Aug. 2, 2013
Every May, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis kicks off Commissioning Week with nearly a thousand shorts and swimsuit-clad Plebes storming the Herndon Monument in front of the majestic Chapel. It usually takes them hours to scale the 20-foot stone obelisk to exchange one of their “Dixie cup” hats for an officer’s cover. Upperclassmen have helped them by applying two hundred pounds of lard to the monument.
It’s all a lot of fun. My good wife is a retired Navy Captain. When she was commanding officer of the USNA Clinic, she warned for years of the potential hazards of the Herndon climb. The best medical advice she could give the Academy’s Superintendent was that this is a dangerous exercise and we were inviting concussions, broken limbs, or maybe something even worse.
Respecting her medical expertise as I do, I supported my wife in public, of course; but in private, I reminded her that the Navy itself is dangerous. Ships are all dangerous. Aircraft are very dangerous. And wars are more dangerous still.
As testimony to that fact, we have the Navy’s first great hero, John Paul Jones. Captain Jones’ mortal remains lie in honored estate in the Crypt, beneath the USNA Chapel dome. He is famous for saying, “I have not yet begun to fight.” But almost as famous are his thoughts about danger and the Navy: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.”
Not all harms are bullets and bombs. Some harms are directed at the heart and soul of a people, the Americans. With this week’s conviction of Army Private Bradley Manning for leaking classified computer files and the defection of NSA contactor Edward Snowden, it’s not surprising to find millions of Americans wondering where loyalty has gone. Where is the respect for the security of our people, our native land?
In Texas, a man who did use bullets has written that he renounces his loyalty to the United States of his birth and he denies his officer’s oath in the Army. He claims to be a “Soldier of Allah.”
Nidal Hasan is facing court martial after nearly four years in which he has accrued more than a third of a million dollars in pay and benefits. He is charged with murdering thirteen of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in a shooting spree in which he cried: “Allahu Akbar!”
Despite all this, the Obama administration refuses to call his actions a terrorist assault. They persist in saying it was “workplace violence.” And they refuse to charge Hasan with violating the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA) even though one of Hasan’s victims was a pregnant woman, Francheska Velez. Her last words were “My baby! My baby!”
In the midst of open betrayal of the nation and mass murder, a drive to force the USNA Chapel hold a “humanist” wedding may not seem a very grave threat. But it is. It is an assault on the very freedoms the Navy and all our armed forces were commissioned to defend. Understandably, the young naval officer who wants to be married under the Chapel’s great Dome, desires that stately and august venue for his wedding day. He just doesn’t want any of that Christian stuff. Humanists believe you can be good without God and to prove it, they want to assault the hundred-year old Chapel.
To show their humanity, they want to trample the feelings of the hundreds of thousands of people who have worshiped in that Chapel, and the thousands who have been married there, and who have followed the caskets of their loved ones down that long center aisle and out the great bronze doors.
“Not for self but for country,” is the Latin inscription on those doors. But the spirit of these times says, “Forget country, self-actualize, determine for yourself the mystery of life, the meaning of the Universe.”
Naval Academy authorities have offered to accommodate the humanist demands. They’ve offered the All Faiths Chapel. This would presumably include all faiths and no faith. They’ve also offered the vaulting and impressive interior of Dahlgren Hall, the student union building. Dahlgren has a fine model of the first Navy aircraft, an invention of the Wright Brothers. One would think that a fine symbol for humanism to celebrate. But that offer doesn’t meet the humanists’ demands.
They apparently never asked for the new Jewish Chapel. This worshipful structure has won architectural awards for its beauty and profound meaning. The Levy Center is named for the Navy’s first Jewish commodore, Uriah Philips Levy. This great naval officer not only banished flogging in the U.S. Navy, but also saved Monticello from sure destruction. Commodore Levy was so grateful to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for guaranteeing the religious freedom of America’s Jews that he named his sons, Jefferson and Madison.
The humanists want the Main Chapel, that vaulting Dome. Of course, as humanists, they would have to cover up the cross on the altar. And probably cover, too, the Tiffany stained glass window rising above the altar, a gift of the Class of 1869. It shows Jesus Walking on the Waters. While they are at it, maybe they should paper over the gold cross carved over the entrance to the Chapel.
All that covering up would still not be enough, however. As our son, Jim Morrison, pointed out, the very shape of the Chapel is a cross. And that would remind people of the One who walked on those waters.