Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jeff Sharlet, Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, and Christian Fundamentalism in a new Crusade

(Above: Bill Maher reading from The Purpose-Driven Life).

Every so often, it gets too tiring to read home grown unimaginative loons of a derivative, half-baked tabloid kind (think Piers Akerman) and instead it's time to get inspiration by venturing out onto the wide open plains where the buffalo roam.

The inspiration was Jeff Sharlet's excellent article in the May 09 Harpers entitled Jesus Killed Mohammed The Crusade for a Christian military.

Harpers is subscription only, and I urge you to subscribe, but while stumbling around on the already filled to brimming intertubes (with its blockages and S-bends), I stumbled across a site which with little regard for IP, has re-printed the article. It's currently available here, and you should sneak a look while you can.

Sharlet's piece takes a look at the fundamentalist Christian push to get hold of the US Military and to treat US military campaigns as a kind of precursor to armageddon, smoting the wicked and wiping out the heathens.

His first, lengthy anecdote describes how elements of the 109th National Guard Infantry in Iraq thought it was a gee whiz to drive a Bradley Fighting Vehicle around Samarra inscribed in Arabic and English with the slogan "Jesus Killed Mohammed".

Suddenly the notion of a holy war crusade takes on an uncomfortable element of truth, and Sharlet piles on the evidence of a US military in the grip of Christian fundamentalism with alarming effectiveness.

If you think Sharlet is exaggerating, take a look at the slides prepared for Lt Gen Rod Bishop, commander Third Air Force under the guise of a suicide prevention program (the full slide show is available here):

Well never mind that George Washington, like Paine and Jefferson, was more deist than mad Christian, let's just keep bashing that evil Charles Darwin and his filthy brand of evolutionary thinking.

However it was a footnote in Sharlet's piece that caught my eye, quoting pastor Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, which has sold like a plague of locusts in the United States, and now seems to have even displaced scripture amongst US military evangelicals.

Apparently in a PowerPoint diagram depicting two family trees, an air force chaplain stationed in the UK used the principles expounded by Warren to show the likely future of a non-religious family, tainted by "Hopelessness" and "Death", and in stark contrast, the future of a religious family.

According to the diagram, the secular family will spawn 300 convicts, 190 prostitutes and 680 alcoholics, while purpose driven breeding will result in at least 430 ministers, seven congressmen and one vice-president (and no doubt an admirable VP like Dick Cheney, who understands the joy and necessity of torturing heathens).

Well I guess if you believe in talking snakes, this kind of fairy tale can take on a gripping reality - and suddenly it all became clear why I live in secular misery, surrounded by convicts, hookers and alcoholics.

Sadly it also becomes clear from reading Sharlet's piece why a US military in the grip of Christian fundamentalism is a truly terrifying prospect.

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.

So when you see the slide below, you know that the military aren't talking about a monkey wrench to fix the Bradley, or even a useful device that can be deployed by male soldiers amongst women in the civilian population of a captive land. They're talking about a religious crusade.

Let's leave the final word to Sharlet, and to soldier Mikey Weinstein, who got into trouble by starting up a Military Religious Freedom Foundation. 

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 officeres; Christian apocalyptic video games distributed to the troops; mandatory briefings on the correlation of the (Iraq) 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.

In the land of the free, it seems freedom of thought is just another path to Satanism. Thank the lord for the likes of Jeff Sharlet reporting from the front lines of loonacy.

(Below: the purpose driven work designed to destroy democracy and the demonic Rick Warren himself sporting a toilet-bowel beard, which suggests vanity, all is vanity, in this weary world).

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