If you’ve been waiting until the Christian fascist movement started filling stadiums with young people and hyping them up to do battle in “God’s army” to get alarmed, wait no longer.
In recent weeks, Battle Cry, a Christian fundamentalist youth movement, has attracted more than 25,000 to mega-rally rock concerts in San Francisco and Detroit and this weekend they plan to fill Wachovia Stadium in Philadelphia.
They claim their religion and values are under attack but, amidst spectacular lightshows, hummers, Navy Seals, and military imagery on stage, it is Battle Cry that has declared war on everyone else! Their leader, Ron Luce, insists: “This is war. And Jesus invites us to get into the action, telling us that the violent–the ‘forceful’ ones–will lay hold of the kingdom.”
A glimpse at Battle Cry’s Honor Academy, which trains 500 youth each year and preaches that homosexuality and masturbation are sins, reveals a lot about what kind of society they are fighting for. Interns are forbidden to listen to secular music, watch R-rated movies or date. Men can’t use the internet unsupervised and the length of women’s skirts is regulated. The logic behind this, that men must be protected from the sin of sexual temptation, is what drives Islamic fundamentalists to shroud women in burkhas!
Behind their multi-million dollar operation that sends more than 5,000 missionaries to more than thirty-four countries each year, are some of the most powerful and extreme religious lunatics in the country. Their partners include Pat Robertson (who got a call from Karl Rove to discuss Alito before the nomination was made public), Ted Haggard (who brags that his concerns will be responded to by the White House within 24 hours), Jerry Falwell (who blamed September 11th on homosexuals, feminists, pagans, and abortionists), and others. Their events have been addressed by Barbara Bush (via video) as well as former President Gerry Ford. This weekend’s event will include Franklyn Graham who has ministered to George Bush and publicly proclaimed that Islam is an “evil religion.”
What most of these figures have in common is their insistence that the Bible be read literally and obeyed as the inerrant word of God. And, as Ron Luce leads youth to pray, “I will keep my eyes on the battle, submitting to Your code even when I don’t understand.outside my comfort zone in the battle zone,” it would be foolish to expect that there is any part of the Bible’s literal horrors this movement would be unwilling to enforce. That includes stoning disobedient children and non-virgin brides (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and 22:13-21), executing gays (Leviticus 20:13), and keeping slaves (Peter 2:18).
Already they staged a protest on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall precisely because they were “the very city hall steps where several months ago ‘gay marriages’ were celebrated.” Their answer to the scourge of rape and violence against women is to end divorce, spread ignorance, insist on virginity–the very things that will more entrap women in these nightmares. And this Friday, they are planning rallies at fifty City Halls nation-wide.
Of course, like the President who gave Ron Luce an appointment to the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities, Battle Cry tells its share of bald-faced lies. For one, they claim that “a society fortified by biblical principals and a strong moral code…is the heritage our forefathers fought and died to secure for us.” But the word “God” never appears in the Constitution. After three-and-a-half months of debate about what should go into the document that would govern the land, the framers drafted a constitution that is secular.
Battle Cry also claims America has been “set aside for God’s purposes–a country established for good and fruitfully blessed so that we might take God’s message to the ends of the earth.” It is revealing that for all their talk about the value of life and the evils of violent imagery, Battle Cry never speaks against the real violence and loss of life being inflicted by U.S. troops in Iraq.
Still, there is one thing that Battle Cry gets right: this country is in the midst of a deep moral crisis. We are indeed living through times when business-as-usual is unconscionable.
As the Bush regime wages unjust wars and conducts torture in our names, as they leave New Orleans to rot, and drag us closer each day to a theocracy where abortion and birth control are banned, science is pulled under, and gays are persecuted, it is no wonder that young people are searching for meaning and morality.
The truth is, however, youth will not find the morality they need in a stadium listening to Ron Luce preach about religious war and intolerance. And they won’t find it while buying Battle Cry’s keepsake dog-tags.
These young people need to be challenged to look around them and think for themselves. I am confident that if they do, many of them may find that the truly moral way to live is to throw their tremendous energies and dreams of a better world into stopping this madness and driving out the Bush regime.
This generation–and their counterparts all around the world–will have to live with the consequences of this culture war, one way or another.