Monday, May 28, 2007

Armies of God

-- by Sara

Kids can create their own Bibleman adventures at home! Energized by the unmatched power of Scripture, the new Bibleman continues to battle wickedness and teach his power secrets to kids. His armor includes the Helmet of Salvation, the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Measuring 6" high, Bibleman is a collectible, high-quality, and hand-painted action figure. It comes with a toy Bible, Bibleman's yellow Sword of the Spirit, and his confidential U.N.I.C.E. report.

Contains small parts: Not recommended for children under three years old.

In death, at last, Jerry Falwell sowed a bit of what he reaped. The man who spent his entire career preaching "spiritual warfare" finally went to his final rest attended by a would-be warrior of God, who proposed to keep peace at the event by bringing along a bomb.

Bibleman and his kindred have been kicking around fundie culture for a long while. My grandmother cherished a similar figurine -- this one a bronze collectible -- who wore the same sanctified armor. She displayed it proudly on her coffee table: a lovely thank-you bonus for her generous and faithful donations to Pat Robertson's cause in the early years. This was back in the late 70s, but the two Bible passages that described this warrior were already oft-recited favorites of the rising religious right, who savored the righteous militance and vengeance of the words, and heard in them their battle call to the fight for theocratic dominance. They were the text of a thousand TV sermons:
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Ephesians 6, 10-17]


He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. [Isaiah 59, 17-18]
(Note: Keep these scriptures handy. They're exceedingly useful against right-wingers who insist that Islam is a religion of pure violence -- so unlike Christianity!)

And so it came to pass, in the years that followed, that an entire generation came of age on Bibleman and Teen Mania and Battle Cry and Jesus Camp, with these two passages embedded in their very marrow through years of reading and repetition. Starting in the early 80s, the religious right carefully built a perfect, busy, closed world in which to indoctrinate their boys from babyhood. Cut off from the larger culture, isolated in Christian schools and homeschools, socially sheltered in church youth groups and fundamentalist-run Scout troops, these boys feasted on the glory of the martyr and the holiness of the cause. Proud of their conformity and well aware that independent thinking leads to no good, this cohort is now launching into adult life from places like Liberty, Regent, Oral Roberts, Bob Jones, and a hundred other tiny fundamentalist Bible colleges with equally revolutionary agendas.

To put it starkly: fundamentalist America deliberately set out long ago to raise up an army of Mark Uhls. And now, twenty-odd years later, we are all starting to be confronted with the final product. Of course, with typical disingenuousness, they'll tell you that the "battle" they prepared these kids for is metaphorical -- "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world." But none of us, not even them, can be surprised that a generation of young men who've been drilled in this militaristic mythology since toddlerhood are now arriving at conscription age, jacked up on an incendiary cocktail of testosterone, sexual repression, xenophobia, and a belief that they are Spiritual Warriors who have a special dispensation to use violence to further God's mission.

The success of this program is nothing short of spectacular. We now have literally a million Mark Uhls in America -- young men in their late teens and early twenties raised to sacrifice themselves in the Glorious Cause -- and they've got another few million brothers coming up behind them, equally determined to earn their stripes in the coming Christian jihad.

Not all of them will become freelance security guards packing homemade napalm; but some of the alternatives are even more alarming. According to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, these young men are already overrunning the military services. Bred-from-birth Christian soldiers, armored in faith, truth, righteousness, salvation, vengeance, and zeal, they are rapidly re-making the pluralistic service culture over in their own image. Most disturbing of all: they are being joined by the increasing numbers of white supremacists who are also being drawn into the service by the promise of military training they can later use in their battle against minorities and liberals. Partisans of constitutional democracy will immediately recognize this as a potentially fatal combination.

From these current trends, it's not hard at all to write a future scenario that has the American military, from top to bottom, looking like more like the Nazi Wehrmacht in another ten years. Christian, racist, convinced of their innate superiority over the civilian heathen and their divinely-ordained right to rule the world, marching under the familiar banner of family, faith, and home, and determined to purify the world for God, they are already taking control of the armament of the strongest army in the history of the world.

And, given that they've spent 30 years carefully amassing that power, it would be absurd to believe that once they've got it, they won't hesitate to use it against whatever "dark forces" their paranoid imaginations can conjure -- both foreign and domestic. Regular readers of this blog will have no trouble assembling a list of their most likely targets.

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