By Diana Hsieh
Pvt. Anthony Smith is the type of guy who stands up for what he believes in. That's why he decided to hold his commanding officers accountable for punishing him and fellow soldiers after they refused to attend an evangelical Christian rock concert at the Fort Eustis military post in Virginia.Even worse, soldiers were discouraged from filing a complaint about the incident. Even apart from the coercion of these soldiers, why oh why is our military hosting and paying for a "Spiritual Fitness Concerts" promoting evangelical Christianity? Here's a bit on that:
After a day of training at Fort Eustis, Smith and other trainees were normally released to have personal time, but on May 13, Smith and dozens of others were "required" to march in formation to a concert headlined by an evangelical Christian rock band. Smith spent six months training at Fort Eustis before moving to Arizona to serve on active duty with the National Guard.
"No option was presented to us off the bat," Smith told Truthout about the required concert.
The Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concert that Smith and others were told to attend was headlined by BarlowGirl, a "band of tender-hearted, beautiful young women who aren't afraid to take an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God," according to the group's web site.
The brainchild of Maj. Gen. Chambers, the Commanding General's Spiritual Fitness Concert series was created at Fort Eustis when he was the commanding general there. In June 2008, Chambers brought the Christian concert series to Fort Lee, when he became its commanding general.I hate to say it, but our military seems to be operating under the motto of "onward Christian soldiers." That's seriously disturbing.
The point behind the concert series was to connect to young soldiers. "The easiest way to get to Soldiers today is through a phone or music," Chambers told Fort Lee Public Affairs back in 2008. "Through those means, you can change behavior, and that's what I'm looking forward to more than anything else."
There isn't much doubt that the concert series promotes religious belief. Chambers admitted as much to Fort Lee Public Affairs. "The idea is not to be a proponent for any one religion," he said. "It's to have a mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds."
But Smith says he hasn't heard of any act performing who wasn't Christian. "I never once heard of a Muslim event or an atheist event," he said. "The vast majority of them have to be Christian events."
According to MRFF, the DoD has spent at least $300,000 on Christian musical acts for these events. For instance, since 2008, the DoD has paid $125,000 to the Street Level Artists Agency, which describes its mission as "Christian radicals ... bringing the Gospel into the rock 'n roll vernacular of the common man," for performances at Forts Eustis and Lee since 2008, according to records on USASpending.gov. The agency represents Christian performers like David Phelps and Phil Keaggy, both of whom have played the concert series.