I hate hypocrites. And the first word that came to mind when I heard about David Petraeus’s extramarital affair was “hypocrite.”
One of the big issues we’ve been dealing with for several years at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is the military’s push to make our troops “spiritually fit.” There’s the mandatory Army-wide “Spiritual Fitness” test, spiritual fitness concerts, spiritual fitness centers, and lots of other spiritual fitness events and programs to keep our military “spiritual.” But while the military insists that “spiritual fitness” does not mean religion, it does. All of this spiritual fitness stuff, which the military spares no expense on, is just a cover to push religion, and particularly evangelical Christianity. The spiritual fitness concerts always have evangelical Christian performers and most of the Army’s Strong Bonds events are really just evangelical Christian retreats.
And what’s one of the big goals of all this “spiritual fitness” stuff? Strong marriages, of course! And who was a big proponent of this “spiritual fitness” stuff? Yeah, you got it – General David Petraeus.
Gen. Petraeus first came on MRFF’s radar back in 2007, when we were looking into the completely unconstitutional practice of soldiers being forced to attend mandatory Christian concerts during basic training at several of the Army’s largest training installations. That’s when we found Petraeus’s photo and endorsement of these concerts on the Eric Horner Ministries website, praising Horner’s military base concerts.
Then, in August 2008, Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of MRFF, noticed a half-page ad in the Air Force Times for a book by Army chaplain Lt. Col. William McCoy. Chaplain McCoy’s book, Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, a manual promoting Christianity and asserting that non-religious service members had no defense against sin and could therefore cause the failure of their units, was endorsed by none other than Gen. Petraeus, whose blurb on the book’s cover read: “Under Orders should be in every rucksack for those moments when Soldiers need spiritual energy.” This completely inappropriate endorsement of a book that denigrated the 21% of our military who don’t happen to be religious led Keith Olbermann to name Petraeus one of his “Worst Persons.”
But not everybody found Petraeus’s eagerness to promote religion to be inappropriate. In November 2011, Army Chaplain (Col.) Brent Causey, who had been the top chaplain to Petraeus in Afghanistan, told the Baptist Press that “Gen. Petraeus played a leadership role in stressing the importance of spirituality,” and that it was “a reflection of Gen. Petraeus and his leadership in placing importance on spirituality” that “85 percent of our leadership were active in dynamic Bible study” and so many were “making first-time commitments to Christ.”
And Petraeus (second from left) certainly appeared to be a model Christian leader, piously bowing his head in prayer at events like this reenlistment ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 4, 2011 …
… and singing hymns and praying with the troops …
… and, as biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell described it in her book, being sworn in as CIA director with his wife holding the Bible he had recieved from his West Point roommate thirty-seven years earlier.
Yeah, General Petraeus, we see how well that “spiritual fitness” stuff is working for you.