PDA

View Full Version : U.S. Military's Crusaders For Christ - & Against Other Religions



Peter Lemkin
05-07-2009, 07:52 PM
http://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/6/the_crusade_for_a_christian_military

AMY GOODMAN: The former prime minister of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, has called for an investigation into allegations that US soldiers are trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. He said, quote, “This is a complete deviation from what they are supposed to be doing.”

His comments come after a report on Al Jazeera showed footage of soldiers at Bagram Air Base discussing how to distribute Bibles translated into Pashto and Dari. The US military is denying it allows its soldiers to proselytize to Afghans. The military claims the Bibles shown in the video had been confiscated and destroyed and were “never distributed.” Admiral Mike Mullen told a Pentagon briefing Monday, quote, “It certainly is, from the United States military’s perspective, not our position to ever push any specific kind of religion, period.”

The Pentagon has also sharply criticized Al Jazeera for releasing the year-old footage, which was shot by filmmaker and former soldier Brian Hughes. Military spokesperson Colonel Greg Julian said, quote, “Most of this is taken out of context. This is irresponsible and inappropriate journalism. There is no effort to go out and proselytize to Afghans.”

Well, on Tuesday, Al Jazeera released unedited footage of the US soldiers’ Bible study in Bagram to counter the Pentagon’s allegations. These excerpts from the unedited video show military chaplain, Captain Emmit Furner, leading the discussion on the definition of the US Central Command’s General Order Number One that explicitly forbids active-duty troops from trying to convert people to any religion.

CAPTAIN EMMIT FURNER: By all means, do as scripture tells you to do and share the word, but be careful how you do it. Do it professionally; represent the Christian faith in a professional manner. Proselytizing is against the rules. That means going out and just actively seeking out somebody. I’m not going to say a lot about it. Just be careful. Remember to represent the Christian faith in a respectable, professional manner. And there are ways to win people to Christ that not overbearing or offensive to people. There are ways to do it.

Why do you think there’s a general order against it, proselytizing? Do we know what it means in order to proselytize?

SOLDIER: You mean, Army [inaudible] a general order?

SOLDIER: It’s General Order Number One.

CAPTAIN EMMIT FURNER: Number one, man.

SERGEANT JON WATT: You cannot proselytize, but you can give [inaudible].

CAPTAIN EMMIT FURNER: Alright, let’s talk about it. What do you think? Our ability to interact with the culture here is important for our mission in this country, so we can eventually hand this thing back over them to let them do their own thing. The more that we win over the hearts and minds, the better we’re going to be in accomplishing our mission to eradicate insurgents and Taliban and everybody else who’s bad. We want more on our side, and we’re not going to have more on our side if they see us as Bible-thumping, finger-pointing, critical people. I’m not saying you don’t share the word. That’s what you do as a Christian. But you share the word in a smart manner: love, respect, consideration for their culture and their religion. That’s what a Christian does is appreciation for other human beings. But at the same time, I’m not telling you not to share the word of God. I’m telling you to share the word of God, but be smart about it, please.


AMY GOODMAN: Another part of the unedited footage released by Al Jazeera shows Sergeant Jon Watt, the chaplain’s assistant, describing his experience of distributing Bibles in Iraq.

SERGEANT JON WATT: The expressions that I got from the people in Iraq was just phenomenal. They were hungry for the word. And the carpet seller, when I bought my carpet, and then I put it away and came back to buy it from him, he kissed it three times and saying “Thank you” three times.

When I had plumbers working on my building, the we could have moved into a brand new building on Camp Liberty, and I’ve been talking with the guy for a while, and there was three plumbers [inaudible] Hummer, and they jumped out of the back of it, and the guy was going, “In Arabic? In Arabic? Is it in Arabic?” because they can’t [inaudible] the Bibles, and yet the Koran tells them that is the word of God.

So you make it as a gift, not as—you know, you don’t have to sit there and—if you make it as a gift and walk away from them, you know, I know like as our mission especially shows friendship, so the guy wants the Bible, and he can have it. That’s great. I know that a couple of the guys have got friendships built with Afghanis. That’s great. Otherwise, just let them remember they can have—where they can get it. Do not bring it personally. That way, you’re not in violation of the regulation, because that was what was determined from sticking into the regulations and everything, and the chaplains were saying you could to do it this way.


AMY GOODMAN: The initial report aired by Al Jazeera included footage of Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, calling on soldiers to hunt people for Jesus.

LT. COL. GARY HENSLEY: The Special Forces guys, they hunt men, basically. We do the same things as Christians: we hunt people for Jesus. We do. We hunt them down, get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into kingdom. Right? That’s what we do. That’s our business.


AMY GOODMAN: I’m joined now by two guests who have closely followed this story. Jeff Sharlet is the contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine. He joins us from Rochester, New York. He’s author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American [Power], which is coming out in paperback next month. His latest article is the cover story of the May issue of Harper’s Magazine. It’s called “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military.”

And we’re joined from Albuquerque at KNME-PBS by Mikey Weinstein, an Air Force veteran and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. A registered Republican, he served as legal counsel to the Reagan administration for three years and is author of With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military.

We did call Colonel Greg Julian in Afghanistan and invited him on the program. He said, “We have a war to fight here,” and was unable to join us.

Jeff Sharlet, first you. Talk about your reaction to these videotapes and the response by the military that it’s taken out of context.

JEFF SHARLET: I think that’s anything but the truth. You know, what we see on that videotape is really just the tip of the iceberg. When Mikey Weinstein, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, came to me and said, “You know, you should be writing about this subject,” I was a little skeptical that it could be as widespread as they said. But in more than a hundred interviews at every rank, I encountered that same kind of thinking. And the same kind of thing that you see there on display with Lieutenant-Colonel Hensley is replicated over and over and over, from private to general. But most frighteningly, it’s concentrated in the Officer Corps.

AMY GOODMAN: You write extensively about Hensley. Tell us who he is and the significance of this videotape.

JEFF SHARLET: Well, Lieutenant-Colonel Hensley, that you see in that videotape, you know, talking about hunting people for Jesus, was at the time the top chaplain, top military chaplain in Afghanistan. And I don’t know if you can quite make it out on that videotape, if you look closer at the T-shirt he’s wearing, it shows his affiliation with a sort of fundamentalist group called Chapel NeXt. And you can see a sort of a Christian cross inscribed over a map of Afghanistan.

And if you follow that—I mean, the rest of that footage is just as equally disturbing. At one point, speaking of the sort of the apocalyptic times that he believes we’re in, he says that, you know, the US soldiers there have a mission basically to, you know, carry out the work of God. And then he declares that we, meaning the US military, “We are the new Israel,” and repeats this for emphasis, “We are the new Israel.”

You know, I would have thought that was—this guy was just a kind of a rogue, a maverick, if I didn’t speak to so many other officers with just the same attitude. In the story, I talk about Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Young, who is also in Afghanistan at Kandahar Air Base, and he was quite plain in boasting about a PowerPoint presentation he had given to Afghan warlords explaining that American government was based on Christianity, that our Christian god was what made it great, and Afghanistan had a choice if it wanted to achieve democracy. And of course that choice was going to be for Jesus.

These people don’t even know that they’re crossing the line between church and state.

AMY GOODMAN: The title of your piece in Harper’s is called “Jesus Killed Mohammed.” Tell us where this comes from.

JEFF SHARLET: Well, after about a year of interviewing military personnel, this was, in some ways, the most frightening story that I encountered. A man named Staff Sergeant Jeffery Humphrey, one of the very few soldiers who, in this military climate, had the courage to come forward and speak out about what he had seen, he had been stationed in Samarra. It was Easter. The day began calmly. A chaplain brought around a copy of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic film Passion of the Christ, which they then put on constant play throughout the day.

When they came under attack, the Special Forces, Army Special Forces to whom he was assigned, had their Iraqi translator, an Iraqi American Christian, paint in giant red Arabic letters on the side of a Bradley fighting vehicle the words “Jesus killed Mohammed.” Then, while they put the translator on the roof with a bullhorn, shouting in Arabic, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” and then training their guns, training American guns on anybody who responded, the Bradley fighting vehicle rolled out into the city of Samarra and drawing fire everywhere it went, leading the Special Forces to conclude that every single Iraqi who took offense at these words, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” was part of the enemy and therefore needed to be destroyed.

And I spoke to the man who drove that Bradley, Lieutenant John DeGiulio, now Captain John DeGiulio, promoted since. And he describes wreaking almost biblical destruction on one whole block, blowing up every single thing he saw. And he said he was able to do this, because God was on his side and because he had been spiritually armored by watching Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. And then he thanked his chaplain for preparing him for that kind of spiritual battle on the streets of Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Mikey Weinstein, Air Force veteran, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, talk about how common this is and this videotape, what is your understanding of it, and how you experienced this in the military, if you did.

MIKEY WEINSTEIN: Well, Amy, there’s a couple things. The first is, is that everyone remembers Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech, which was warning America of the dangers of a military-industrial complex. What we’re really faced with here is a fundamentalist-Christian-para-church-military-corporate-proselytizing complex.

A few months ago, a four-star general, a commander in the US military—I won’t give his exact name, but commands hundreds of thousands of troops—asked me, “How bad is it, Mikey?” And I’ll tell your viewers today, and I’ll show them, exactly what I did. I said, “General, hold your pen six-and-a-half inches above your desk. Now drop it,” as I’ve just dropped that pen. I asked him why it dropped. And he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Why did it drop?” He said, “Well, gravity.” That is how bad this is. It is that ubiquitous. It is that—it is in the very particulate of the technologically most lethal organization ever created by humankind, which is our US military. It’s everywhere. We’re about two inches away, you know, from a fundamentalist Christian America through our US military.

You know, I’ve come from a conservative military Republican family with three generations of Military Academy graduates. Three of my kids have graduated from the Air Force Academy. The only journalist that has grasped this and moved it into the mainstream media has been Jeff Sharlet. And he was incredibly, you know, skeptical when we first started talking a couple of years ago.

And I beg everybody out there to at least just do two things. You know, read Jeff’s book—you know, it’s more than ten pages, so you actually have to read it—The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, or Empire, or whatever you want to say, and then the Harper’s cover story by Jeff.

It’s very incontrovertible. What you saw in that, what Al Jazeera released, is nothing new. We’ve been talking about it forever. But there are hundreds of thousands of translated—into Arabic, Pashto, Dari—biblical tracks, Bibles, coins. There are so many para-church organizations: the Worldwide Military Baptist Missions, the Soldiers Bible Ministry, the Campus Crusades Military Ministry. You can’t count them all. This is how bad it is. And, you know, docile and supine America needs to wake up, because what we’re doing, we look exactly like the Crusaders of 1096 to the Iraqis and now the Afghans. And that’s all there is to it, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Mikey Weinstein, tell us what the Christian Embassy video is.


