Monday, September 18


As a Christian, I find this extremely disturbing. At this very time when representatives of the conservative U.S. press and broadcast outlets are decrying Islam as a "religion of violence" and (as Greg Knapp did this afternoon) insisting that since Americans saw "thousands" of Muslims celebrating after 9/11, thus the adherents of Islam's words in defense of their religion are belied by the "actions of Muslims worldwide." Now this extraordinary movie trailer reveals that some thousands of Christian youths are being encouraged to learn and adopt militarist skills and stances.

There are scenes of hordes of children (not even teenagers) wearing camouflage clothing and face paint, demonstrating their martial skills and pointing wooden weapons at a phantom "enemy."

"We're in training to be God's army!" a young boy exhorts the crowd of children.

"This means war! Are you a part of it or not?" shouts an adult leader to the screaming assent of thousands of what appear to be 10- to 12-year olds. It's impossible to tell if the trailer fairly represents the adult leadership at the camp, but almost all of the adults pictured seem to fit the same physical profile: obese middle-aged women wearing glasses. I only mention their physical appearance because it struck me that they looked highly unlikely to assume a military position but had no problem with urging mere children to do just that.

Considering this "Jesus Camp" movement and the launch of the violent "Christian" videogame "Left Behind: Eternal Forces", I think right-wing and "evangelical Christian" forces in the United States should reconsider their argument regarding the violence inspired by religion. Without resorting to historical actions such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, there is reason to believe that SOME (certainly not all) Christians, like SOME Muslims, find it easy and expedient to subvert the tenets of their faith to the challenges of the material world -- as opposed to the spiritual plane.

I spent this weekend talking to my much-loved sister-in-law, who is one of the most devoted Christians I know. She and her husband (The Sage's twin brother) are ministers to children and base their lives on the Word of God (as we Christians believe the Bible to be). She is politically somewhat conservative but we agree on one crucial point: it is not the role of the church to "convict" "sinners" of sin. That is the province of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility, as Christians, is to model the behavior, and obey the commandments, of Jesus Christ. At one point in our discussions I said, "Would you agree that it is not enough to ask, 'What would Jesus do?' but to ask, 'What did Jesus do?' She wholeheartedly assented. "It is our job, our assignment, to extend the love of Christ to all, not to condemn anyone -- that is, clearly according to the Scriptures, the job of the Holy Spirit."

I'm aware that many of my readers don't identify with my faith but only my politics. But I have to echo what my dear mother said when I was only seventeen and resisting the Vietnam War (this is a paraphrase), "I don't always agree with D-----. But I know her political alignments are inspired by her faith, and that is all I need to know."



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