Nov 13 2012

Hey General Petraeus, How’s That ‘Spiritual Fitness’ Stuff Working For You?

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.


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  1. 1

    crosspost from Zingularity:

    Patreus is also a Republican and a fundamentalist death cult xian.

    A family values guy, one of the Moral Majority.

    Hypocrisy. It’s one of the three main sacraments of the fundies.

    Did you know that religion is the basis of all morality? LOL, no one else has ever seen it either.

  2. 2

    The basic problem with Christian dogma is that it comes with a get-out-of-Hell-free card. Sure it says its against adultery, rape, murder and other stuff BUT it allows a believer to do it without fear of any punishment if they just mumble “I’m sorry” to the invisible man in the sky.

    Its the ultimate dogma of no personal responsibility.

  3. 3

    “Xians aren’t better, just forgiven.”

    It’s a giant loophole with a freeway through it. They use it often.

  4. 4
    No Light

    Why is it never surprising when this happens?

    But anyway, it wasn’t his fault donchaknow! It was that slutty vagina-having slut, walking around being all visibly female and wearing tight slutty clothes like a slut!

    Oh internet, fucking internet.


  5. 5

    Why is it never surprising when this happens? To be fair, it’s because we’re all human.

  6. 6

    He also has power and resources. This means it doesn’t cost him much to woo. Adultery is a lot easier when you can shuffle the expense into the misc. bucket. I hadn’t heard in the other coverage so far that he is particularly religious so this ratchets up the hypocrisy factor.

    Has any one heard if he had his wife’s consent to sleep around? Absent that, he’s yet another example in a long sorry line.

  7. 7


    Is there any connection between Petraeus and “C Street”?

  8. 8

    Chris, first of all, I agree with you.

    That said, in the interests of bending over backwards to be more fair to Petraeus than he has any right to deserve (as well as keeping our side extra squeaky clean): Petraeus didn’t start this affair until he was well out of the military. So maybe, for *him*, all the spiritual reinforcement kept him from straying from his wife while he was in the military?

    Now, if that’s the case, it doesn’t say much for his morals or honor, but it’s a plausible if unlikely possibility.

    Again, he deserves what he’s getting, but maybe it didn’t happen until he was out of the army. If that’s the case, we don’t do our side any favors by giving the other side an easy strawman to demonize. (I prefer to force them to make up their OWN strawmen…so much easier to shoot down )

  9. 9

    While sleeping around while married is a criminal offense in the Armed Services, it is not in the CIA. Petraeus’ problems are with their personnel policy where you have to inform your superior officer and spouse.

  10. 10
    Chris Rodda

    Only one person is backing Petraeus’s story that the affair didn’t begin until he was out of the military. Others are saying it began in Afghanistan. I think it’s eventually going to come out that it began while he was still in the military.

    jamesramsey @ 7 … I don’t recall any connection.

  11. 11

    “That said, in the interests of bending over backwards to be more fair to Petraeus than he has any right to deserve (as well as keeping our side extra squeaky clean): Petraeus didn’t start this affair until he was well out of the military. So maybe, for *him*, all the spiritual reinforcement kept him from straying from his wife while he was in the military?”

    Nope. If the affair didn’t start until after he was out, the only think stopping him was the JAG. No religious nonsense needed.

  12. 12
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    All I’ve heard is that his wife is said to be “furious.” Granted that they seem to be moving in social circles that couldn’t accept open polyamory, if she was okay with it I’d expect something more like “I love my husband, and we’re going to work on our marriage. Please respect our privacy.” Yes, that can mean “I’m talking to a divorce lawyer, but not to the press,” but it could also mean “the only thing I mind is that you reporters are asking me personal questions.”

  13. 13
    No Light


    Why is it never surprising when this happens? To be fair, it’s because we’re all human.

    Nope, sorry. My “Why am I never surprised?” wasn’t in reference to when humans err, but when moralising, judgemental, pompous, self-appointed behaviour-police turn out to be lying, hypocritical shitlords.

  14. 14

    Except that Patraeus wasn’t that kind. He said some questionable things about proselytizing, but he also spoke out against DADT

  15. 15

    Where you find one, there’s the other: piety and hypocrisy go together just like priests and altar boys.

  16. 16

    Why was his resignation forced? Clinton didn’t resign over Lewinsky, so what’s the big deal?

  17. 17

    He offered his resignation and the President accepted. Because when you’re surprised by the behavior of people you’re intimate with, and you hang out with people involved in freakshow shenanigans your competence as head of the CIA is in question.

  18. 18

    I’m reading upthread where people are saying that if the affair started after he left the military, then it is not fair for the atheist community to call him out on it. Naaaaah, I’m not buying that. While he was in the military he pushed his particular flavor of creepy xtian fundamentalism on the people under his command. His justification was because this “spirituality” would what? Strengthen their morality? Make them more fit to serve? Whatever.

    He may have had his affair after he left the army, but he was STILL A CHRISTIAN. So no, he does not get a pass. He’s living proof that his religion does not improve your behavior, does not mean that you are less likely to take stupid risks that are inappropriate for someone in your position.

    So have at him.

  19. 19

    Petraeus’ early predecessor, Allen Dulles, was a major serial adulterer, purportedly bedding everybody from Claire Booth Luce to the Queen of Greece. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/opinion/when-a-cia-director-had-scores-of-affairs.html

  20. 20

    To those of you who think he probably only strayed from the marriage bed after he left the military, how naive are you! As an ex-navy wife I can tell you that if only military officers who never committed adultery were left standing, it would be a VERY small military.

  21. 21

    Oh and that photo up there taken July 4, 2011 when he so piously bows his head, the affair with Broadwell had probably begun about that time, according to the timeline that’s been out in the press.

  22. 22

    Did anyone else notice the smirk on his wife’s face while she holds the Bible? It seems to say, “mmm-hmm, sure you do!”

  23. 23

    Great article Chris. You nailed it, hypocrisy. Guy gets made head of CIA and he can’t keep his own shit secret, hilarious.

  24. 24
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Thinking hypocrisy, I wonder how many of the folks attacking Petraeus here were defending Bill Clinton back when he had his consensual sexual affair as POTUS?

    Hmm.. go figure.

    I think Petraeus’ personal relationships are his business and should be between him and his wife to sort out. Unless he’s being blackmailed or sleeping with a foreign spy or citizen, meh. Bad behaviour on his part arguably but no biggie & no one elses concern.

  25. 25
    Mike Morrison

    Old post is old, I know. But this is for the benefit of any future readers to this blog:

    StevoR @24:

    Bill Clinton sleeping around with Lewinski was NOT a crime because the president is considered a civilian. A member of the military sleeping around with another woman who is not his wife, IS a crime. In fact, it is a felony.

    Also, Clinton was not subjecting inferior members of the military to “Christian values.” Petraeus was. So he is not only a felon, but a hypocrite to boot.

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