MIKEY WEINSTEIN: This was first written about by Jeff in, I think it was 2006—wasn’t it, Jeff?—in an article in Harper’s that came out.


JEFF SHARLET: Yeah.


MIKEY WEINSTEIN: And we took a look at this, and I was astonished. I remember it was Thanksgiving Day, and I was trying to find a way to stay out of the kitchen, so I wouldn’t have to help with the meal. I was reading Jeff’s story, and this thing blew up in my mind, couldn’t believe what I saw.

This was a group of senior Pentagon officials, some of them like Pete Geren, who’s currently the Secretary of the Army, a number of generals and other folks that were in uniform being filmed in the Pentagon, and they were pushing the mission of this extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian organization called the Christian Embassy.

We demanded—we held a press conference at the National Press Club on December 11th, I think it was, 2006, demanded that the brand new Secretary, Gates, who had taken over for Rumsfeld, that he conduct an investigation. And the DODIG came back. And earlier in Democracy Now! today, we saw what one of the DODIG reports talked about with regard to those seventy-five senior military officials that were trying to sell the validity of invading Iraq. And that report came back and faulted seven of the senior officials for clearly crossing the line, not constitutionally, but essentially for wearing their Halloween costumes, their uniforms, at the wrong time. And most of them have since been promoted.

And what generally happens when we catch the military desecrating the Constitution, which is pretty much every couple of hours, is that, you know, they stretch the crime scene tape, they say, “Move on, move one.” Their code one is it didn’t happen. Code two is it’s an isolated incident. Code three, it was taken out of context. And to Colonel Julian, who was too much of a coward to come on Democracy Now! today, when he says we have a war to fight, well, unfortunately, the war seems to be between fundamentalist Christians and the Constitution.

What I would say to him is what Martin Luther King said, which is, in the end, Colonel Julian and Pentagon, we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. And there comes a time when silence becomes betrayal. And our United States military, in the main, is betraying the oath it took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, not a particular weaponized gospel perspective of Jesus Christ, of which Jeff speaks about and has written about for many years.


AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Sharlet, talk about the transformation of military culture. You do it very well, talking from World War II to now. If you could briefly tell us how it has changed.


JEFF SHARLET: Yeah. You know, you could almost tell the story through one organization, Officers Christian Fellowship, which began in the World War II era. It was just what it sounds like, a fellowship of officers, mostly evangelical and conservative Christians. And it was fine. It was officers who wanted to get together and share their faith, and that’s why we have the First Amendment, so they can do that.

Things started changing. After Vietnam, you stopped seeing a lot of liberal chaplains from the liberal Christian denominations. They didn’t want to serve in the military anymore. It really accelerated under Ronald Reagan, who took away all the restrictions and regulations that ensured, when you saw a chaplain in the military, it really was a little bit like Father Mulcahy, you know, someone who—Father Mulcahy in MASH is Catholic, but, of course, he can help and minister to everybody, and he’s trained to do that. Reagan wiped that out, so that the Chaplain Corps became predominantly fundamentalist. Some chaplains estimate today it’s about 80 percent fundamentalist.

And then things really picked up after 9/11, when this group, Officers Christian Fellowship, started seeing America’s conflicts as what they described as “spiritual war.” And what’s really frightening is they describe it as a spiritual conflict between good and evil. They describe Mikey Weinstein as Satanic. This show would be Satanic from their perspective. And that’s the problem. They see—not only do they see those whom they’re fighting overseas as part of the opposition, but they see even those within the military who are not a part of their movement as, at best, unwitting tools of Satan.

I mean, this sounds like loony stuff, but then you look at the size of the organization. It’s 15,000 members. It’s growing at three percent a year. It’s represented on 80 percent of military installations around the world. And you see, really, the fruition of a very long campaign that predates George Bush, to view the military as what missionaries called a mission field, not a branch of government, but as a place to go and harvest souls. And they’ve been successful now. And as Mikey Weinstein says, they’re so dominant within the military that they have become, in some ways, the mainstream rather than the fringe.


AMY GOODMAN: Jeff, we only have a minute, but President Bush was close to the religious right. Obama isn’t as close to the religious right. Will this change the military? And what about his associations with Rick Warren, who was—you know, who gave one of the prayers at the inauguration?


JEFF SHARLET: Well, if things go as planned, a general named Mike Gould is about to take over at the Air Force Academy, where Mikey Weinstein has been fighting for years for First Amendment freedoms. Mike Gould—in my story, I report, when he was at the Pentagon, he forced on his subordinates Rick Warren’s teachings, regardless of his subordinates’ religions. He said, “You need to look at Rick Warren.” That guy is about to be promoted under Obama. No one thinks Obama shares these points of view. I think there was some hope when he came in. And I think Mikey had hoped that there would be some real action. And instead, we see the same old guys being held over and, in many cases, even promoted. And it seems that Obama has taken a hands-off approach to this problem and is just ignoring it, and that’s only going to allow the movement to grow stronger.


AMY GOODMAN: Mikey Weinstein, ten seconds.


MIKEY WEINSTEIN: I would say that this is not a fight between Christianity and Judaism or between Christianity and Islam. It’s not a political spectrum, left or right, issue. It’s a constitutional right and wrong issue. And that’s what most of our military has forgotten or is deliberately, willingly, you know, forgetting.


AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Mikey Weinstein, Air Force veteran, his book is With God on Our Side. And I want to thank Jeff Sharlet, whose cover story of Harper’s Magazine, author of the book The Family.

Magda Hassan
05-07-2009, 10:38 PM
Thanks for posting this Peter. I have been wanting to start a thread on this since the recent Al Jazeera publication.

Here is the bigger Jeff Sharlet piece on the same subject. 'Jesus Killed Mohammed'

JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED
By Jeff Sharlet

** The crusade for a Christian military **

Harper's Magazine
May 2009
Pages 31-38, 40-43

[Sorry about the formatting problems!]

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488 (subscribers only)

When Sergeant Jeffery Humphrey and his squad of nine men, part of the 1/26 Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division, were assigned to a Special Forces compound in Samarra, he thought they had drawn a dream duty. “Guarding Special Forces, it was like Christmas,” he says. In fact, it was spring, 2004; and although Humphrey was a combat veteran of Kosovo and Iraq, the men to whom he was detailed, the 10th Special Forces Group, were not interested in grunts like him. They would not say what they were doing, and they used code names. They called themselves “the Faith element.”

But they did not talk religion, which was fine with Humphrey.

An evenhanded Indianan with a precise turn of mind, Humphrey considered himself a no-nonsense soldier. His first duty that Easter Sunday was to make sure the roof watch was in place: a machine gunner, a man in a mortar pit, a soldier with a SAW (an automatic rifle on a bipod), and another with a submachine gun on loan from Special Forces. Together with two Bradley Fighting Vehicles on the ground and snipers on another roof, the watch covered the perimeter of the compound, a former elementary school overlooking the Tigris River.

Early that morning, a unit from the 109th National Guard Infantry dropped
off their morning chow. With it came a holiday special -- a video of Mel
Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" and a chaplain to sing the film’s
praises, a gory cinematic sermon for an Easter at war. Humphrey ducked
into the chow room to check it out. “It was the part where they’re
killing Jesus, which is, I guess, pretty much the whole movie. Kind of
turned my stomach.” He decided he’d rather burn trash.

He was returning from his first run to the garbage pit when the 109th came barreling back. Their five-ton -- a supersized armored pickup -- was
rolling on rims, its tires flapping and spewing greasy black flames.
“Came in on two wheels,” remembers one of Humphrey’s men, a machine
gunner. On the ground behind it and in retreat before a furious crowd
were more men from the 109th, laying down fire with their M-4s. Humphrey raced toward the five-ton as his roof shooters opened up, their big guns thumping above him. Later, when he climbed into the vehicle, the stink was overwhelming: of iron and gunpowder, blood and bullet casings. He reached down to grab a rifle, and his hand came up wet with brain.

Humphrey had been in Samarra for a month, and until that day his stay had been a quiet respite in one of the world’s oldest cities. Not long
before, though, there had been a hint of trouble: a briefing in which his
squad was warned that any soldier caught desecrating Islamic sites --
Samarra is considered a holy city -- would fall under “extreme penalty,” a
category that can include a general court-martial and prison time. “I
heard some guys were vandalizing mosques,” Humphrey says. “Spray-painting ’em with crosses.”

The rest of that Easter was spent under siege. Insurgents held off Bravo
Company, which was called in to rescue the men in the compound.
Ammunition ran low. A helicopter tried to drop more but missed. As dusk
fell, the men prepared four Bradley Fighting Vehicles for a “run and gun”
to draw fire away from the compound. Humphrey headed down from the roof to get a briefing. He found his lieutenant, John D. DeGiulio, with a
couple of sergeants. They were snickering like schoolboys. They had
commissioned the Special Forces interpreter, an Iraqi from Texas, to paint
a legend across their Bradley’s armor, in giant red Arabic script.

“What’s it mean?” asked Humphrey.

“Jesus killed Mohammed,” one of the men told him. The soldiers guffawed.
JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED was about to cruise into the Iraqi night.

The Bradley, a tracked “tank killer” armed with a cannon and missiles --
to most eyes, indistinguishable from a tank itself -- rolled out. The
Iraqi interpreter took to the roof, bullhorn in hand. The sun was
setting. Humphrey heard the keen of the call to prayer, then the crackle
of the bullhorn with the interpreter answering -- in Arabic, then in
English for the troops, insulting the prophet. Humphrey’s men loved it.
“They were young guys, you know?” says Humphrey . “They were scared.” A Special Forces officer stood next to the interpreter -- “a big, tall, blond, grinning type,” says Humphrey.

“Jesus kill Mohammed!” chanted the interpreter. “Jesus kill Mohammed!”

A head emerged from a window to answer, somebody fired on the roof, and the Special Forces man directed a response from an MK-19 grenade launcher. “Boom,” remembers Humphrey. The head and the window and the wall around it disappeared.

