syrian border of the Roman Empire, the regional governor Antiochus appointed a tribune named Andrew to repulse the incursion. With the title Stratelates (Commander) affixed to his name, Andrew set off with a few thousand troops and questionable chances. He ordered his troops to call on Jesus for support; they did this in spite of the prohibition against Christianity and the previous eleven general persecutions of that faith. Their victory was surprisingly decisive in spite of their numerical inferiority.
|Saint Andrew Stratelates|
Recognizing the popularity of the victorious commander, Maximian ordered Andrew and his staff released. He then ordered that they be rearrested at a convenient time and place and executed on some other charges. Meanwhile, Andrew Stratelates, his command staff, and a few thousand soldiers marched off to Tarsus for baptism. When the persecution rolled through Cilicia, they headed for Mount Taurus, but were ambushed by the Roman Army. Andrew and 2,593 other veterans were killed in AD 300 for having unlawfully invoked God prior to defending their nation's borders.
|Andrew with Theophanes of Naousa|
No one has beheaded or crucified anyone at the Air Force Academy, but we all know the miseries that can be inflicted by the young on each other when they believe they are carrying out an institutional mission. Fraternities, sports teams, and most recently collegiate marching bands have all crossed the line from induction to hazing -- how much more passionate would hazing be if eternal salvation were the stakes? And yet, one would wish that the same faith which canonized the victims of religious persecution like Andrew Stratelates would lighten up on about the religious convictions of others.