Religion & Philosophy

Military proselytizing, a Baldwin brother, and apocalypse by design…

275px-nevsky2.jpg As more information becomes available about the infiltration of the military by fundamentalist Christian groups via Pentagon approved proselytizing, worrisome issues regarding the long term aims of evangelizing the troops present themselves.

First there’s this exploration of the power of “Operation Straight Up,” an apocalyptic “entertainment group” that boasts Baldwin brother Stephen as a prominent member from The Nation:

Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a “Military Crusade in Iraq” in the near future.

Note the perversity of OSU’s inversion of the initials of that most beloved of American military entertainment and support organizations, the USO. Doubtless this is to make OSU look innocuous to weary, frightened, confused, often troubled troops. But the messages of OSU are far from those of the good old USO:

…behind OSU’s anodyne promises of wholesome fun for military families, the organization promotes an apocalyptic brand of evangelical Christianity to active duty US soldiers serving in Muslim-dominated regions of the Middle East. Displayed prominently on the “What We Believe” section of OSU’s website is a passage from the Book of Revelations (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15) that has become the bedrock of the Christian right’s End Times theology: “The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

With the endorsement of the Defense Department, OSU is mailing “Freedom Packages” to soldiers serving in Iraq. These are not your grandfather’s care packages, however. Besides pairs of white socks and boxes of baby wipes (included at the apparent suggestion of Iran-Contra felon Oliver North, according to OSU) OSU’s care packages contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to “everlasting punishment” while the evangelicals are “raptured” up to heaven.

So troops who spend their days doing house to house searches looking for insurgents who might be waiting behind any door to kill them – or setting up an IED to blow them away as they make their way back to base after completing their mission – are given a game that rewards them for killing members of the “army of the Antichrist” in a landscape that resembles all too clearly NYC after 9/11. If they get tired of wiping out opposition to “true believers” (a term that should make any reasonable person shiver), there’s also some light reading in the “care packages” OSU provides:

What’s more, OSU’s “Freedom Packages” include a copy of evangelical pastor Jonathan McDowell’s More Than A Carpenter — a book advertised as “one of the most powerful evangelism tools worldwide” — that is double-published in Arabic. Considering that only a handful of American troops speak Arabic, the book is ostensibly intended for proselytizing efforts among Iraqi civilians.

In this way, as Digby (via David Neiwert of Orcinus) notes, our troops are being prepped for what groups like OSU see as a coming war between the Dominionists and that “army of the Antichrist” which, it seems, might be all those Democrats, progressives, and other “godless liberals” who seem to be on their way to political power in 2008:

I predict that we are going to see a remarkable resurgence of right wing violence if the Democrats take full control of the government. These people are always surprisingly cooperative when the government is run by Republicans and then rediscover their “anti-government” beliefs when Democrats share or dominate the government. I can’t imagine why that would be.

We will also, sadly, see veterans involved in this. Aside from the PTSD [post traumatic stress syndrome] they will come home to a world that isn’t very understanding. How could we be? They’ve been in hell. I suspect that some of them will be attracted to the right wing militia (or worse) unless the government makes some very aggressive moves to help these people out and provide every kind of counseling and support they can think of. The last thing we need are hardened Iraq veterans finding solace with the right wing terrorists.

This isn’t a problem affecting just the Neo-Nazis, gang-bangers, and other violent personalities worming their way into the military. It also affects the many more formerly normal, non-racist recruits who have been dragged into multiple tours of duty in Iraq, regardless of the profound psychological effects of such treatment. This includes many people whose evaluations have recommended they not be returned for duty. There’s a reason to call Iraq the Timothy McVeigh Finishing School.

This will, I fear, become a significant component of the predictable surge in far-right activity that is almost certain to manifest itself in the USA over the next couple of years, especially as Democrats and liberals expand and entrench their hold on power. We’re essentially re-creating the conditions that arose in Germany and Italy after World War I: scores of angry, disaffected and psychologically damaged war veterans, poised to organize into a political force aimed at “re-birthing” the nation and its heritage.

What’s even more disturbing, though, is that the top brass at the military seem all too willing to create those conditions.

