God is everywhere. This is true in the omnipotent sense, but also in a less theologically important, more everyday way. He’s part of the development of the modern conservative movement in “God and Man at Yale.” He presides over our study breaks when we choose to hang “For God, For Country, and For Yale” banners in our common rooms. He’s at Branford’s God Quad. But Trijicon, a Michigan-based weapons maker, has found a new way to include God in the lives of a number of Americans. Thanks to Trijicon, if Islam is considered to be the religion of the sword, then Christianity is now the religion of the gun.
Early last week, ABC News revealed that the Trijicon weapons used by the U.S. military are inscribed with hidden biblical references, unknown to U.S commanders. General David Petraeus and U.S. Marine Colonel Gregory Breazile admirably apologized and pledged to halt future purchases of the inscribed guns. Air Force Major John Redfield, however, had a more disturbing response: According to him, fighting with these godly guns poses no problem and is no more inappropriate than using U.S. currency with “In God We Trust” printed on it.
Having “In God We Trust” on our money is offensive to those who believe that God should not have a place in government. But attitudes like Major Redfield’s are far more worrisome because they have the potential to shape the U.S military as an institution that does not just accept God’s influence in government, but is also indifferent to its soldiers’ right to freedom of religion. The military is often slow to embrace those who deviate from their norm — just look at policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell” or the government’s 2007 attempt to block the Wiccan symbol from appearing on gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery. Putting biblical references on guns is even worse. Rather than simply failing to sanction diverse lifestyles and beliefs, allowing these references to remain on weapons directly imposes Christianity on all soldiers. This unfairly forces non-Christians to feel as though they are fighting for God, a motive that should play no part in American wars.
On Trijicon’s reflex sights, for example, which are advertised as providing a “bright aiming point in low light, no light or bright light,” “2COR4:6” appears in reference to the Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” But many soldiers choose to join the military to serve their country, not God. For these soldiers, the suggestion that the light provided by their equipment is the light of God Himself gives the unsettling impression that by using Trijicon’s equipment in combat, soldiers are being guided by God to further a Christian mission.
To consider this from another angle, imagine the outrage that would erupt if Trijicon printed Quranic, not biblical, references on their guns. If the verses were from a religion other than Christianity — especially a religion that many associate with our enemies — I doubt Major Redfield would so readily brush off faith’s presence in the military. Apparently, not all religions are created equal.
As a diverse student body, how would we feel if the administration placed signs praising God in all of our classrooms and suites, implicitly telling us to work in the name of Christianity? As members of a secular institution, many Yalies would be rightly outraged. Members of the military should be similarly angry at Major Redfield’s remarks, which reveal a disconcerting view that asking all soldiers to work and fight in God’s name is acceptable in war. On the contrary, soldiers, students and all Americans deserve the right to individually seek inspiration and solace in whichever god they choose, or in no god at all. Given that we are supposedly fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect our freedom and “American values,” the military should be the institution most dedicated to preserving such ideals for all, starting with its own soldiers.
Jessica Shor is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.
Correction: Feb. 9, 2010
An earlier version of this opinion misidentified the title of U.S. Marine Colonel Gregory Breazile.