“Jesus kill Mohammed!” Another head, another shot. Boom. “Jesus kill
Mohammed!” Boom. In the distance, Humphrey heard the static of AK fire
and the thud of RPGs. He saw a rolling rattle of light that looked like a
firefight on wheels. “Each time I go into combat I get closer to God,”
DeGiulio would later say. He thought "The Passion" had been a sign that
he would survive. The Bradley seemed to draw fire from every doorway .
There couldn’t be that many insurgents in Samarra, Humphrey thought. Was this a city of terrorists? Humphrey heard Lieutenant DeGiulio reporting in from the Bradley’s cabin, opening up on all doorways that popped off a round, responding to rifle fire -- each Iraqi household is allowed one gun -- with 25mm shells powerful enough to smash straight through the front of a house and out the back wall.

Humphrey was stunned. He’d been blown off a tower in Kosovo and seen
action in the drug war, but he’d never witnessed a maneuver so
fundamentally stupid.

The men on the roof thought otherwise. They thought the lieutenant was a
hero, a kamikaze on a suicide mission to bring Iraqis the American news:
JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED.

***

When Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in January, he inherited a military not just drained by a two-front war overseas but fighting a third
battle on the home front, a subtle civil war over its own soul. On one
side are the majority of military personnel, professionals who regardless
of their faith or lack thereof simply want to get their jobs done; on the
other is a small but powerful movement of Christian soldiers concentrated
in the officer corps. There’s Major General Johnny A. Weida, who as
commandant at the Air Force Academy made its National Day of Prayer
services exclusively Christian, and also created a code for evangelical
cadets: whenever Weida said, “Airpower,” they were to respond “Rock Sir!” -- a reference to Matthew 7:25. (The general told them that when
non-evangelical cadets asked about the mysterious call-and-response, they should share the gospel.) There’s Major General Robert Caslen --
commander of the 25th Infantry Division, a.k.a. “Tropic Lightning” -- who
in 2007 was found by a Pentagon inspector general’s report to have
violated military ethics by appearing in uniform, along with six other
senior Pentagon officers, in a video for the Christian Embassy, a
fundamentalist ministry to Washington élites. There’s Lieutenant General
Robert Van Antwerp, the Army chief of engineers, who has also lent his
uniform to the Christian cause, both in a Trinity Broadcasting Network
tribute to Christian soldiers called "Red, White, and Blue Spectacular"
and at a 2003 Billy Graham rally -- televised around the world on the
Armed Forces Network -- at which he declared the baptisms of 700 soldiers under his command evidence of the Lord’s plan to “raise up a godly army.”

What men such as these have fomented is a quiet coup within the armed
forces: not of generals encroaching on civilian rule but of religious
authority displacing the military’s once staunchly secular code. Not a
conspiracy but a cultural transformation, achieved gradually through
promotions and prayer meetings, with personal faith replacing protocol
according to the best intentions of commanders who conflate God with
country. They see themselves not as subversives but as spiritual warrior
-- "ambassadors for Christ in uniform,” according to Officers’ Christian
Fellowship; “government paid missionaries,” according to Campus Crusade’s Military Ministry.

As a whole, the military is actually slightly less religious than the
general population: 20 percent of the roughly 1.4 million active-duty
personnel checked off a box for a 2008 Department of Defense survey that says “no religious preference,” compared with the 16.1 percent of
Americans who describe themselves as “unaffiliated.” These ambivalent
soldiers should not be confused with the actively irreligious, though.
Only half of one percent of the military accepts the label “atheist” or
“agnostic.” (Jews are even scarcer, accounting for only one servicemember in three hundred; Muslims are just one in four hundred.) Around 22 percent, meanwhile, identify themselves as affiliated with evangelical or Pentecostal denominations. But that number is misleading.

It leaves outthose attached to the traditional mainline denominations -- about 7 percent of the military -- who describe themselves as evangelical; George W. Bush, for instance, is a Methodist. Among the 19 percent of military members who are Roman Catholics, meanwhile, there is a small but vocal subset who tend politically to affiliate with conservative evangelicals.

And then there is the 20 percent of the military who describe themselves
simply as “Christian,” a category that encompasses both those who give God little thought and the many evangelicals who reject denominational
affiliation as divisive of the Body of Christ. “I don’t like ‘religion,’”
a fundamentalist evangelical major told me. “That’s what put my savior on
the cross. The Pharisees.”

Within the fundamentalist front in the officer corps, the best organized
group is Officers’ Christian Fellowship, with 15,000 members active at 80
percent of military bases and an annual growth rate, in recent years, of 3
percent. Founded during World War II, OCF was for most of its history
concerned mainly with the spiritual lives of those who sought it out, but
since 9/11 it has moved in a more militant direction. According to the
group’s current executive director, retired Air Force Lieutenant General
Bruce L. Fister, the “global war on terror” -- to which Obama has
committed 17,000 new troops in Afghanistan -- is “a spiritual battle of
the highest magnitude.” As jihad has come to connote violence, so
spiritual war has moved closer to actual conflict, “continually
confronting an implacable, powerful foe who hates us and eagerly seeks to destroy us,” declares “The Source of Combat Readiness,” an OCF Scripture study prepared on the eve of the Iraq War.

But another OCF Bible study, “Mission Accomplished,” warns that victory
abroad does not mean the war is won at home. “If Satan cannot succeed
with threats from the outside, he will seek to destroy from within,”
asserts the study, a reference to “fellow countrymen” both in biblical
times and today who practice “spiritual adultery.” “Mission Accomplished”
takes as its text Nehemiah 1-6, the story of the “wallbuilder” who rebuilt
the fortifications around Jerusalem. An outsider might misinterpret the
wall metaphor as a sign of respect for separation of church and state, but
in contemporary fundamentalist thinking the story stands for just the
opposite: a wall within which church and state are one. “With the wall
completed the people could live an integrated life,” the study argues.
“God was to be Lord of all or not Lord at all.” So it is today, “Mission
Accomplished” continues, proposing that before military Christians can
complete their wall, they must bring this “Lord of all” to the entire
armed forces. “We will need to press ahead obediently,” the study
concludes, “not allowing the opposition, all of which is spearheaded by
Satan, to keep us from the mission of reclaiming territory for Christ in
the military.”

Every man and woman in the military swears an oath to defend the
Constitution. To most of them, evangelicals included, that oath is as
sacred as Scripture. For the fundamentalist front, though, the
Constitution is itself a blueprint for a Christian nation. “The idea of
separation of church and state?” an Air Force Academy senior named Bruce Hrabak says. “There’s this whole idea in America that it’s in the
Constitution, but it’s not.”[Note 1: That’s technically true; it’s in the
First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.]

If the fundamentalist front were to have a seminary, it would be the Air
Force Academy, a campus of steel and white marble wedged into the right
angle formed by the Great Plains and the Rockies. In 2005, the academy
became the subject of scandal because of its culture of Christian
proselytization. Today, the Air Force touts the institution as a model of
reform. But after the school brought in as speakers for a mandatory
assembly three Christian evangelists who proclaimed that the only solution to terrorism was to “kill Islam,” I decided to see what had changed. Not much, several Christian cadets told me. “Now,” Hrabak said, “we’re underground.” Then he winked.

“There’s a spiritual world, and oftentimes what happens in the physical
world is representative of what’s happening in the spiritual,” an academy
senior (a “firstie,” in the school parlance) named Jon Butcher told me one
night at New Life, a nearby megachurch popular with cadets.[Note 2: See my story “Soldiers of Christ: Inside America’s Most Powerful Megachurch,”
[Harper's], May 2005] Butcher is wiry and laconic, a former ski bum from
Ohio who went to the academy to be closer to the slopes. “For me, it was
always like, a little bit of God, a little bit of drinking, a little bit of girls.” He prayed for admission to the academy, though, pledging to God that he’d change his ways if he got in. As far as he was concerned, God delivered; so Butcher did, too, quitting alcohol and committing himself to chastity.

But that commitment took him only so far. He was pure, but was he holy?
He needed direction. He found it in Romans 13: “There is no authority
except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by
God.” It was like a blessing on the academy’s hierarchical system, and
Butcher took it to heart, turning his body and spirit over to the guidance
of older Christian cadets. A Christian, he explained in full earnestness,
“is someone who chooses to be a slave, essentially.” He took time off to
be a missionary, and when he returned he realized God had already given
him a mission field. “God has told me to become an infantry officer,”
Butcher said, explaining his decision to transfer from the Air Force to
the Army upon graduation. A pilot has only his plane to talk to; an
infantry officer, said Butcher, has men to mold, Iraqis to convert.
“Everything is a form of ministry for me,” Butcher said. “There is no
separation. I’m doing what God has called me to do, to know Him and to
make Him known.”

At the academy, Butcher made his God known by leading what one member described to me as an underground all-male prayer group. I was allowed to attend but not to take notes as around twenty-five cadets discussed lust and missionary work, the girlfriends whose touches they feared and the deceptions necessary for missionary work in China, where foreign evangelism is illegal. Butcher asked me not to disclose the group’s name; those who do believe in separation of church and state might interfere with its goal of turning the world’s most élite war college into its most holy one, a seminary with courses in carpet bombing. He couldn’t imagine military training as anything other than a mission from God. “How,” he asked, “in the midst of pulling a trigger and watching somebody die, in that instant are you going to be confident that that’s something God told you to do?” His answer was stark. “In this world, there are forces of
good and evil. There’s angels and there’s demons, you know? And Satan
hates what’s holy.”

Following the 2005 religion scandal at the academy, its commander,
Lieutenant General John Rosa, confessed to a meeting of the
Anti-Defamation League that his “whole organization” had religion
problems. It “keeps me awake at night,” he said, predicting that
restoring constitutional principles to the academy would take at least six
years. Then he retired to become president of the Citadel. To address
the problems, the Air Force brought in Lieutenant General John Regni, a
tall, broad-shouldered man with a dome of hair streaked black and silver,
the very picture of an officer, calm and in command. When I spoke to
Regni, I began our phone conversation with what I thought was a softball,
an opportunity for the general to wax constitutional about First Amendment freedoms. “How do you see the balance between the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause?” I asked.

There was a long pause. Civilians might reasonably plead ignorance, but
not a general who has sworn on his life to defend these words: “Congress
shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof.”

“I have to write those things down,” Regni finally answered. “What did
you say those constitutional things were again?”

