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May 31, 2013 3:20 PM “Christian Soldiers” or Romans?

By Ed Kilgore

From Kansas, that great ideological laboratory, comes the news of conservative state legislative activity aimed at an alleged anti-Christian bias in, of all places, the U.S. Department of Defense. HuffPost’s John Celock has a useful report:

Republican lawmakers in Kansas want the state Legislature to call on the U.S. military to aggressively defend the “Judeo-Christian tradition” in the face of alleged discrimination by the Defense Department.
The Republican-controlled Kansas Senate passed a resolution on the subject this past Friday, while two of their colleagues in the state House are having a similar resolution drafted.
“There is certainly concern with what is going on at the Pentagon,” state Rep. Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane), a sponsor of the resolution, told The Huffington Post. “They are singling out Christianity with our troops. We have a long history of being a Judeo-Christian nation.”

You can read it all, but it mainly represents an intensification of conservative concerns that have been kicking around for a while, mostly growing out of the backlash to conservative evangelical proselytization efforts in the ranks of the armed forces, including high-profile incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

I’m less interested in the pros and cons of the dispute than in the broader significance of conservative evangelical estrangement from the U.S. military, now reaching the level of demands for protection from the states. Patriotic and even super-patriotic protestations to the contrary, there’s always been a tinge of hostility to mainstream U.S. institutions on the Right, some growing from the tendency of the anti-choice movement to treat the United States as an infidel nation tolerating an “abortion Holocaust,” and some more recently arising from Second Amendment absolutists. In both cases, conservative activists are elevating a “higher law” that sometimes requires hostility towards if not defiance of regularly constituted authority.

If it’s worth noting that gun rights activists sometimes talk about law enforcement officers as though they are Gestapo agents, it’s also worth paying attention when those who want America to act as a militantly religious “Redeemer Nation” start treating the intended vehicle for that aspiration not as “Christian soldiers,” but as Romans to whom limited allegiance is owed.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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