Monday, May 04, 2009


If you've read "Jesus Killed Mohammed," the cover story of the May issue of Harper's, there's nothing surprising about this story:

A U.S. church raised money to send Bibles, printed in the Pashtu and Dari languages, to American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, a report on Al Jazeera documented Sunday night.

It is against military rules to proselytize -- a regulation one of the soldiers filmed by the network readily acknowledged. "You cannot proselytize, but you can give gifts," says the soldier. It is a crime in Afghanistan to attempt to convert anyone from Islam to any other religion. "I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan. They came and sent the money out." The footage is said to be roughly a year old.

The Al Jazeera report also shows a military preacher urging army parishioners to "hunt people for Jesus."

"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 the Kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business," he says.

The Al Jazeera story is here. The video is below.

The Harper's story, by Jeff Sharlet, is a portrait of a U.S. military in which large numbers of service members, and a significant percentage of chaplains, feel that their military service is just a means for them to convert as many people as possible, both Americans and foreigners, to their God, whether or not doing so is in violation of military regulations (which it is, as they know full well), and whether or not it actually makes the missions of the U.S. military more difficult (which it does -- in the article's open scene, evangelical soldiers paint the words "JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED" in Arabic on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and drive it through Samarra, with their translator chanting the Arabic phrase through a bullhorn as a taunt, an act that draws heavy fire and endangers the troops). The article is still behind a subscription firewall, but it's been posted here.

What sorts of evangelical messages are the troops getting? Oh, stuff like this:

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.

And this:

"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....

And this:

In a lecture for OCF [Officers' Christian Fellowship} titled "Fighting the War on Spiritual Terrorism," Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg E. Metzgar 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."

The U.S. military is denying that the soldiers in the current report were setting out to proselytize, but read the Harper's article and draw your own conclusions.

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