Sometime early this summer, a general named Mike Gould will succeed Regni as head of the academy. A former football player there, Gould granted himself the nickname “Coach” after a brief stint in that capacity early in his career. Coach Gould enjoys public speaking, and he’s famous for his “3-F” mantra: “Faith, Family, Fitness.” At the Pentagon, a former senior officer who served under Gould told me, the general was so impressed by a presentation Pastor Rick Warren gave to senior officers that he sent an email to his 104 subordinates in which he advised them to read and live by Warren’s book *The Purpose-Driven Life*.[Note 3: Warren’s bestseller sometimes displaces Scripture itself among military evangelicals. In March 2008, a chaplain at Lakenheath, a U.S. Air Force-operated base in England, used a mandatory suicide-prevention assembly under Lieutenant General Rod Bishop as an opportunity to promote the principles of *The Purpose-Driven Life* to roughly 1,000 airmen. In a PowerPoint diagram depicting two family trees, the chaplain contrasted the likely future of a non-religious family, characterized by “Hopelessness” and “Death,” and that of a religious one. The secular family will, according to the diagram, spawn 300 convicts, 190 prostitutes, and 680 alcoholics. Purpose-driven breeding, meanwhile, will result in at least 430 ministers, seven congressmen, and one vice-president.] “People thought it was weird,” recalls the former officer, a defense contractor who requested anonymity for fear of losing government business. “But no one wants to show their ass to the general.”

Christian fundamentalism, like all fundamentalisms, is a narcissistic
faith, concerned most of all with the wrongs suffered by the righteous and
the purification of their ranks. “Under the rubric of free speech and the
twisted idea of separation of church and state,” reads a promotion for a
book called *Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel*,
by Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William McCoy, “there has evolved more and more an anti-Christian bias in this country.” In *Under Orders*, McCoy seeks to counter that alleged bias by making the case for the necessity of religion -- preferably Christian -- for a properly functioning military unit. Lack of belief or the wrong beliefs, he writes, will “bring havoc to what needs cohesion and team confidence.”

McCoy’s manifesto comes with an impressive endorsement: “*Under Orders* should be in every rucksack for those moments when Soldiers need spiritual energy,” reads a blurb from General David Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq until last September, after which he moved to the top spot at U.S. Central Command, in which position he now runs U.S. operations from Egypt to Pakistan. When the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) demanded an investigation of Petraeus’s endorsement -- an apparent violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not to mention the Bill of Rights -- Petraeus claimed that his recommendation was supposed to be private, a communication from one Christian officer to another.

“He doesn’t deny that he wrote it,” says Michael “Mikey” Weinstein,
president of MRFF. “It’s just, ‘Oops, I didn’t mean for the public to
find out.’ And what about our enemies? He’s promoting this
unconstitutional Christian exceptionalism at precisely the same time we’re
fighting Islamic fundamentalists who are telling their soldiers that
America is waging a modern-day crusade. That *is* a crusade.”

Petraeus’s most vigorous defense came last August from the recently
retired three-star general William “Jerry” Boykin -- a founding member of
the Army’s Delta Force and an ordained minister -- during an event held at Fort Bragg to promote his own book, *Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom*. “Here comes a guy named Mikey Weinstein trashing Petraeus,” he told a crowd of 150 at the base’s Airborne and Special Forces Museum, “because he endorsed a book that’s just trying to help soldiers. And this makes clear what [Weinstein’s] real agenda is, which is not to help this country win a war on terror.”

“It’s satanic,” called out a member of the audience.

“Yes,” agreed Boykin. “It’s demonic.”[Note4: After 9/11, Boykin went on
the prayer-breakfast circuit to boast, in uniform, that his God was
“bigger” than the Islamic divine of Somali warlord Osman Atto, whom Boykin had hunted. “I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol,” he declared, displaying as evidence photographs of black clouds over Mogadishu: the “demonic spirit” his troops had been fighting. “The
principality of darkness,” he went on to declare, “a guy called Satan.”
Under fire from congressional Democrats, Boykin claimed he hadn’t been
speaking about Islam, but in a weird non sequitur he insisted, “My
references to . . . our nation as a Christian nation are historically
undeniable.” These strategic insights earned Boykin promotion to deputy
undersecretary of defense for intelligence, a position in which he advised
on interrogation techniques until August 2007.]

Mikey Weinstein, for his part, doesn’t mind being called demonic by
officers like Boykin. “I consider him to be a traitor to the oath that he
swore, which was to the United States Constitution and not to his
fantastical demon-and-angel dominionism. He’s a charlatan. The fact that
he refers to me as demon-possessed so he can sell more books makes me want to take a Louisville Slugger to his kneecaps, his big fat belly, and his head. He is a very, very bad man.” Mikey -- nobody, not even his many enemies, calls him Weinstein -- likes fighting, literally. In 1973, as a
“doolie” (a freshman at the Air Force Academy) he punched an officer who
accused him of fabricating anti-Semitic threats he’d received. In 2005,
after the then-head of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted
Haggard, declared that people like Mikey made it hard for him to “defend
Jewish causes,” Mikey challenged the pastor to a public boxing match, with proceeds to go to charity. (Haggard didn’t take him up on it.) He
relishes a rumor that he’s come to be known among some at the Pentagon as the Joker, after Heath Ledger’s nihilistic embodiment of Batman’s nemesis.

But he draws a distinction: “Don’t confuse my description of chaos with
advocacy of chaos.”

A 1977 graduate of the academy, Mikey served ten years’ active duty as a JAG before becoming assistant general counsel in the Reagan White House(where he helped defend the administration during the Iran-Contra scandal) and then general counsel for Ross Perot. It is a surprising background for someone who has taken on the role of constitutional conscience of the military, a man determined to force accountability on its fundamentalist front through an assault of lawsuits and media appearances. Fifty-four years old, Mikey is built like a pit bull, with short legs, big shoulders, a large, shaved head, and a crinkled brow between dark, darting eyes. He likes to say he lives at “Mikey speed,” an endless succession of eighteen-hour days, both on the road and at the foundation’s headquarters-- that is, his sprawling adobe ranch house, set on a hill outside Albuquerque and guarded by two oversized German shepherds and a five-foot-six former Marine bodyguard called Shorty. MRFF draws on a network of lawyers, publicists, and fund-raisers, but its core is just Mikey, plus a determined researcher named Chris Rodda, author of anunfinished multivolume debunking of Christian-right historical claims entitled *Liars for Jesus*.

Mikey has won some victories, such as when he forced the Department of
Defense to investigate the Christian Embassy video, and intimidated the
Air Force Academy into adopting classes in religious diversity, and
harassed any number of base commanders into reining in subordinates who view their authority as a license to proselytize. Every time he wins a
battle or takes to the television to plead his cause, more troops learn
about his foundation and seek its help. He keeps his cell phone on
vibrate while he’s exercising on his elliptical machine; he likes to boast
that he’ll interrupt sex to take a call from any one of the 11,400
active-duty military members he describes as the foundation’s
“clients.”[Note 5: A spokeswoman for the Pentagon says the military has
dealt with fewer than fifty reports of religion-related problems during
the period since Mikey founded MRFF. But an abundance of evidence
suggests that the Pentagon is ignoring the problem. I spoke to dozens of
Mikey’s clients: soldiers, sailors, and airmen who spoke of forced
Christian prayer in Iraq and at home; combat deaths made occasions for
evangelical sermons by senior officers; Christian apocalypse video games
distributed to the troops; mandatory briefings on the correlation of the
war to the Book of Revelation; exorcisms designed to drive out “unclean
spirits” from military property; beatings of atheist troops that are
winked at by the chain of command.] He hires lawyers for them, pulls
strings, bullies their commanders, tells them they’re heroes. He offered
to let one G.I., facing threats of violence because of his atheism, move
in with his family.

But as Mikey’s client base grows, so too do the ranks of his enemies. The
picture window in his living room has been shot out twice, and last summer he woke to find a swastika and a cross scrawled on his door. Since he launched MRFF four years ago, he has accumulated an impressive collection of hate mail. Some of it is earnest: “You are costing lives by dividing military personnel and undermining troops,” reads one missive. “Their blood is on your hands.” Much of it is juvenile: “you little bald-headed fag,” reads an email Mikey received after an appearance on CNN, “what the fuck are you doing with an organization of this title when the purpose of your group is not to encourage religious freedom, but to DENY religious freedom?” Quite a bit of it is anti-Semitic: “Once again, the Oy Vey! crowd whines. This jew used to be an Air Force lawyer and got the email” -- a solicitation by Air Force General Jack Catton for campaign donations to put “more Christian men” in Congress, which Mikey made public -- “just one more example of why filthy, hook-nosed jews should be purged from our society.”

The abuse has become a regular feature of Mikey’s routine in public
appearances. There’s a sense in which Mikey likes it -- not the threats,
but the evidence. “We’ve had dead animals on the porch. Beer bottles,
feces thrown at the house. I don’t even think about it. I view it as if
I was Barry Bonds about to go to bat in Dodger Stadium and people are
booing. You want a piece of me? Get in line, buddy. Pack a lunch.”
Mikey sees things in terms of enemies, and he likes to know he’s rattling
his.

Central to Mikey’s worldview are two beatings he suffered as an
eighteen-year-old doolie at the academy, retaliations for notifying his
superiors about a series of anti-Semitic notes he’d received. Both
beatings left him unconscious. Mikey put them behind him, graduating with
honors; but his anger reignited in 2004, when his son Curtis, then a
doolie himself, told Mikey he planned to beat the shit out of the next
cadet -- or officer -- who called him a “fucking Jew.” In 2005, when he
created the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, he ornamented its board with a galaxy of retired generals, the stars on their shoulders meant to make clear that the foundation’s enemy is not the military. His enemy, he says, is “weaponized Christianity,” and his foundation is a weapon too: “We will lay down withering fire and open sucking chest wounds. This country is facing a pervasive and pernicious pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape of the religious rights of our armed forces
members,” he says. He calls this “soul rape.”

It’s a strong term that at first sounds like typical over-the-top Mikey,
but his struggle goes to the very heart of America’s First Amendment
freedoms, dating back to the seventeenth century and Roger Williams, the
founder of Rhode Island. Williams was a devout Christian, but based on
his encounters with Native American leaders, whom he deemed honest men, and his dealings with the leaders of the Massachusetts colony, who sent him into exile, he concluded that outward religion -- the piety of the
Puritans -- was no guarantee of inner virtue. What mattered most, he
thought, was the ability to seek the good. So if the state restricted
that search (through mandatory prayer, for instance, or discrimination
against minority faiths), it violated the most basic freedom, that of
individual conscience. Without the freedom to choose one’s own beliefs,
Williams believed, no other freedom is really possible. Freedom of
religion is thus bound to freedom from religion.

