The agency Christian Embassy is an organisation in the United States which provides Bible readings and prayer readings for members of Congress, Presidential appointees and people in the Pentagon. I have talked before about the clash of languages between Liberalism and a militant Christianity here. Christian Embassy seems to be yet another example of a clash of languages between two sets of people- a clash which undermines the very terms and concepts that we use in discussing the world.
This promotional video (in two parts on YouTube here and here) makes perfectly clear exactly why Christian Embassy makes people who aren't evangelical Christians worry. Christian Embassy members throughout the video talk about how they use their faith to guide policy, how when you elect a member the decisions he takes are based on his faith, how a Congressman going to Ethiopia doesn't bring religion with him but the saving grace of Jesus Christ, how servicemen in the Pentagon meet privately with each other to pray and how important it is for military leaders not only to be good commanders but to be men of God. All of these principles can be good Christian principles- all of them look exceptionally intolerant of the outside world to those within that outside world. All of this it could be argued fits under the principle of the freedom of association for all members of society in any organisation that they wish- and despite the fact I agree with that principle there are worrying ways in which the language that is used in this group seems to have embedded in it a conceptual aparatus of superiority.
This whole matter was brought to my attention by this article in Salon. The language of the article is hysterical but the point is there underneath that language that what Christian Embassy is is something that could easily slip from bible study to cabal. There is a very real sense that this upfront religiosity and intolerance of arguments that don't stem from religion- what one colonel calls an old fashioned American understanding based on family and God- is fiercely intolerant of any other approach to the world. So intolerant that it does not even acknowledge it but talks past anyone that isn't a Christian, that isn't within the free masonry of evangelicism. The interviewee on Salon for questioning this group and feeling unloved within the military thanks to his Jewish faith has been answered with anti-semitic rhetoric and death threats.
How serious this all is I have no idea and my sense is that most members of Christian Embassy go to it like they would go to a church. Most of its function I would have thought could be absorbed within the right of freedom of association- afterall there is nothing wrong with people attending whatever services they like. But an evangelicism which argues purely with itself, that treats people who aren't evangelicals with the condescension of those knowing a mysterious truth to those without special knowledge is an evangelicism that cannot sit easily in a republic that proscribes deliberately no religious test for its membership. Christian Embassy is probably less important than the alarmists would have you beleive- America is no Iran- but neither should denying the fact that America is a fundamentalist dictatorship or admitting the fact that other countries have problems exclude consideration of whether this kind of rhetoric, this kind of talking past other groups and peoples in society, isn't difficult for peoples of other faiths and atheists to accomodate to, when those expressing it hold government office.