• Army of God

Christian Fundamentalism in the Corridors of Power

It comes to no surprise that the 9/11 attacks were immediately viewed by dispensationalists as a sign of the end. Hal Lindsey proclaimed “The Battle of America has begun!” and announced the tragedy as the beginning of the end of the Unites States and the world.

Evangelist John Hagee also commented “You can hear the Four Horsemen riding to Armageddon”, while Paul Crouch of Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network said the attacks were what Jesus called “the beginning of sorrows”, and warned of an even greater catastrophe unless the city of New York “repents”. Jack Van Impe claims he was unsurprised, boasting;

“I have been warning the nation and the world through our network of stations and 33,000 cable systems for the past two years that terrorists would soon strike America… That moment has arrived. Jesus predicted this rise of “terrorism” just before His return to set up His kingdom on earth”

Franklin Graham, son of Billy, said the attacks were motivated because “we are a Christian nation” and claimed Islam and Christianity are as “different as lightness and darkness”

Above: Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blame Lesbians and Abortionists for 9/11

Bush reacted to the attacks invoking grandiose Biblical language, the United States he said would “answer these attacks and rid the world of evil”. Telling the world they must side with America or side with the terrorists, he stated unambiguously that “God is not neutral”. As the world expressed sympathy to the American people the Bush administration began formulating plans to attack the alleged masterminds of the attacks in Afghanistan. Bush and his allies claimed the attacks were not an attack on Muslims, stressing that Islam was a religion of peace. Other members of the Christian right were not so sure.

Franklin Graham goes so far as saying Islam is a religion of evil “The Koran speaks of violence against Christians and Jews. I didn’t write the Koran – read it for yourself. It’s there. So you make up your own mind whether you think it’s evil or not.” While Jerry Falwell affirmed that “Muhammad was a terrorist” and “Islam’s prophet was a violent man, a man of war.” Pat Robertson took a particularly hard line arguing;

Somehow I wish the Jews in America would wake up, open their eyes, and read what is being said about them. This is worse that the Nazis. Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse.

It’s the religion that’s the problem, not necessarily the adherents to it. But read the man who has considered himself the spokesman of God Almighty and what his statement[s] are. Well, and the Koran teaches, read it for yourself, the Koran teaches that the end of the world will not come until every Jew is killed by the Muslims. Now that is what it says in the Koran written by Mohammed.

Such views created a rift between fundamentalists and the Bush administration. Although Bush was accused by the left of passing laws which persecute Muslims, not to mention classing environmental groups such as Greenpeace as terrorists, dispensational extremists claim he isn’t going far enough. The extent of fundamentalist beliefs within Bush’s government is of course debatable, but while the Christian Right often criticises Bush for not being tough enough on issues like abortion, creationism and homosexuality, the left accuse him of hiding more extreme views behind a façade of moderation. Certainly there are indications that his foreign policy may be guided by what he perceives to be the hand of God. Recentley Israel’s Ha’aretz published the detailed minutes of a meeting of top-level Palestinian leaders including former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abas, which noted;

According to Abbas, Bush said: ‘God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.

The nation of Iraq of course has Biblical connections, its capital Baghdad sits on the river Euphrates alongside the ancient city of Babylon, which has been partially reconstructed during the reign of Saddam Hussein. During the invasion many of the openings for embedded reporters were also granted to Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, whose audience would certainly register the religious significance of the invasion. One time commando and under-Secretary of Defence for intelligence Lieutenant-General William G Boykin has also commented that terrorists hated America because it was a Christian nation, and that the War on Terrorism was a battle against Satan. “We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this”. The Lieutenant-General also recited an anecdote to a church audience about a Muslim soldier he faced in Somalia. The soldier claimed Allah protected him from the US, to which Boykin replied “Well you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his, I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

Above: Lt Boykin explains his feelings about the “Battle Against Satan” scandal and how he was “Created for battle”

Photos have emerged of giant Crosses being erected around military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. This photo was posted on an official military website. More recently, there have been disturbing reports that there has been a sustained campaign to Christianise the Pentagon. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has exposed a number of top level Pentagon Officials appearing in videos by a fundamentalist organisation called the Christian Embassy. Their goal to help “Direct their focus on Jesus Christ” via “bible study, discipleship, prayer breakfasts and outreach events”.

On the ground, “In Touch Ministries” has distributed thousands of pamphlets entitled “A Christian’s Duty,” to US troops stationed in Iraq. The small prayer book includes a tear-out sections which troops are encouraged to mail to Washington, to indicate they have been praying for the President. The slips include messages like “I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult. May God’s peace be your guide,” “I pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding” and “Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics”.