“In the military,” Mikey told me one night in Albuquerque, “many
constitutional rights that we as civilians enjoy are severely abridged in
order to serve a higher goal: provide good order and discipline in order
to protect the whole panoply of constitutional rights for the rest of us.”
One of those rights is free speech: a soldier in uniform can’t endorse a
political candidate, advertise a product, or proselytize. That rule is
for the good of the public -- no one wants men with guns telling them whom to vote for -- and for the military itself. An officer can tell a soldier
what to do, but not what to believe; conscience is its own order.

The evangelical transformation of the military began during the Cold War,
in a new American “Great Awakening” that has only accelerated across the decades, making the United States one of the most religious nations in the world. We are also among the most religiously diverse, but as the number of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and adherents of hundreds of other traditions has grown, American evangelicalism has entrenched, tightening its hold on the institutions that conservative evangelicals consider most American -- that is, Christian.

“It was Vietnam which really turned the tide,” writes Anne C. Loveland,
author of the only book-length study of the evangelical wave within the
armed forces, *American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 1942–1993*.
Until the Vietnam War, it was the traditionally moderate mainline
Protestant denominations (Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians),
together with the Catholic Church, that dominated the religious life of
the military. But as leading clergymen in these denominations spoke out
against the war, evangelicals who saw the struggle in Vietnam as God’s
work rushed in. In 1967, the Assemblies of God, the biggest Pentecostal
denomination in the world, formally dropped its long-standing commitment
to pacifism, embracing worldly war as a counterpart to spiritual struggle.
Other fundamentalists took from Vietnam the lessons of guerrilla combat
and applied them to the spiritual fight through a tactic they called
infiltration, filling the ranks of secular institutions with undercover
missionaries.

“Evangelicals looked at the military and said, ‘This is a mission field,’”
explains Captain MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran pastor and former
missile-launch commander who until 2005 was a staff chaplain at the Air
Force Academy and has since studied and written about the chaplaincy.
“They wanted to send their missionaries to the military, and for the
military itself to become missionaries to the world.”

The next turning point occurred in the waning days of the Reagan
Administration, when regulatory revisions helped create the fundamentalist stronghold in today’s military. A long-standing rule had apportioned chaplains according to the religious demographics of the military as a whole (i.e., if surveys showed that 10 percent of soldiers were Presbyterian, then 10 percent of the chaplains would be Presbyterian) but required that all chaplains be trained to minister to troops of any faith.

Starting in 1987, however, Protestant denominations were lumped together simply as “Protestant”; moreover, the Pentagon began accrediting hundreds of evangelical and Pentecostal “endorsing agencies,” allowing graduates of fundamentalist Bible colleges -- which often train clergy to view those from other faiths as enemies of Christ -- to fill up nearly the entire allotment for Protestant chaplains. Today, more than two thirds of the military’s 2,900 active-duty chaplains are affiliated with evangelical or Pentecostal denominations. “In my experience,” Morton says, “eighty percent of the Protestant chaplaincy self-identifies as conservative and/or evangelical.”

The most zealous among the new generation of fundamentalist chaplains
didn’t join to serve the military; they came to save its soul. One of
these zealots is Lieutenant Colonel Gary Hensley, division chaplain for
the 101st Airborne and, until recently, the chief Army chaplain for all of
Afghanistan. Last year, a filmmaker named Brian Hughes met Hensley when he traveled to Bagram Air Field to make a documentary about chaplains, a tribute of sorts to the chaplain who had counseled him -- without regard for religion -- when Hughes was a frightened young airman during the Gulf War. Military personnel forfeit their rights to legal and medical privacy; chaplains are the only people they can turn to with problems too sensitive to take up the chain of command, anything from corruption to a crisis of courage. When Hughes went to Bagram, he was looking for chaplains like the one who’d helped him get through his war. Instead, he found Hensley.

In the raw footage Hughes shot, Hensley strips down to a white T-shirt
beneath his uniform to preach an afternoon service in Bagram’s main
chapel. On the T-shirt’s breast is a logo for an evangelical military
ministry called Chapel NeXt, the “T” in which is an oversized cross
slashing down over a map of Afghanistan. “Got your seat belts on?”
Hensley hollers. He’s a lean man with thinning, slicked-back gray hair
who carries a small paunch like a package, the size and shape of a
turtle’s shell. “The Word will not fail!” he shouts. “Now is the time!
In the fullness of time” -- Hensley leans forward, two fingers on his
glasses, his voice dipping to a growl -- “God. Sent. His. Son. Whoo!”
Then, as if addressing 33 million Muslim Afghans and their belief that
Muhammad was a prophet as Jesus before him, he shouts, “There is no one else to come! There is no new revelation! There is no new religion!
Jesus is it!” Amen, says the crowd. “If He ain’t it, let’s all go home!”

Hensley brings it back down. “I’m from the Jesus Movement,” he says,
presenting himself as a prophet born of American history:
“Haight-Ashbury. Watergate. Woodstock. And out of that mess? Came
Hensley, glory to God!” He goes on to quote (without attribution) the
British theologian C. H. Dodd: “By virtue of the resurrection,” he says,
“Jesus was exalted to the right hand of the Father and is the messianic
head of the New Israel.” Dodd was no fundamentalist; his ideas are still
used by some liberal Christians to combat the apocalyptic fervor of
fundamentalism. Not so with Hensley, who takes Dodd’s uncredited words as a battle cry. “That’s us!” he cries. “We are Israel. We are the New
Israel!”

At this point, says Hughes, the Army media liaison sitting next to him put
his head in his hands.

“There will come a day when there will be no more Holy Spirit!” Hensley
shouts, hopping up and down on the stage, his speech no longer directed
toward the pews but as if to some greater audience. “When the church
shall be raptured up in the skyyy! And we shall be with Hiiim! And all
of us shall be with Him!” He slows to an emphatic whisper like a warning:
“Glory to God, that’s our message!” A little bit louder now. “The
messianic Jesus is comin’ back!” Louder still. “And I expect him to come
back before we go to the mess hall, you know that?” And the soldiers say,
Amen.

***

I found Lieutenant Colonel Bob Young after MRFF reported on an evangelical reality program, shown on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, that included tape of Colonel Young telling two wandering missionaries about his plan to pray for rain in Afghanistan. I reached him at home in Georgia late one evening. He said he was going to sit on his porch and look at the moon.

In the background, I heard dogs barking. He talked for three hours, much
of it about what he’d seen in the combat hospital under his command at
Kandahar Air Base.

“Kids getting burned,” he recalled. “Bad guys floating in on helicopters.
You wouldn’t know who they were.” The base hospital treated 7,000
Afghans that year, and Young, commander of the Army’s 325th Forward
Support Battalion, lingered there, watching the bodies. “I want to tell
you this. Triage area, guy strapped into gurney, Afghan guy. No shirt,
skinny as a rail, sinewy muscle. Restraints on his ankles, his feet, dude
is strapped into a wheelchair. He’s got a plastic shield in front of his
face because he’s spitting.” A doctor wants to sedate him. “I say, ‘I’ll
tell you what’s wrong with him. The guy has demons.’” Young decides to
pray over him. “Couple minutes later the general’s son-in-law -- the
Afghan general’s son-in-law, our translator -- comes in. I said, ‘What’s
wrong with this guy?’ He says, ‘How do you say in English? He has
spirits.’ I say, ‘Doc, there’s your second opinion!’”

On the phone, Young laughed, a harsh “Ha!” Then his voice broke. “I’m
telling you, it’s real. Evil is real.”

In the Christian reality show, Young extended that thought to the weather.
“Interestingly,” he says, “the drought has been in effect since the
Taliban took over.” Young has a high mouth and a low brow, his features
concentrated between big ears. “People of America,” he tells the camera,
“pray that God sends the rain to Kandahar, and they’ll know that our God
answers prayers.”

I asked Young if he wanted to contextualize these remarks, since they
seemed, on the surface, to radically transcend his mission as a soldier.
“Okay!” he said. “Are you ready?” I said I was.

He told me to Google Kandahar, rain, January 2005. The result he was
looking for was an article in *Stars and Stripes* entitled “Rainfall May
Signal Beginning of the End to Three-Year Drought in Afghanistan.” Three
and a quarter inches in just two days.

“That’s some real rain,” I admitted.

“That’s what I’m saying, brother!”

I asked him about an allegation made to MRFF by a captain who served under Young: that Young had made remarks that led him to be relieved of his command. It was true that he had been relieved of command, he admitted, but he had appealed and won. And the remarks? “All that was, I was speaking in reference to inner-city problems and whatnot. I said that the irony is that it would be better for a black to be a slave in America --
I’m thinking now historically -- and know Christ, than to be free now and
not know Christ.”

With that cleared up, I then asked Young about another of the captain’s
allegations: that he had given a presentation on Christianity to some
Afghan warlords. Absolutely not, he said. It was a PowerPoint about
America. He emailed it to me as we spoke, and then asked me to open it so he could share with me the same presentation he had given “Gulalli” and “Shirzai.” Since it had been President’s Day, Young had begun with a
picture of George Washington, who, he explained, had been protected by
God; his evidence was that, following a battle in the French and Indian
War, when thirty-two bullet holes were found in Washington’s cloak, the
general himself escaped unscathed. Young wanted to show the Afghans that nation-building was a long and difficult journey. “I did stress the fact
that in America we believe our rights come from God, not from government.

Truth is truth, and there’s no benefit in lying about it.”

There were slides about the Wright brothers, the moon landing, and NASCAR -- Jeff Gordon, “a Christian, by the way,” had just won the Daytona 500.

And then, the culmination of American history: the twin towers, blooming
orange the morning of September 11, 2001. Embedded in the slide show was a video Young titled “Forgiveness,” a collage of stills, people running
and bodies falling. Swelling behind the images was Celine Dion’s hit
ballad from Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On.” Following the video was a
slide of the Bush family, beneath the words: “I believe that God has
inspired in every heart the desire for freedom.”

At the heart of Young’s religion is suffering: his own. Before his
battalion deployed for Afghanistan, he tried to armor them with prayer.
To do so, he offered up his own testimony, the text that is in truth at
the heart of his religion. He told them there were two kinds of phone
calls a soldier in a combat zone was likely to encounter. One was from
his wife, calling to say she was raising him up in prayer. The other was
also from his wife, calling to say she was leaving him. Young had
experienced both calls. In 1993, he was a Ranger, a member of the Army’s most élite special forces, away on deployment to Korea. He asked his best friend, the best man at his wedding, to watch over his wife and his two toddlers. And when that worst of all calls came -- his wife, telling him the car was packed, that she, his kids, and his friend were leaving --
that was when Young found the Lord.

