October 27th, 2006

Martha Rainville: The Southern Christian Military Academy Years (A VDB Exclusive)

by Philip Baruth

One of the things that has continually puzzled VDB is the great enthusiasm Washington Republicans — primarily Southern Conservatives — show for Vermont’s Martha Rainville.

martha, salutingAfter all, Rainville has gone to great lengths to avoid the word “Republican” in her advertising; she’s even made small, tentative noises about Congressional reform.

And yet the Conservatives, and the religious enthusiasts, never seem to take offense. Quite the contrary: Party money has flowed generously, and it now exceeds the amount Rainville raised with her own two independent hands.

Granted, Martha is a former Adjutant General, with a record of saluting smartly on The War. And Martha is a female former AG, which must have seemed a heaven-sent two-fer to the boys in DC — here was an excellent tool to prize open Vermont’s now solidly Left-leaning Congressional delegation.

But even so, as Mark Shepard was wont to point out, Rainville gets downright squishy on some of the key Conservative issues. Stem-cell research, to take one at random, or her stance on the Waxman legislation. Which might otherwise lead you to expect that the Conservatives who control the GOP would find Martha something of a mixed bag.

But all along they have seemed to know something about Martha that VDB did not. Something to reassure the faithful that Martha wouldn’t stray off the reservation, once she’d shouldered her way into Bernie Sanders’s Congressional seat.

And who knows, maybe now we know.

Rainville: The Early Years

Chamberlain-Hunt AcademyMost biographies of Rainville pick up with her college degree; little or nothing is said about her earlier years. But on a United States Department of Defense website, Rainville is listed as a 1975 graduate of Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, located in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Here’s a good-sized snippet of the Academy’s mission statement:

“Chamberlain-Hunt Academy is a Christian, military, boarding school established by the Presbytery of Mississippi in Port Gibson in 1879.

First, Chamberlain-Hunt is a Christian school. God has made us for his glory, and, therefore, everything that is taught in the classroom, achieved on the playing field, or modeled in relationships is done to the best of our ability to the honor and glory of God. Second, Chamberlain-Hunt is a military school, one of the few left in the U.S. that self-consciously maintains its distinctive Christian character and strict military discipline.”


Now, admittedly, VDB has always performed poorly in the areas of Christian character and military discipline. But this bit of text had just a whiff of the extreme to it, at least to our nose.

But surely the Academy permitted a spectrum of opinion, and an unfettered search for truth among the beliefs and cultures of the world? Not so much, it turns out:

“Chamberlain-Hunt Academy is committed to its mission: ‘Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God.’ The staff and faculty believe that the Triune God revealed in the Bible as the Creator, Sustainer and Ruler of all things is the one true God and the sole source of all truth.”

Clearly not an easy environment in which to march to one’s own drummer. But, for those who march really, really well to the One True Drummer, there was a system of rewards, the most prized of which was apparently becoming a “Crusader”:

“The Crusaders are members of the elite Order of Crusaders. On two occasions during the year (once each semester), Chamberlain-Hunt Cadets have the opportunity to take up the Crusader Challenge. The week-long Challenge requires participating Cadets to function efficiently as leaders under tremendously demanding physical, mental and emotional stress.”

And lest anyone miss the stress on punishing cadets to prove their mettle, one of the alumni biographies begins with this heartwarming remembrance:

“For 44 years, Allison “Maj” Killingsworth taught and disciplined hundreds—thousands—of Chamberlain-Hunt Cadets. Maj died at home on 28 October 2005.”

Yes, what a man he was, good old Maj. How many of those of us who work in the classroom can honestly claim to have “taught and disciplined” hundreds — thousands?

Whether Rainville avoided “Maj” Killingsworth and his heavy hand, we will probably never know; and whether she ever endured enough school-sanctioned sadism to qualify as a “Crusader,” again no one can say.

A student at his devotionsBut it’s worth remembering that the Southern Evangelicals who effectively dominate the Republican Party in 2006 have raised both political and religious cronyism to a high art. Countless news stories have documented the smooth career paths of GOP loyalists, and the openly faithful — at home and of course in the Iraqi CPA.

John Ashcroft held morning prayers — prayers no ambitious underling dared miss — and was said to have been annointed with oil, in a quasi-religious ceremony just before his official swearing in as Attorney General.

We live in an America where Katherine Harris openly calls the separation of Church and State “a lie.” It is a world where the much-panned “Path to 9/11” docudrama turns out to be the brainchild of one David Cunningham, founder of a group “dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Television industry.”

For his part, President Bush initially refers to the War on Terror as a “crusade,” and then belatedly recants, but not really.

Does all of this indicate that Martha Rainville is a deep, deep mole for Southern Evangelicals — a fundamentalist Manchurian Candidate who will suddenly begin wielding a flaming sword for Jesus should she win in November?

No. But it certainly isn’t worthless background information either. It helps explain a certain tendency to silence and submission that VDB has been tracing in Rainville — as a commander and as a candidate — for the past year.

martha hearts georgeAnd it helps explain exactly why Martha may seem not merely acceptable, but almost heaven-sent to a leadership composed overwhelmingly of Southern religious conservatives.

For these people, the right codes and the right schools and the right religion are everything.

No doubt Martha’s people will argue that this biographical insight is entirely irrelevent, that high school is a place you’re put, not a place you choose.

If VDB were in their place, we’d do the same. Election day is less than two weeks away.

But it’s worth asking: Why did Chamberlain-Hunt Academy list and even tout Adjutant General Martha Rainville as an alumna who’d made good less than a year ago, and then scrub her name from the site once she’d thrown her hat into the Congressional ring?

Either it matters, or it doesn’t — to them, to her, to us.

23 Responses to ' Martha Rainville: The Southern Christian Military Academy Years (A VDB Exclusive) '

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    […] But what got lost in the mix? Hmm, VDB knows there was something . . . Oh, that’s right: Rainville’s years at a Christian Fundamentalist military academy where they teach the kids to shoot from the trees. […]

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