There are also reports that segments of the military are actively trying to convert new recruits. In Fort Jackson, there is a program called “Gods Basic Training” where recruits are told they are agents of God who are there to act as “God’s Servant, an angel of wrath.”  The recently disabled website contained photos of recruits wielding Bibles in one hand and rifled in the other. If this weren’t bad enough, many tanks have been photographed adorned in crucifixes and slogans such as “Apocalypse” and “New Testament”.

Not long after September 11th conservative commentator Anne Coulter said of Arab nations “let’s invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” In Iraq it could be argued that this is more or less what is happening. Almost as soon as the nation was conquered the Christian charity “Samaritan’s Purse” moved in to deliver aid to the shattered country. Samaritan’s Purse, run by Franklin Graham. While the charity is offering genuine humanitarian aid Franklin states “I believe as we work, God will always give us opportunities to tell others about his Son. … We are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian, I do this in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The Samaritan’s Purse has been engaging in charitable operations for over 30 years, but is also explicit about its primary aim “The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Another religious group now operating in Iraq are the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the most powerful voices in conservative Christian America and organiser of over 25,000 disaster relief volunteers across the globe. Its coordinator Sam Porter says conversion is not an aim; however he also concedes “If a country opens up for evangelical missions to go there, we go. We believe strongly that Jesus Christ is the son of God and we intend to proclaim that.” Despite their good intentions, both charities have faced attacks from Iraqi citizens.

In 2003 apocalyptic preacher Jack Van Impe claimed that he had been contacted by the office of Condoleezza Rice to provide the President with his outline of world events in relation to Biblical prophesy. When asked on his website if Bush was a true Christian he responded;

I believe he is a wonderful man… I was contacted a few weeks ago by the Office of Public Liaison for the White House and by the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to make an outline. And I’ve spent hours preparing it. I will release this information to the public in September, but it’s in his hands. He will know exactly what is going to happen in the Middle East and what part he will have under the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. So, it’s a tremendous time to be alive.

Despite this allegation (which the Whitehouse has denied) it still remains a mystery whether the former President subscribes to the apocalyptic worldview of Dispensational Premillennialism. Indeed despite his Biblical rhetoric he may well indeed be the moderate he is portrayed as in the media, and has been unfairly associated with more extreme elements of the Christian-right. There is the possibility though that numerous figures in Congress, the Senate and the Pentagon and perhaps even the President are adherents of another form of Christian fundamentalism, which is in many ways far more dangerous than dispensationalism.

To understand the beliefs of this theology we must first briefly look at the most influential (and perhaps most extreme) of the ‘post-millennialist’ Christian movements; Reconstructionism. This origins of this branch can be traced to the 1973 book “Institutes of Biblical Law” written by theologian Rousas John Rushdoony, in which he essentially argued that the state of the world could only be fixed by a strict interpretation of the Ten Commandments. This would mean death penalties for homosexuality, blasphemy, adulterers, children who curse their parents, sex before marriage and heresy in general. Much like Islamic Sharia Law a key means of execution would be public stoning. It differed from the dispensational view by arguing that achieving God’s kingdom did not require the tribulation and the Second Coming, instead it could be accomplished by human hands.

Reconstructionists are anxious to achieve their ambitions, which are, according to reconstructionist theorist George Grant “World conquest… Not just a voice… not just influence…not just equal time. It is dominion we are after.” Even other fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell consider them “scary”, but despite this the umbrella group Coalition on Revival (COR) had helped them find common ground with other mainstream and extremist groups, with intention to “bring America back to its biblical foundations”. Being knowingly extremist, Grant has some creative ideas on how to achieve their Christian theocracy;

Since only about 60% of the people are registered to vote and only about 35% of those actually bother to get to the polls, a candidate only needs to get the support of a small, elite group of citizens to win. It only takes about 9% to gain a governorship. And it takes a mere 7% to gain an average mayoral or city council post

And prominent Reconstructionist Gary North has his own devious schemes on how to gain total power;

So let us be blunt about it, we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

Although the harsh laws of Reconstructionism are an extreme example of Christian fundamentalism, the movement also shares important components of its theology with a highly secretive Christian sect known as “The Family”, based in Arlington, Virginia. The Family have been operating secretly throughout the world since the end of the Second World War and have only come back to public attention because of and expose by Jeffrey Sharlet in 2002 , which he expanded in his recently published book. In his now famous Jesus Plus Nothing article for Harpers he outlines thier shadowy past;

The Family was founded in April 1935 by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant who made his living as a traveling preacher. One night, while lying in bed fretting about socialists, Wobblies, and a Swedish Communist who, he was sure, planned to bring Seattle under the control of Moscow, Vereide received a visitation: a voice, and a light in the dark, bright and blinding. The next day he met a friend, a wealthy businessman and former major, and the two men agreed upon a spiritual plan. They enlisted nineteen business executives in a weekly breakfast meeting and together they prayed, convinced that Jesus alone could redeem Seattle and crush the radical unions.