First, he tried to respond like an officer. “Military course of action
development,” he lectured himself. “Course of action one: kill him.
Two: kill them both. Three: kill myself.” Somebody, he decided, had to
die. In the end, somebody did: Young, to the flesh. Raised nominally
Catholic, he had never read Scripture. Now, every page seemed to speak to him. I can’t go on, he thought. He opened his Bible and found Matthew
6:34. Do not worry about tomorrow. An eye for an eye, Young thought,
then flipped the pages: Love your enemies. I have nothing to go home to,
he thought, and then he came to Mark. *Let us go over to the other side.*
They did, in a ship, and “a great windstorm arose,” Young read, the murder in his mind subsiding as the story overcame him. “And then Jesus said, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.”

There is a modesty inherent in evangelicalism’s preference for personal
stories, for every soul’s version of “I was lost, but now I’m found.” In
a Protestant church without rank or reward, that story is democratic,
radically so; my testimony is as important as yours, the poor man’s tale
just as powerful as that of the rich man. But the marriage of
evangelicalism to the military ethos turns public confession into
projection, the creation of what the military calls a command climate. It
is one thing for your neighbor in the pews to tell you that he was blind
and now he sees; it is another for such vision to be described by your
commanding officer.

Young has been a Christian soldier ever since that terrible phone call.
The tension between war and faith does not disturb him. “We are to live
with anticipation and expectation of His imminent return,” he told me.
Look at the signs, said Young: nuclear Iran, economic collapse, President
Obama’s decision to “unleash science” upon helpless embryos. He seemed to feel that the military was now the only safe place to be. “In the
military, homosexuality is illegal. I don’t want to get into all the
particulars of ‘Don’t ask,’ but you can’t act on homosexual feelings. And
adultery is illegal. Really, arguably, the military is the last American
institution that tries to uphold Christian values. It’s the easiest place
in America to be a Christian.”

In the weeks following Obama’s election, Mikey says, he almost went to
Washington. He met with campaign staffers, submitted plans, gathered
endorsements from powerful insiders. His dream was a post at the Pentagon from which he could prosecute the most egregious offenders. It didn’t seem entirely out of the realm of possibility. He could have been pitched as another gesture of bipartisanship, since Mikey is a lifelong Republican who probably would have voted for John McCain if, back in 2004, his sons hadn’t run afoul of the Air Force Academy’s burgeoning spirit of evangelism -- a culture that McCain, hardly a friend to fundamentalism, showed no interest in challenging this time around.

Another veteran serving in the Senate, who asked that he not be named so as not to compromise his close connections to today’s top officers, offers a variation on Captain Morton’s analysis of the military’s turn toward religion. Although the military was integrated before much of the United States, he points out, it almost split along racial lines, particularly in the last days of Vietnam. If the military was to rebuild itself, the
Southern white men at the heart of its warrior culture had to come to an
understanding of themselves based on something other than skin color.
Many, says the senator, turned toward religion, particularly
fundamentalist evangelical Christianity -- a tradition that, despite its
particularly potent legacy of racism, reoriented itself during the
post-civil rights era as a religion of “reconciliation” between the races,
a faith that would come to define itself in the early 1990s with the image
of white men hugging black men, tears all around, at Promise Keeper
rallies. “They replaced race with religion,” says the senator. “The
principle remains the same -- an identity built on being separate from a
society viewed as weak and corrupt.”

For decades, the military built a sense of solidarity out of a singular
purpose, the Cold War struggle between free markets and state-planned
economies -- the shining city on a hill versus the evil empire. In that
fight, pluralism, racial or religious, was ultimately on our side; and it
meshed neatly with ideologies that might otherwise be challengers, easily
subsuming both nationalism and fundamentalism, with Communism presented as the dark alternative should we fail to unite. Fundamentalism thrived not so much in opposition to the liberal state as in tandem with it, a neat, black-and-white theological correlate to a foreign policy -- a vision of America’s place in the world, our purpose, you might say -- embraced more or less across the mainstream political spectrum.

The end of the Cold War deprived militant evangelicals of that clarity.
Absent a clear purpose, a common foe, pluralism itself began to look to
some like the enemy. The emergence of “radical Islam” as the object of a
new Cold War only complicated the matter. Rather than revealing a new
enemy for us all to share, the idea of a monolithic radical Islam
fractured pluralism from left to right. Many liberals abandoned even
their rhetorical commitments to liberty of conscience, while the very
conservatives who had favored arming militant Islamists since the
Eisenhower Administration concluded that their universal embrace of
religion in the abstract may have been naive. Perhaps pluralism -- or at
least the Cold War variety that sustained the rise of American empire in
the second half of the twentieth century -- was nothing but propaganda
after all.

Today, fundamentalism, based as it is on a vigorous assertion of narrow
and exclusive claims to truth, can no longer justify common cause with
secularism. In its principal battle, the front lines are not in Iraq or
Afghanistan but right here, where evangelical militants must wage
spiritual war against their own countrymen. In a lecture for OCF titled
“Fighting the War on Spiritual Terrorism,” Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg E.
Metz gar explained that Christian soldiers must always consider themselves behind enemy lines, even within the ranks, because every unsaved member of the military is a potential agent of “spiritual terrorism.” Even secularists with the best intentions may be part of this fifth column, Air Force Brigadier General Donald C. Wurster told a 2007 assembly of chaplains, noting that “the unsaved have no realization of their unfortunate alliance with evil.” What is the nature of this evil? Some
conservative evangelicals call it “postmodernism.” What they mean is the
very idea of diversity, its egalitarianism -- the conviction that my
beliefs have as much right to speak in the public square as do yours; that
truth, in a democracy, is a mediated affair.

Evangelicalism, the more zealous the better, is an ingenious solution, a
mirror image of pluralism that comes with a built-in purpose. It is
available to everybody. Its basic rules are easily learned. It merges
militancy with love, celebrating the ferocity of spirit necessary for a
warrior and the mild amiability required to stay sane within a rigid
hierarchy. It’s a populist religion -- anyone can talk to the top man --
on a vertical axis, an implicit rank system of “spiritual maturity” that
runs from “Baby Christians” of all ages straight up to the ultimate
commander in chief.

Mikey Weinstein did not get his Pentagon job. In fact, the generals whom
Mikey thought would face a reckoning under a Democratic administration
remain in place or in line for promotion. Not only did Obama keep on
Robert Gates as defense secretary; he retained the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren -- another star of the Christian Embassy video, who also, in commencement remarks at West Point last year, characterized America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as struggles for religious freedom against the “darkness and oppression” of radical Islam -- and also appointed as his national security adviser the retired Marine general James Jones, a regular on the prayer breakfast circuit. Nobody believes the new president shares Bush’s religious sentiments, but clearly he is willing to shave constitutional protections in exchange for evangelical peace. The new president appears to have adopted a hands-off approach not just to religion in the military but to the very relationship between church and state.

***

The Air Force Academy chapel is the most popular man-made tourist
attraction in Colorado, seventeen silver daggers rising above campus,
veined with stained glass that suffuses the space inside with a violet and
orange glow. But when one of the academy’s public-relations officers
takes me on a tour, it’s empty. Very few cadets worship there anymore.
Instead, they meet in classrooms and dorm rooms, at mountain retreats, and at the numerous megachurches that surround the academy.

One of the most popular services, called The Mill, takes place on Friday
nights at New Life, in a giant, permanent tent that not long after academy
dinnertime fills with fake fog and power chords and more than a thousand
men and women ranging in age from their teens to their early twenties. I
attended one Friday night in the company of Bruce Hrabak, the cadet who’d told me there was no separation of church and state in the Constitution.

Broad-shouldered and broad-smiled, with color in his cheeks and excitable
dusk-blue eyes, Hrabak says he’s at the academy both of his own free will
and according to the strict Christian doctrine of “predestination,” that
is, destiny chosen by God. It is this paradoxical mix, he explains, that
allows him to serve both as an officer and as a missionary for the “Great
Commission,” the evangelical belief that Christians must spread the Gospel to all nations. The academy, he explains, is a step on his spiritual
journey.

The sermon at The Mill was painful -- the pastor’s wife had recently
delivered a stillborn baby, and he spoke in raw, awful terms about
suffering and theodicy, the age-old question of why a loving God permits
bad things to happen to good people. It is one of the central dilemmas of
the Christian faith, and its persistence, its resistance to easy answers,
is what has made Christianity the forge of so much of the world’s great
art and philosophy. By the end of this hour-long service, though,
everything turned out for the best; even the dead baby had been shoehorned into God’s inscrutable plan.

That cheered Hrabak up. Over dinner afterward, he told me he believed
that all suffering, that which he endures and that which he inflicts, has
a purpose. He felt this truth was of special solace for soldiers. I
asked what he meant. “Well, you’re pulling a trigger, you know?” He
thought about that a lot. Not the shot fired or the bomb dropped, but the
bodies, the souls at the other end of his actions. In his classes, he
watched videos of air strikes. At night, he pictured the dead. He was
not as afraid of dying as he was of killing unjustly. He was afraid of
sin. His double identity -- as a spiritual warrior and as an officer of
the deadliest force in the history of the world --was his redemption.

What would he do if he ever received an order that contradicted his faith?

Hrabak looked shocked. He giggled, then composed himself and took a big bite of pizza, speaking confidently through his food. “Impossible, dude.
I mean, I guess it could happen. But I highly doubt it.”

What if he was ordered to bomb a building in which terrorists were hiding,
even though there were civilians in the way?

He shook his head. “Who are you to question why God builds up nations just to destroy them, so that those who are in grace can see that they’re in grace?” A smile lit up half his face, an expression that might be taken
for sarcastic if Hrabak wasn’t a man committed to being in earnest at all
times. What he’d just said -- a paraphrase from Romans -- might be
something like a Word of Knowledge, a gift of wisdom from God. It blew
his mind so much he had to repeat it, his voice picking up a speed and
enthusiasm that bordered on joy. “He” -- the Lord -- “builds up an entire
nation” -- Iraq or Vietnam, Afghanistan or Pakistan, who are you to
question why? -- “just to destroy them! To show somebody else” --
America, a young man guided to college by God, distrustful of his own
choices -- “that they’re in grace.”

