Think of the New Zealand armed forces and hopefully you think “peace-keeping”. In the absence of no one hating New Zealand enough to attack us, our forces have been involved with various humanitarian and peace support operations from Tonga to Afghanistan.
To do this on an international stage, I believe it is imperative that our military is seen to be free of religion. Extremist religions beliefs have been the foundation of many wars throughout history, perhaps made most infamous when Hitler declared Judaism a race rather than a religion and insisted on trying to wipe out that ‘race’.
Many conflicts occur based on a difference in religious views between two parties. Land and resources are obviously also often a large part of the equation but often religion is still involved in some way. So, if in Country X there’s a division between two military groups – one division trying to wipe out the other due to different religious beliefs – then it is the job of organisations such as the United Nations (that NZ became a member of in 1945) to minimise harm to civilian life and infrastructure and to attempt to bring the leaders of each group together to resolve their differences peacefully.
The only way the United Nations can do this effectively is by being a voice of reason that takes no side when it comes to religion. If our military forces join the fight in the name of a Christian God and start preaching another set of religious views, we lose our impartial stance and add to the conflict. It’s like we’re joining in and saying “Actually you two chaps can stop fighting each other over your religious views because you’re BOTH wrong. Now, die in the name of our beliefs”.
Right now you’re thinking “What’s your point? The New Zealand army doesn’t do this” but actually, if our supplier of Acog gunsights (Trijicon) had their way, you’d be wrong.
According to the article “undesirable biblical references to be removed” on the Stuff.co.nz website …
(Acog) Rifle sights used by Kiwi troops were supplied with references to Bible verses that appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number.
Markings include “JN8:12”, a reference to John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’.”
Now what message is this sending a) our troops and b) the ‘enemy’? If you get shot by a New Zealand soldier carrying a weapon with a bible reference are you going to think you’ve been shot in the name of peace or in the name of religion?
Our Defence Force actually found out about these references when The Press notified them. Thankfully, the Defence Force made the right decision. According to the Press, Defence Force spokesperson Major Kristian Dunne said:
“It’s put us in an uncomfortable situation. We can see how they would cause offence. We are unhappy they didn’t make us aware of it … They send the wrong sort of message. They cause the same problems as putting slogans on bombs … We should not be doing anything that might give opponents any propaganda leverage.”
Which I think is spot on. Good on ya NZ Defence Force! However, some people disagree. Slater of Whaleoil, recently made real-world-famous by sparking a debate on name suppression laws when he allegedly ‘outed’ a convicted NZ entertainer, has written a blog post in response to the Press artice.
His article, titled “WTF is wrong with our military” shows that he is not only supporting the references but thinks that they should be changed to some even stronger “enemy smiting” verses. He then goes on to call for the current Defence Force Minister’s resignation for being “a big blouse”.
Now I’m not against some of the things that Slater is trying to do. He’s an advocate for the Police following the same laws as ourselves and for name suppression of “kiddy-fiddlers” to be removed just because the defendant is famous (well, NZ famous). But he really does seem to be turning into some kind of religious military activist himself! He posts a weekly article called “Wednesday Weapons” featuring a different weapon each week and now he’s saying that New Zealand should be forcing ‘our’ religion on those that we kill.
All of this came to my attention when I saw a Twitter discussion/argument between an NZ Tweeter and Whaleoil.
The Tweeter said religion causes so much conflict, why push it further? In my point of view this is spot on. When two religions are fighting, bringing a third religion into the fight is like throwing petrol on a fire. And apparently the NZ Defence Force agrees.
The Twitter discussion continues. The tweeter suggests that the NZ Defence Force should be seen as neutral during conflicts. Slater (as Whaleoil) replies:
there is no such thing as neutral when bullets are trying to kill you, get in the real world not the fairytale of your mind.
So Slater seems to be suggesting that all soldiers in the NZ Defence Force find religion when faced with death (he reflects this in his blog article) and fight for that religion rather than for the objectives of the NZ Defence Force. Slater later goes on to say:
Ever been shot at by someone trying to kill you? Didn’t think so… it’s a bible reference so what, bet the taleban hve koran refs
Now Slater’s taking more of a “They do it so why can’t we?”. Yeah sure good call. The Taliban go around killing people in the name of religion so why can’t we? Makes total sense.
Before all of this, I hadn’t made my mind up on Slater. I feel like he’s going a good thing trying to bring ‘injustices’ to our attention and he’s sparked a lot of debate. Whether he’s done this in the right way or not (by allegedly ignoring a name suppression order) was what gave me concern before I decided if he was doing the right thing. But after all of this, I’m strongly against his opinion and hope that he’s not causing more harm than good with his articles (which now have a very high readership after the publicity surrounding his legal case).
– Photo of Trijicon Acog gunsight from Flickr user KLaFaille used under Creative Commons license.
Trijicon today said in a statement it would remove biblical references from all military products, as well as supply kits to US and other military to remove the references on existing equipment.