They wanted to give Jesus a vessel, and so they asked God to raise up a leader. One of their number, a city councilman named Arthur Langlie, stood and said, “I am ready to let God use me.” Langlie was made first mayor and later governor, backed in both campaigns by money and muscle from his prayer-breakfast friends, whose number had rapidly multiplied. Vereide and his new brothers spread out across the Northwest in chauffeured vehicles (a $20,000 Dusenburg carried brothers on one mission, he boasted). “Men,” wrote Vereide, “thus quickened.” Prayer breakfast groups were formed in dozens of cities, from San Francisco to Philadelphia. There were already enough men ministering to the down-and-out, Vereide had decided; his mission field would be men with the means to seize the world for God. Vereide called his potential flock of the rich and powerful, those in need only of the “real” Jesus, the “up-and-out.”

Vereide arrived in Washington, D.C., on September 6, 1941, as the guest of a man referred to only as “Colonel Brindley.” “Here I am finally,” he wrote to his wife, Mattie, who remained in Seattle. “In a day or two—many will know that I am in town and by God’s grace it will hum.” Within weeks he had held his first D.C. prayer meeting, attended by more than a hundred congressmen. By 1943, now living in a suite at Colonel Brindley’s University Club, Vereide was an insider. “My what a full and busy day!” he wrote to Mattie on January 22.

The Vice President brought me to the Capitol and counseled with me regarding the programs and plans, and then introduced me to Senator [Ralph Owen] Brewster, who in turn to Senator [Harold Hitz] Burton—then planned further the program [of a prayer breakfast] and enlisted their cooperation. Then to the Supreme Court for visits with some of them . . . then back to the Senate, House. . . . The hand of the Lord is upon me. He is leading.

By the end of the war, nearly a third of U.S. senators attended one of his weekly prayer meetings.

In 1944, Vereide had foreseen what he called “the new world order.” “Upon the termination of the war there will be many men available to carry on,” Vereide wrote in a letter to his wife. “Now the ground-work must be laid and our leadership brought to face God in humility, prayer and obedience.” He began organizing prayer meetings for delegates to the United Nations, at which he would instruct them in God’s plan for rebuilding from the wreckage of the war.

Donald Stone, a high-ranking administrator of the Marshall Plan, joined the directorship of Vereide’s organization. In an undated letter, he wrote Vereide that he would “soon begin a tour around the world for the [Marshall Plan], combining with this a spiritual mission.” In 1946, Vereide, too, toured the world, traveling with letters of introduction from a half dozen senators and representatives, and from Paul G. Hoffman, the director of the Marshall Plan. He traveled also with a mandate from General John Hildring, assistant secretary of state, to oversee the creation of a list of good Germans of “the predictable type” (many of whom, Vereide believed, were being held for having “the faintest connection” with the Nazi regime), who could be released from prison “to be used, according to their ability in the tremendous task of reconstruction.” Vereide met with Jewish survivors and listened to their stories, but he nevertheless considered ex-Nazis well suited for the demands of “strong” government, so long as they were willing to worship Christ as they had Hitler.

In 1955, Senator Frank Carlson, a close adviser to Eisenhower and an even closer associate of Vereide’s, convened a meeting at which he declared the Family’s mission to be a “worldwide spiritual offensive,” in which common cause would be made with anyone opposed to the Soviet Union. That same year, the Family financed an anti-Communist propaganda film, Militant Liberty, for use by the Defense Department in influencing opinion abroad. By the Kennedy era, the spiritual offensive had fronts on every continent but Antarctica (which Family missionaries would not visit until the 1980s). In 1961, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia deeded the Family a prime parcel in downtown Addis Ababa to serve as an African headquarters, and by then the Family also had powerful friends in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. Back home, Senator Strom Thurmond prepared several reports for Vereide concerning the Senate’s deliberations. Former president Eisenhower, Doug Coe would later claim at a private meeting of politicians, once pledged secret operatives to aid the Family’s operations. Even in Franco’s Spain, Vereide once boasted at a prayer breakfast in 1965, “there are secret cells such as the American Embassy [and] the Standard Oil office [that allow us] to move practically anywhere.”

By the late sixties, Vereide’s speeches to local prayer breakfast groups had become minor news events, and Family members’ travels on behalf of Christ had attracted growing press attention. Vereide began to worry that the movement he had spent his life building might become just another political party. In 1966, a few years before he was “promoted” to heaven at age eighty-four, Vereide wrote a letter declaring it time to “submerge the institutional image of [the Family].” No longer would the Family recruit its powerful members in public, nor recruit so many. “There has always been one man,” wrote Vereide, “or a small core who have caught the vision for their country and become aware of what a ‘leadership led by God’ could mean spiritually to the nation and to the world. . . . It is these men, banded together, who can accomplish the vision God gave me years ago.”

