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Monday, 3 January 2011

A Poor Little Sheep?

"We are poor little sheep that have lost our way. Baa Baa Baa." At least for women according to a religious group allowed access at the Air Force Academy. MRFF and truthout have been covering an ongoing scandal at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado involving a cultish fundamentalist group on campus.

Lauren Baas was a cadet (until her graduation last year) at the Academy and joined the Cadets for Christ run by Don Warrick and his wife Anna. According to Jean Baas, Lauren's mother, Lauren totally changed once she joined Cadets for Christ. Cadets for Christ members believe that women are "sheep" and men are the women's "shepherds". Lauren even allowed the cult to select a husband two years her junior to marry. Wow.

Here is a photograph of a cookbook given to Lauren by her "shepherds".

Baa Baa Sisterhood Cookbook



But I have a few questions. Lauren Baas is an intelligent college age woman who formally had ambitions and plans for a vibrant and productive life. Why would she fall for the love bombing and authoritarian structure of a cult? How could an intelligent woman fall for such transparent nonsense?

When I was about 13, I went to a Sunday School at my neighbor's church. Unknown to my parents, this church was a hard core Church of God. This church was really a cult and the churches collapsed during the nineties. Even at that age, I realized that there was something not right about this church. I kept questioning what they were teaching. When it was realized by the Sunday School teacher that I was not buying what was being taught, I was asked not to come back. I guess they wanted unquestioning obedience, which I was not going to give them.

Why did Lauren fall for such nonsense? Well for one thing, the environment at the AFA is extremely stressful. This is why religious groups place a priority on evangelizing at military training bases and service academies.

The cadets are usually away from home for the first time, with older cadets and instructors providing a role model for them to emulate. If these senior cadets and instructors insinuate that acquiring a similar religious viewpoint would advance their careers, then some cadets will pretend a religiosity they don't have in order to fit in and make life easier. Others like a lonely Lauren Baas succumb to the "love bombing" of a campus cult-like group.

When I attended the Air Force Officer Training School in the early eighties, one obtained merits to offset demerits by going to a Christian church and bible study. Since I'm fascinated by religion, even though I don't believe in it, I decided to go to the Methodist service my roommate did. I openly stated in a friendly manner that I was there only for the 5 merits that I would earn. Unlike my roommate, I also attended the bible study to get even more merits. I enjoyed asking uncomfortable questions of the Christians. I did this in a friendly and questioning manner. After seeing a couple of officer trainees seriously considering my questions, the Methodist Chaplain offered me 5 merits a week not to attend. I still smile when I recall the story.

But I was not a lonely, frightened young woman who did not know how to resist cultists. I grew up in a family that openly questioned religious matters and was raised not to believe things without questioning them. Also the religious environment of the Air Force was not nearly as evangelical as it is today.

6 comments:

Charlene said...

A question is why would a religious organization havae access to cadets let alone their being merits awarded for going to religious meetings?

J said...
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J said...

Your post hints at an important issue: e.g., fundamentalists in the military, including those in charge of training cadets, often overlook the separation of church and state. A bit obvious, but...someone, especially a vet, should point it out. There's quite a bit of material about this online--- soldiers being required to attend religious services, concerts, and so forth. The bonehead baptist sorts appear to be the most numerous in uniform but there are catholics, jews and muslims as well. There are reports that some fundamentalist officers will at times refer to Scripture for guidance in the field: imagine some Al Haig-like wingnut quoting the Book of Revelation or something before an airstrike (I've read that did happen under BushCo).

Anna Lemma said...

The chaplain corps is comprised of 33% Baptist/Charismatic/Pentecostal but the population in the military belonging in these churches is around 3%. This is where the problem is coming from. Military members are not being represented correctly by the chaplain corps. These chaplains regard the military as a "mission field".

J said...
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J said...

You might find this study interesting, AL: Military Religious Demographics

According to this study approx. 70% of the DoD are Christian (that includes...papists, bapticks, prezbos, and presumably the traditional fruitcakes-- episcopalian-lutheran types ).

Remarkably, over 23% are non-believers (atheist, agnostic, none of the above).

The chaplain numbers are quite different, with "evangelicals" (creatures aka Palinites) far outnumbering the others.