Grace, of course, means you’re favored by God, no questions asked, a
blessing that you can neither earn nor deserve. To fundamentalists, it’s
worth more than freedom, and they’re willing to sacrifice their freedom --
and yours -- for that glorious feeling. That’s a paradox, a box trap the
fundamentalists have built for themselves. The first casualties of the
military’s fundamentalist front are not the Iraqis and Afghans on the
wrong side of an American F-16. They’re the spiritual warriors
themselves, men and women persuaded that the only God worth believing in is one who demands that they break -- in spirit and in fact -- the oath to
the Constitution they swear to uphold on their lives. “You’re laying down
your life for others,” Hrabak says. “Well, there has to be some true
truth to put yourself in harm’s way for.” True truth; truth that requires
an amplifier. For the God soldiers, democracy is not enough

Bruce Clemens
05-08-2009, 03:29 AM
Since the “religion” door has been opened I will, with trepidation, step through it.

I believe that ultimately, everything we see developing before our eyes on the world stage will evolve (devolve?) into a religious war.

Shortly after 9/11 I bought a Koran and read it- cover to cover. At that time I still thought 9/11 was a Muslim plot. I wanted to understand our new enemy. Now I know better. I know who our real enemy is. But at the time I was skeptical of the president when he told me that Islam was a “religion of peace” and I was troubled when Billy Graham’s son was excoriated in the media over some statements he had made regarding Islam’s call to kill people who don’t desire to practice Islam.

Disclosure: I was brought up in a “Born Again” Christian home and have put in my hours in the church…But please understand that that did as much for my cynicism and skepticism as it did for my faith. I got my Bachelor’s degree from a private university that is funded by the Assemblies of God church…out of convenience. Please hear me loud and clear; I am not Assemblies of God, and I am NOT religious. However I AM thoughtful and open minded and I do put a lot of stock in verifiable facts and original sources. And that university required my Business Administration degree to include courses on religious history. Not a bad thing in the long run, to help understand our world today.

The fact is many people (especially in the media and politics) say those who advocate killing people who refuse to adopt Islam are “Muslim Extremists”. But they are, in actuality, Muslim fundamentalists. It is straight out of the Koran. The Koran says, in many verses, to give the “infidel” (the Christian, Jew, or other non-Muslim), a chance to convert, and if it is not taken, to lop off his or her head. It’s right there in black and white, in every Barnes and Noble or Borders; yours for the browsing. Don’t even need to buy the damn thing. Want Homophobia? Look in the Koran. Lop off their heads.

The Koran allows abuse of wives (note the plural), and squarely puts the husband in absolute control of the bodies, minds and actions of his wives and female children. Islam is a medieval religion that has not changed a whit in the last 1400 years. Any and all modern adaptations of Koranic teaching come through arbitrary “Fatwas” proclaimed by regional and local sheikhs. These lawful proclamations can be contradictory and may vary from region to region. A reading of the Koran will show that, contrary to the “Religion of Peace” rhetoric of the President and the MSM, Islam is a very violent and warlike religion. Hell- when Franklin Roosevelt first met King Saud in 1945, the Muslim king had old scimitar scars on his body from wounds aquired as a young man battling rival clans.

People in that part of the world have suddenly been popped into the 21st century out of a 7h Century malaise by the rest of the world’s interest in their oil and by the money that follows. But the religion is woefully behind the curve. Yet in the name of politically correct revisionist history, we are to understand through MSM spokespeople that Islam is innocuous…nothing to see here, folks, move along… That bombing is just the work of a few misguided “extremists”.

Judaism, in its own way, advocates many abhorrent and barbaric practices as well, as are often pointed out by MSM. Only the MSM doesn’t emphasize the old-testament exhortations to stone people who have the wrong kind of cloth in their garments et cetera, ad infinitum… Like Islam, Judaism is also an ancient religion with violent overtones, but it is more inwardly centered than Islam. You tend to excoriate yourself or your wives and daughters rather than your disbelieving neighbor.

But Christianity is different. It’s different for a number of reasons. First, it’s the only one of the “Big Three” that does not, in its original writings, advocate killing disbelievers. Christianity spring boarded off of the Torah; Christ was a Jew. But it left the law behind in favor of belief in a corporeal personification of God who preached pure love. Forget the “Christian” denominations, churches and their doctrine, rituals and rhetoric. Just read what Jesus was supposed to have said. That’s enough.

Folks, please bear with me. I am neither preaching here nor proselytizing. I am just trying to draw some important distinctions between the major religions and their context in our society today.

Islam was a latecomer. It was established in what is now Saudi Arabia, and it remained clustered in that part of the world for most of its history. It is now the fastest growing religion in the world and is observed everywhere. But, and this is the point I wish to emphasize, while Christianity was going through tumultuous changes; the reformation; Martin Luther; a complete refutation of ritual obedience to a multitude of laws, Islam remained exactly as written. It is the same today. There has been no Islamic reformation, no sea change in what is practiced or fundamentally believed since the ancient attitudes, laws, orders and assumptions were first given by Gabriel to Mohammad...

At least with Christianity, after looking at all the hypocrites, the evil done in its name, the con men, the scams, the genocide, etc, etc, one can read the original writings and acknowledge that all those things were a corruption of the religion. One understands that the intent is anathema to the action. But with Islam one sees that the actions are the fulfillment of the religion.

In my opinion, the worst thing about Christianity is the exhortation to go forth and spread the gospel. That is perceived as the duty of Christians. Real Christians, in my opinion, are not bound by rules or laws that could harm another person, believer or not, they simply live the religion. “They will know we are Christians by our love”.

But there are many who take the exhortation to export Christianity to mean that they have to actively push it out the door. That may be why we see some military people in Muslim countries trying to distribute bibles and proselytize. But the difference is, a Muslim who doesn’t want to participate can simply brush it off and say “no thanks”. He will walk away with his head. No problem. There is no recourse in Christianity to take revenge on that person other than prayer.

That all being said, it is my expectation that the controllers of the NWO will ultimately exacerbate this fundamental difference in religious philosophy to their benefit. It will be the ultimate weapon to bring them to domination and into control by fomenting a religious war that will split modern society apart. Again, please give me the benefit of the doubt here- I am not preaching, nor am I summoning forth biblical prophesy. I am simply seeing what is developing in our world today and putting it in context of the elephant in the kitchen: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It’s the perfect trifecta for NWO domination.

Bruce

Peter Presland
05-08-2009, 11:28 AM
Bruce

I'm afraid you've not succeeded in persuading me of much else than that those nurtured in a particular religious/cultural ethos will always tend to judge others beliefs more harshly than their own (in the words of Robbie Burns - ' O' wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oorsels as ithers see us'). That and the fairly self-evident notion that wars tend to be fought over fundamental disagreements which oft-times are bound up (or conflated) with religious belief - religion being by definition concerned with the most fundamental beliefs. I don't accept your three-fold division either. China comprises over 25% of the worlds population. It has its own Muslim, Christian etc minorities but by and large subscribes to a much older religion which Westerners would hardly recognise as religion at all - and I DON't mean Communism either :). Then of course there is Buddhism in all its many guises - and lets not forget Hinduism.

It is certainly convenient for the Western PTB that the Muslim faith be characterised in pretty much the way you have done because the lands containing the vast bulk of what remains of the planet's oil endowment just happen to be Muslim. Personally I find it all wearing a little bit thin by now though and fully expect a new scary enemy to be conjured up when this one has finally been flogged to death (literally) and a more convincing threat justifying domestic police-state powers is needed.

I heartily recommend the first half of the video production 'Zeitgeist' (http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/) for a convincing demolition of most of the hallowed tenets of Christianity as a somehow unique fulfilment of the Jewish Old Testament. VERY uncomfortable viewing for those with unconditional faith - but rigorously factual.

David Guyatt
05-08-2009, 05:01 PM
Religion is a very useful belief system when used with a sense of community, with charity and understanding and for the benefit of our fellow man.

When used as something other (no matter which religion one cares to discuss), for example as a crutch, or hook, upon which to hang personal insecurities by projecting superiority or righteousness it becomes very dangerous indeed.

Individuals very easily get swamped by the Collective and loose their sense of Selfness.

The sad fact today is that the world we live in caters far more to the negative aspects of religion than to the positive - of which there are very many tucked away in small nooks and crannies.

Indeed it more often than not suits the purposes of highly unpleasant and often neurotic (if not psychotic) people, to use religion for their own destructive and selfish ends. This is not the fault of religion per se, but rather it is the in-built flaw of the human psyche that contains within it the dark splinter that so easily succumbs to shadow whispers and goading.

It is, therefore, my position that one should not hold religion responsible for our current woes - anymore than you should hold the surgeon's scalpel to account for the surgeon's skill (or lack of it), but rather each of us must hold ourselves responsible for listening to those ghostly whispers we either know or suspect to be untrue and misleading.

Since doing the latter is far from easy and requires the moral step of becoming conscious of the necessary darkness that is inside each one of us, most - instinctively - find satisfying ways and means to avoid this great challenge. At the end of the day is easier and more comfortable to blame someone, or something else, than to willingly load the heavy burden onto our own shoulders.

I have known religious people I admire and some I look up to, as well, plus many more religious people I would not wish to emulate even if this made heaven fall.

So let's place the blame where it truly lies. With us. Not religion.

Bruce Clemens
05-08-2009, 05:22 PM
I agree, David. And points well taken, Peter.
Many spiritual people have done wonders for humanity over the ages. Many religious people have committed atrocities.
Best,
Bruce

Jan Klimkowski
05-08-2009, 05:45 PM
Priests in South America would baptize the powerful, claiming their soul for Christ, and then lead them to the executioner, where they would be hanged, garotted or guillotined with an axe in front of their people and their children.

Atahualpa, one of the two Inka Emperors when the Spanish arrived, was a victim of the dogs of war and men of god.

Fearful of Atahualpa's power over the indigenous people of the Andes, the conquistador Pizarro staged a mock trial and sentenced Atahualpa to execution by burning. Atahualpa believed his soul could not travel to the afterlife if his body was burned. So a priest, who had been trying to persuade Atahualpa to convert, told the Inka Emperor that if he was baptized into the Catholic faith, the sentence would be commuted.

In such a way, Friar Vincente de Valverde, notorious for his Inka slaves, claimed the soul of "Juan Santos Atahualpa" for the Catholic Church.

In 1533, almost immediately after the baptism, the Inka Atahualpa was garotted.

An aberration? Not at all.

In 1572, the last Sapa Inka, Tupac Amaru, raised in the Inka religion, was trapped in a valley, with his pregnant wife, by conquistadors. Tupac Amaru was assured that no harm would come to him if he and his party surrendered.

Instead, the captive Tupac Amaru was paraded through the sacred streets of Cuzco with a gold chain around his neck. The conquistadors also paraded the holy mallqui (mummies) of the Inka Emperors Manco Capac and Titu Cusi and a gold statue of Punchao, a representation of the Inkan lineage containing the mortal remains of the hearts of the deceased Inkas.