There was some limited coverage after it ducked from public view, in the early 70s The New Republic published and exposé and a few years later Robert Scheer wrote an article on them for Playboy. Today it is a self proclaimed “invisible” organisation which keeps a secret database of its members who are discouraged from speaking about it or its activities. Its known members include a substantial number of Senators and Representatives, and key figures in the Pentagon, CIA and at the Department of Defence. Furthermore they have strong ties with businessmen in both the oil and aerospace industries. Over the years it has operated under a number of titles such as National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, the National Leadership Council, Fellowship House, the Fellowship Foundation, the National Fellowship Council, and the International Foundation. It’s perpetually morphing civic face helps confound concentrated media attention and evade public scrutiny.

Present leader Doug Coe (who Al Gore once described as his “personal hero”) describes the values of the Family as close ties of honour between small groups of people, “like the Mafia” except with instead of honour to each other it is a covenant with Jesus. People who have changed the world, Coe argues, have always had covenants, like “Hitler, Ho Chi Minh [and] Bin Laden”. They failed because they lacked the important consolidating ingredient; Jesus. His son David Coe takes his fathers vision further. King David, he argues, is a good guy that “liked to do really, really bad things. Here’s this guy who slept with another man’s wife-Bathsheba, right?-and then basically murders her husband. And this guy is one of our heroes”. Coe Junior explains God forgives him because he was “chosen” for a divine purpose and all wrongdoing was excused in light of the greater good.

Above: Jeff Sharlet discusses The Family and “Elite Fundamentalism” on the Thom Hartman Program

Its structure, according to its own documents, is not dissimilar from that of a terrorist organisation. Members are encouraged to form “cells… publicly invisible but privately identifiable group[s] of companions.” These cells are not clandestine gangs sharing houses in remote slums like al-Qaeda, they are influential members of society who share a vision to achieve common goals towards vision outlined by Christ. It also must be stressed that this is not a secret society, it operates behind closed doors but it is not a vast conspiracy with a master plan. Its members simply share a vision, a covenant outlined in the Bible. Consequently no pride is involved in such activities; its documents state that they should be willing to work “without human recognition”.

Its long term goals are encapsulated in another document called “Youth Corps Vision”, which outlines plans to raise a generation of young people across the globe committed to the goals of Jesus Christ and the overall vision of the Family. So far the Youth Corps has taken root in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, India, Pakistan, Uganda, Nepal, Bhutan, Ecuador, Honduras and Peru. They attract members by offering out of school activities to children before gradually turning up the intensity of Biblical rhetoric. The ambition of the Family is to have “Two hundred national and international world leaders bound together relationally by a mutual love for God and the Family.” They share ambitions with Christian Reconstructionists in wanting to build God’s holy kingdom on Earth in gradual increments. David Coe explains;

It’s about vision. ‘Get your vision straight, then relate.’ Talk to the people who rule the world, and help them obey. Obey Him. If I obey Him myself, I help others do the same. You know why? Because I become a warning. We become a warning. We warn everybody that the future king is coming. Not just of this country or that, but of the world.

Over the decades this unseen Christian network has used its influence to engage in “quiet diplomacy” across the world. In 1978 they held secret talks between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat regarding the Sinai land-for-peace deal, and in 2001 held similar negotiations between the warring factions of the Congo and Rwanda. During the Reagan administration they also strengthened ties between the US and Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova and Honduran general (and evangelical minister) Gustavo Alvarez Martinez. Both have records of using death squads and torture to achieve their goals.

In February 2003 George W. Bush was main speaker at the Family’s 51st annual National Prayer Breakfast. Although this is perhaps unsurprising, many Presidents and former president have been guests of the Family, including his father. It should be noted though that this is not strictly a Republican movement, the Family operates outside the world of party politics; indeed they think democracy itself is an expression of ungodly pride. Loyalty to a political party is meaningless, loyalty to Christ is all that’s important. The encourage members to “soften [their] hearts to authority.” And how are the leaders chosen? David Coe explains that “We elect our leaders. Jesus elects his.” By Jesus of course, he means the Family.

But while Christianity’s elite try to build a holy Kingdom behind the scenes of global politics, others are building an underground militia to try to oppose it. These spiritual successors of Lindsey and Robertson’s paranoid anti-communist saw 9/11 as an act not of God but of Satan. And as we speak, they are in preparation for the takeover from the forces of darkness.

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