Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Military and the Cross
Even though I’ve already put in my two cents on the recent scandal with the National Day of Prayer, I found this short article this morning and thought I’d do a quick commentary on it. A symbol at an army hospital, Evans Army Community Hospital, at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs is being appealed to be removed since not only is the emblem a cross with a pointed base (allegedly used by Christian pilgrims to mark a camp site) but the phrase in Latin translates to “For God and humanity”. The representative Lt. Col. Steve Wollman argues that the symbol has been accepted by the army since 1969 and that references to doctors serving God and humanity go back to Hippocrates, the originator of the Hippocratic Oath used unofficially by many doctors today. The problem with that argument is that the original text swears to Apollo, Asclepius and Panacea among other Greek deities. Ancient Greeks weren’t disposed to swearing to one creator God in their times, so noting that medical pledges to gods in the ancient times were common practice doesn’t mean that it should be the case now, especially with the religious diversity of the army that is recognized today.
I imagine the reason this symbol has even persisted as long as it has is due in part to the Latin itself, which not many people are especially fluent in or able to read well enough to translate the explicit Abrahamic reference to god with a capital G. Not to mention they could’ve written it off with the pointed base of the cross differing enough from Christian crosses to be considered neutral. According to Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the association of the cross image with Middle Age Christianity and the Crusade mentality of spreading the faith across the world would send a negative message to Muslims and even soldiers associated with the hospital; that message being that the U.S. army is waging some Christian war on terror and more explicitly, Islam in the Middle East. And at least half of the people that lodged the complaint anonymously (because they didn’t want their superiors to know about it, making me that much less inclined to associate with the military at all; thanks conscientious objector status) were Protestant or Catholic, so to say this is some attack on Christianity by non Christians is an absurd argument. All in all, I can’t see why the group can’t use another symbol. Especially since it occurs to me that the military is not exactly one to accept standing out a great deal, valuing conformity to tradition and authority over needless self expression. To say the army wants robots for soldiers is another topic in itself, but changing the symbol shouldn’t be a large change. Using the symbol of the Red Cross would be a better choice in my eyes, however religious in nature it may initially appear. Anyway, until my next article, Namaste and Aloha.