Tupac Amaru was baptized into Catholicism, then subjected to a mock trial.


An eyewitness report from the day recalls that Tupac Amaru was led through the streets of Cuzco between Father Alonso de Baranza and Father Molina, who instructed him for the benefit of his soul. Vega Laoiza has him riding a mule with hands tied behind his back and a rope around his neck. Gabriel Oviedo and Baltasar de Ocampo report great crowds and the Inca surrounded by 400 guards with lances. In front of the main cathedral in the central square of Cuzco a black-draped scaffold had been erected. The plaza was so densely crowded for the spectacle that the chief officer of the court rode down many people to clear a path. Reportedly 10,000 to 15,000 witnesses were present.

Tupac Amaru mounted the scaffold with Bishop Agustín de la Corunna. The "multitude of Indians, who completely filled the square, saw that lamentable spectacle [and knew] that their lord and Inca was to die, they deafened the skies, making them reverberate with their cries and wailing." (Murúa 271)

Another eyewitness, Juan Quispe Kuro, reports that Tupac Amaru's last request was that he be allowed to say good-bye to his young children, who ascended the gallows with dignity and hugged their father.

As reported by Baltasar de Ocampa and Friar Gabriel de Oviedo, Prior of the Dominicans at Cuzco, both eyewitnesses, the Incas last words were, "Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."

By one account Tupac Amaru placed his head on the block. The executioner took Tupac's hair in one hand and severed his head in a single blow. He raised his head in the air for the crowd to view. At the same time all the bells of the many churches and monasteries of the city were rung. A great sorrow and tears were brought to all the native peoples present.

The military leader of the Incan army, Wallpa Yupanki was also decapitated, two generals were hung and the hands of three other resistors were chopped off, according to Guillon's recounting. Toledo also ordered the burning of the mummies of the Incas.

Baltasar Ocampo reports that Tupac Amaru's severed head was impaled on a lance near the gallows.

The Inka were faced with "a new kind of human being who waged war à outrance, inspired by a terrifying religion which enabled them to use treachery, hypocrisy, cruelty, torture, and massacre in the name of a God of Love" (Hyams & Ordish).

Ultimately, the people of the Andes from Ecuador to Bolivia decided to pretend to obey the foreigners, the men of god and the dogs of war, the landlords and mineowners who worked them to death. They decided to wait them out, preserving their indigenous culture in secret places.

Four and a half centuries later, the enemy and the war has not changed.

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."

Peter Presland
05-08-2009, 06:25 PM
Bruce

Immediately I made my last post I considered a clarification because, as with my fear of being branded 'anti-American' I thought it might be misunderstood. Anyway, following your #54, here's the clarification. I am not a man of religion myself but, like David I have the greatest respect for many who are. One of my sisters-in-law is a Salesian nun for example. Also one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life occurred as a young merchant navy officer freshly out of a shattering divorce and in need of spiritual help whilst sojourning in Lourenco Marques (as it then was) - now Maputo, Mozambique - whilst complex ships engine repairs were carried out. I happened across one Padre Norberto Meestes, a Dutch Catholic Priest and spent several days in his company. He gave me a conducted tour of his parish. If any man can justly and without reservation be described as selfless and Good, he - a man of religion - was that man.

The thing about religion that repels me though is the power over the mass of its faithful that it vests in its leaders - together with its irrationality (blind faith I guess you call it). I agree it is not impossible for power to be used entirely for good and laudable purposes but, as Lord Acton observed, 'ALL power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. IMHO that is a fairly accurate description of the effects of institutional religion on most of its leaders over the ages. Political elites recognise, use and manipulate it as a matter of course.

Jan Klimkowski
05-08-2009, 06:52 PM
I have the utmost respect for anyone who lives a truly moral life. My problem is that whilst morality and religion should go hand in hand, they frequently do not.

And religion is routinely used to justify the most immoral of acts.

As an example, who uttered the notorious words "Kill them all, God will know His own!"

Was it an imam? A Buddhist monk? A Hindu priest or brahmin? A rabbi?

In fact, it was Arnaud Amalric, a Cistercian monk, and the seventeenth abbot of Cîteaux.

David Guyatt
05-09-2009, 10:48 AM
I have the utmost respect for anyone who lives a truly moral life. My problem is that whilst morality and religion should go hand in hand, they frequently do not.

And religion is routinely used to justify the most immoral of acts.

As an example, who uttered the notorious words "Kill them all, God will know His own!"

Was it an imam? A Buddhist monk? A Hindu priest or brahmin? A rabbi?

In fact, it was Arnaud Amalric, a Cistercian monk, and the seventeenth abbot of Cîteaux.

Amen.

The worst human excesses can, and have been, channeled through the the religious instinct. It is an easy "lens" to manipulate of course, and thus becomes the ruling house of the Shadow.

However, reducing the Archetype of religion with the actual history of religion denudes the essential meaning of the myth. But the religious mythos is incredibly important for the individual. If channeled with care and with the right purpose in mind.

As Jung said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:


As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious. [p. 326]

Peter Lemkin
05-09-2009, 11:57 AM
US Soldiers in Afghanistan Told to "Hunt People for Jesus... So We Get Them into the Kingdom" (Video)

Monday, May 4, 2009

By Jeremy Scahill

Military officials at Bagram are caught on tape urging US soldiers to evangelize in the Muslim country.

New video evidence has surfaced showing that US military forces in Afghanistan have been instructed by the military's top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Soldiers also have imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, the two dominant languages of Afghanistan. What's more, the center of this evangelical operation is at the huge US base at Bagram, one of the main sites used by the US military to torture and indefinitely detain prisoners.

In a video obtained by Al Jazeera and broadcast Monday, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."

"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

The translated Bibles appear to be the New Testament. According to Al Jazeera, US soldiers "had them specially printed and shipped to Afghanistan." On the tape, one soldier describes how his church in the US helped raise money for the bibles. Al Jazeera reports that "What these soldiers have been doing may well be in direct violation of the US Constitution, their professional codes and the regulations in place for all forces in Afghanistan." The US military officially forbids "proselytising of any religion, faith or practice." But, as Al Jazeera reports:

[T]he chaplains appear to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One.

"Do we know what it means to proselytise?" Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, says to the gathering.

"It is General Order Number One," an unidentified soldier replies.

But Watt says "you can't proselytise but you can give gifts."

Trying to convert Muslims to any other faith is a crime in Afghanistan. The fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera guarantees that it will be seen throughout the Muslim world. It is likely to add more credence to the perception that the US is engaging in a war on Islam with neo-crusader forces invading Muslim lands.

Former Afghan prime minister Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai told Al Jazeera there must be a "serious investigation," saying, "This is very damaging for diplomatic relations between the two counties." Sayed Aalam Uddin Asser, of the Islamic Front for Peace and Understanding in Kabul, told the network: "It's a national security issue ... our constitution says nothing can take place in Afghanistan against Islam. If people come and propaganda other religions which have no followers in Afghanistan [then] it creates problems for the people, for peace, for stability."

A US military spokesperson, Major Jennifer Willis, denied that the US military has allowed its soldiers to attempt to convert Afghans and said comments from sermons filmed at Bagram were taken out of context. She said the bibles were never distributed. "That specific case involved a soldier who brought in a donation of translated bibles that were sent to his personal address by his home church. He showed them to the group and the chaplain explained that he cannot distribute them," she said. "The translated bibles were never distributed as far as we know, because the soldier understood that if he distributed them he would be in violation of general order 1, and he would be subject to punishment."

The video footage was shot about a year ago by documentary filmmaker Brian Hughes, who is also a former US soldier. "[US soldiers] weren't talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons," Hughes told Al Jazeera. "The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it ... documenting it would be important."

The broadcast of this video comes just days after a new poll of White Americans found that, in the US, church going Christians are more likely to support the use of torture than other segments of the population. The Pew Research Center poll found: "White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did."

This is certainly not the first scandal where US military forces or officials have been caught on tape promoting an evangelical Christian agenda. Perhaps the most high-profile case involved Lieut. Gen. William Boykin, who was a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under Bush. Boykin was part of Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle at the Pentagon where he was placed in charge of hunting "high-value targets." Boykin was one of the key U.S. officials in establishing what critics alleged was death-squad-type activity in Iraq.

In October 2003, Boykin was revealed to have gone on several anti-Muslim rants, in public speeches, many of which he delivered in military uniform. Since January 2002, Boykin had spoken at twenty-three religious-oriented events, wearing his uniform at all but two. Among Boykin's statements, he said he knew the U.S. would prevail over a Muslim adversary in Somalia because "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin also charged that Islamic radicals want to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation" that "will never abandon Israel." Our "spiritual enemy," Boykin declared, "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus."

As for President Bush, Boykin said, "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." In another speech, Boykin said other countries "have lost their morals, lost their values. But America is still a Christian nation." He told a church group in Oregon that special operations forces were victorious in Iraq because of their faith in God. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to impress upon you that the battle that we're in is a spiritual battle," he said. "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army."

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Weinstein: Video Proves Proselytization
Rampant at U.S. Military Bases

For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2009

Contact: Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications (202) 265-3000

ALBUQUERQUE – Video released today by Al Jazeera provides concrete evidence that fundamentalist evangelical Christians within the U.S. military are proselytizing at military bases, says a leading civil rights watchdog group.

Mikey Weinstein, President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, released the following statement after Al Jazeera aired its report on U.S. military proselytization at military bases in Afghanistan:

“This video clearly shows that fundamentalist, evangelical Christians within the U.S. military are putting their fellow soldiers at extreme risk by attempting to convert Afghans to Christianity. These inciteful actions are grossly offensive to not only Muslims in Afghanistan and across the world, but to all those who hold faith in the U.S. Constitution. The United States’ armed forces are not on a mission to impose a Christian God on those who believe in Muhammad. We are fighting a fundamentalist terrorist threat in Afghanistan that is hell bent on destroying America’s rights and freedoms. Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others continue to run rampant in Afghanistan and are looking for every opportunity to recruit more terrorists and justify their anti-American rhetoric. It is a travesty and an utter outrage that the Pentagon does nothing to end these practices and refuses to punish those in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution and military ethics. We once again demand the Pentagon put an immediate stop to these outrageous practices that threaten our national security and hope, in the interim, these actions do not inspire current and future terrorists.”

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org, is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment and the “no religious test” of Article VI.

Watch Al Jazeera's report here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVGmbzDLq5c).