Using Jesus to Train Airmen to Drop the Bomb

It seems chaplains were teaching “ethics” classes to Air Force officers to convince them it was their moral duty to push the button if so ordered. You can read Chaplain, Captain Shin Soh’s presentation here. The last slide is, “Any Questions?” Yes, I have a few. In discussing the Just War tradition, he seems to have forgotten about proportionality, and discrimination between civilian and military, and the obligation of officers to say no to illegal and immoral orders. He gives lots of Biblical models of soldiers, suggesting that there are no moral issues with warfare. I wonder if that’s an honest reading of the full Scriptural account? What about the Sermon on the Mount?

Back to Soh’s presentation. He asks,

  • Can we exercise enough faith in our decision makers, political and military, to follow through with the orders that are given to us? [What a dangerous idea, if accepted without qualification! This flies in the face of the legal and moral obligation of officers to make informed ethical decisions and not obey illegal or immoral orders.]
  • Can we train physically, emotionally, and spiritually for a job we hope we never have to do?
  • To accomplish deterrence, we must have the capability and the will to launch nuclear weapons. Do we have the will now? What about fifty years from now?
  • Bonus question: Are we morally safer in other career fields, leaving the key turning to someone else?

Along the way, he also quotes Wernher von Braun, the father of the US space program; the quote from von Braun refers to the moral sense that led him and other German missile scientists to cooperate with the US.

Now, some folks had a problem with both the quotation from von Braun and all the (one-sided) Biblical content. These folks complained to Mikey Weinstein. A report was written, in which Weinstein refers to von Braun as only “a former, leading Nazi SS official.” In the end, the Air Force withdrew the class.

Clearly, in a military made up of people of many faiths and none, you can’t have a presentation that is based on exclusively Christian content. And I am offended that this presentation so distorted both the Bible and the Just War tradition. We need to teach officers about ethics. We need to teach them the Just War tradition. We need to teach them that they have an obligation to reflect on the morality of each action–not turn them into automatons. Here’s a much better presentation on the Just War tradition as it is taught to Army officers.

David French of ACLJ doesn’t get it. He thinks this is about “Angry Atheists” trying to get rid of Christianity. It doesn’t sound as if he’s looked at the actual briefing. And it wasn’t atheists complaining–it was Protestants and Catholics with a healthier understanding of the Bible, philosophy, and the role of Christianity.