By Daniel Briggs
Service members can’t pray in public! It will be used by ISIS for propaganda. Speaking in your personal capacity at a National Day of Prayer event? Propaganda. A sign on a military base saying, “God Bless the Military, Their Families, and the Civilians Who Support Them”? Propaganda. Air Force Academy football players voluntarily kneeling on the field before the game? Propaganda.
This is the drumbeat from anti-religious liberty groups and their acolytes in the media. According to this view, any public expression of faith—particularly the Christian faith—by service members will be used by ISIS for propaganda. This begs the question: Should we really care whether our conduct will be misconstrued by ISIS? They hate everything America stands for, not just our religious freedom. To help illustrate my point, let’s walk through a typical day of me, a typical American, and tally all the ways in which I offend ISIS sensitivities using “P” to denote potential propaganda.
My alarm goes off. I quickly silence it to not disturb my wife. I get ready for work and run into an unaccompanied female acquaintance (no relation) during the commute (P). We exchange pleasantries briefly (P) before she continues on her way to work (P). I settle in at my desk for the morning. My news feeds have populated my email inbox, and I go through each feed without any Internet filter (P). My female paralegal (no relation) stops by my desk to catch me up on outstanding projects (P). Meanwhile, my wife, a college graduate (P), is driving (P) unescorted (P) to do some errands.
And we haven’t even gotten to lunch.
In the face of great evil, there are always advocates of appeasement. Chamberlain thought he bought “peace for our time.” History shows he was wrong, however, when Hitler broke the Munich Agreement less than six short months later and forced war-weary England into World War II. During the Cold War, some advocated a sort of uneasy truce with the Soviet empire, thinking “better red than dead.” But others understood that America was the last best hope on Earth. She still is. Reagan knew “there is a price we will not pay. There is a point beyond which they must not advance.”
The same is true now. We are faced with threats from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and every other celebrant of evil and oppression. What we cherish, they despise. From the sometimes-chaotic clash of cultures in America, there emerges something unique and uniquely beautiful: true freedom, America’s greatest export. America is still a place where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are guaranteed, not because of one’s creed or color, but because of one’s humanity. And purveyors of evil hate us for it. They always have, and they always will.
How, then, do we respond? Do we hide our beliefs, our way of life? Should our service members pretend they have no faith, no moral foundation? Never. Not ever. We do not take marching orders from despots, dictators, or terrorists actively engaged in genocide. This is a war not only of weapons, but of wills. All Americans—including service members—must celebrate our freedom. That includes the freedom to believe in something, Someone greater than ourselves, and to live our lives according to those beliefs.
If freedom is propaganda, I wouldn’t have it any other way.