4 February 2004
Blame the Baptists
It's a popular game here in Soonerland; if for some reason (and there's always some reason) the state gets some derisive coverage in the pop press, well, it's all the fault of those wacky fundamentalists.
Over the years, I've demonstrated that I'm not above this sort of thing myself, which illustrates a truism: hardly anyone in the middle, and absolutely nobody on the left, ever has a kind word for Christian conservatives.
Like most truisms, this contains a fair amount of falsity. I commend to you the following example, from the March 2004 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which isn't up on their Web site yet. According to Colonel Tom Wilhelm, defense attaché at the American embassy in Mongolia, a chap somewhat in Wesley Clark's political neighborhood who admits to voting for Al Gore in 2000, the "flowering of the middle ranks," as correspondent Robert D. Kaplan describes it, and the marked improvement in overall discipline since the days of Vietnam, are in no small part due to an influx of Christian evangelicals into the Armed Forces over the past decade or so. Says the colonel:
[Their] zeal reformed behavior, empowered junior leaders, and demanded better recruits. For one thing, drinking stopped, and that killed off the officers' clubs, which, in turn, broke down more barriers between officers and noncoms, giving the noncoms the confidence to do what majors and colonels in other armies do. The Christian fundamentalism was the hidden hand that changed the military for the better. Though you try to get someone to admit it! We never could have pulled off Macedonia or Bosnia with the old Vietnam Army.
Inasmuch as Wilhelm was there, in Macedonia anyway, I'm inclined to take his word for it.