Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Onward Christian soldiers

When I was a student in a parochial junior high school, we sang a jaunty little hymn to stoke our triumphalism: "An army of youth flying standards of Truth, we're fighting for Christ the Lord. Heads lifted high, Catholic Action our cry, and the Cross our only sword! On Earth's battlefield, ne'r advantage we'll yield, as dauntlessly on we swing, comrades true, dare and do, 'neath the Queen's White and Blue, for our Flag, for our Faith, for Christ the King!"

Oh yes, we Catholics had the Truth, and anyone who wasn't with us was doomed to Hell.

Then I got a serious crush on a sweet Jewish girl. I had a hard time visualizing her burning for all eternity while I basked in the glow of the Beatific Vision.

What a relief it was to discover a way of knowing based on empirical verification. Science makes no reference to religion, race, politics or ethnicity. Its truths are tentatively held, with varying degrees of certainty. Absolutes are rejected. No one has a direct line to the mind of God. And all humans are equal under the sun.

Alas, religious triumphalism remains alive and well -- in Rome, the Middle East, and evangelical America. This morning's Boston Globe has a scary story about religious discrimination by evangelical Christians at the US Air Force Academy. In the new American theocracy so fervently desired by Christian Dominionists, the armies of youth will not only be armed with their Cross, but also with laser-guided missiles and B-1 bombers.