If we, as Orcinus suggests, allow our military to be converted into apocalyptic evangelicals with the mentality of Crusaders, we face the prospect of creating a “Christian warrior” class who may not only buy into the extremist ideas of groups like the militias, but who will act on those ideas “in the name of God….”

16 replies »

  1. And who has it’s finger on the “nucular” trigger in some missiles silos or in Colorado Springs the christian neo-con capital of the USA?
    Has anyone even bothered to go check? Technicaly it takes two keys to launch nukes and it seems so easy these days to find two born-again-rapture-wrapped-new-Christians.
    That alone should have anyone shaking in their boots.

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  5. You paint very broad strokes regarding right wing Christians. The people you describe are clearly in the minority, at least in the mind of this right wing Christian.


  6. I’m not painting in broad strokes, Jeff. I’m reporting facts about activities taking place with Pentagon sanction. The Pentagon is allowing this extremist minority access – with their bizarre message – to our troops.

    My hope is that all Christians, whether “right wing” like you or “left wing” like me will let our government know that we find this kind of theocratic acculturation of our military unacceptable – and that allowing these radicals, in particular, this kind of influence with our troops, most of whom are young and malleable, is a violation of the Establishment clause.

  7. #7.

    Did you know that the military allows Muslim prostelyzing in the armed forces? They have Muslim and Jewish chaplins in the military.

    The Christians don’t have a lock on recruiting in the armed forces.

    Somehow, I get the distinct impression that you don’t like Christians, or Christianity…for that matter.


  8. I’ll let Jim respond for himself, but I will make a couple remarks since this is an issue I care about a lot.

    First, Jim IS a Christian.

    Second, I don’t approve of proselytizing by ANY religion in ANY governmental context. Nor, does it appear, did Jefferson. People can believe what they want, but all governmental functions must be 100% secular.

  9. Jeff,

    You can see what Sam said. As I pointed out, I’m not opposed to
    Christians, (I am one) but I’m opposed to extremism posing as Christianity. And that’s what an organization like OSU is. And there’s a difference between providing chaplains for different faiths for soldiers struggling with spiritual issues in difficult circumstances and Pentagon sanctioning/imposing of ONE faith over others.

    Jefferson spoke out strongly about this issue in his remarks against the establishment of a state religion. The country was founded, after all, at least partly on the issue of religious freedom. What OSU and Christian Embassy do is abuse that freedom when they try to use their political connections to proselytize their particular brand of apocalyptic fundamentalism. State and church should stay separate.

    Even Christ himself argued this repeatedly – He said His was not an earthly kingdom and He admonished His followers to render unto Caesar and unto God as was appropriate. I read that as directing that government and political concerns and spiritual concerns should have their own domains – not be joined.

    I don’t believe any state should impose religion on its people. That’s a big problem I have with Islamist or Jewish or Hindu or any other states that try to do so. We should be free to practice religion as we see fit – as long as we don’t try to impose our beliefs on others.

    My son told me Friday about a bumper sticker he saw recently. It said: “Jesus called – He wants His religion back.”

    That’s what extreme groups like OSU make me feel – as if being a Christian has nothing to do with following Christ and everything to do with following their political aims.

    I don’t believe Christ would approve. And I’m saying so.

  10. What has happened in the U.S. was, that Caesar (George W. Bush) took what was God’s after he had taken what was his own. Thus, just as in the temples of old Caeser took on the role of God himself.

    Why should anyone wonder the reasons for America’s corruption? The Corporate banker wanted their profits at any price, even if it meant spilling innocent blood.

    Thus today, the U.S. is on its way out as an economic power and the dollar no more holds its position in the world markets. At some point the U.S. will end up, like Germany after the great war in 1918. Bags of money to buy a slice of bread.

  11. Jeff, et all…

    “”Did you know that the military allows Muslim prostelyzing in the armed forces?””

    Do they Jeff? You speak as if you know first hand, as if you currently serve in the military – and you make it sound as if they allow muslims to prostelyze and not christians – which isnt the case.

    The issue is not about military folks providing religious council to other military folks. That was obviously not their sole intent as indicated by this groups languages and also their inclusion of Arabic materials.

    “”They have Muslim and Jewish chaplins in the military.””

    Yes they do. So what? The issue here is not the number of chaplains of any particular denomination.

    “”The Christians don