Turning US Military Members Into "Government Paid Missionaries" For Christ
A new story on Truthout.org entitled Report: Pentagon Facilitating Christian Evangelism
Military Religious Freedom Foundation findings on a Campus Crusade For Christ sponsored ministry that has been given access to set up religious education programs at two leading US military basic training facilities in Texas. A page from the ministry website states explicitly the goal ; to make US active duty service members into "government paid missionaries"
The Merriman family, through their Campus Crusade For Christ supported Military Ministry
, are not promoting Christianity in general but but a very specific
, sectarian, politicized interpretation of Christianity*, and that is consistent with a pattern that is emerging from research findings by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation
; the pervasive presence in, and institutional favoring by, the Department Of Defense, of a warlike, apocalyptic interpretation of Christianity. The pattern can be construed as an unofficial institutional endorsement of what is at base a Christian theology of war.
The Merrimans have been granted access to the US basic training facilities at Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Air Force Base - where they evangelize recruits in basic training. The Merriman ministry, which is under Campus Crusade For Christ's "Military Ministry", has notable points of commonality with the organization described below, the Military Missions Network. As Truthout notes, both "count current and former high-level personnel from all four branches of the military as board members and use their relationships with base commanders to gain access to soldiers, according to documents from both groups."
Military Missions Network is a fundamentalist networking organization devoted to evangelizing the military, which has current, high level active duty US military members on it board and also features a 40 page document on its website that amounts to a strategy for evangelizing the military.
As the Truthout story describes:
Military Ministry boasts that it has successfully "targeted" basic training installations, or "gateways" and has converted soldiers to Christianity.
"Young recruits are under great pressure as they enter the military at their initial training gateways," the group has said, according to an archive on its web site. "The demands of drill instructors push recruits and new cadets to the edge. This is why they are most open to the 'good news.' We target specific locations, like Lackland AFB [Air Force base] and Fort Jackson, where large numbers of military members transition early in their career. These sites are excellent locations to pursue our strategic goals."
Military Ministry is a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical missionary organization. In August, several high-level Pentagon officials were admonished for participating, while in uniform and on active duty, in a promotional video sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ's Christian Embassy group.
Many of MRFF charges concerning Pentagon officials who appeared "Christian Embassy" video were later confirmed in a Pentagon Inspector General Report(link to PDF of report)
In mid September 2007, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit, in Kansas District Court, that alleges a widespread pattern of religious abuses in the military. Here is a PDF of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation's most recent lawsuit
Fundamentalist Christian right "para church" ministries, some with apocalyptic theological views, appear to have penetrated the United States military in a pattern, going from the Pentagon on down to the base level, by which evangelical :"military ministries", many of which are under the Campus Crusade for Christ. Many of these ministries have been invited onto US military bases and even onto basic training facilities to - run "religious education" programs and evangelize recruits.
The budgets of these organizations have also increased considerably over the last few years and their efforts appear to have accelerated considerably. In other words, as the political influence and clout of the Christian right has ebbed somewhat recently, fundamentalist influence in the military appears to be growing. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is the only organization devoted to fighting abuses of religious liberty in the US military. Of the roughly 6,000 complaints MRFF has received from US military members, approximately 90% have been from Christians.
image, right: click on picture to see short promotional video from Military Ministry, which is one of the several ministries from Campus Crusade For Christ that target the US military and whose Christian Embassy ministry evangelizes in the US Pentagon. Another Campus Crusade ministry, Officers Christian Fellowship, has roughly 15,000 members in the US military officer corps.
Raising Up A 'Godly Military'
The Officer's Christian Fellowship motto is: Christian officers exercising Biblical leadership to raise up a godly military. The OCF has roughly 15,000 members in the officer corps of the US military, on around 200 US bases worldwide. Christian Embassy evangelizes in the Pentagon, on Capital Hill, and among foreign diplomats. One top Pentagon official claims that there are more than 350 Christian Embassy affiliated Bible study classes, using Christian Embassy Bible study curriculum, held regularly among the 25 to 30 thousand members of the Pentagon. Military Ministries targets enlisted members of the military. The three ministries are subsidiaries of the Campus Crusade For Christ, which promotes fundamentalist, apocalyptic Christianity and whose founder, Bill Bright, promoted the formation of "cell groups" (originally a communist tactic) and said in the 1970's that Campus Crusade was a "conspiracy to overthrow the world" .
For a quick overview, "Christian Embassy" is a fundamentalist group that evangelizes in the Pentagon, and at any given point there are as many as twenty or so high level Pentagon military officers and civilians leading regular "Christian Embassy" Bible study lessons. Christian Embassy lesson plans use terms such as "spiritual warfare", call faith a "force multiplier", have titles such as "Warfare in Christ".
The image, below, links to the "Christian Embassy" video. In the Pentagon Inspector General report summarizing the ensuing investigation about the fact that top Pentagon officials had appeared, in uniform and filmed within the Pentagon, to endorse a partisan, fundamentalist Christian group that targets the Pentagon for it evangelizing efforts, one of the Pentagon officials appearing in the video said he thought Christian Embassy was a "quasi federal" entity because it had been given, for decades, access to the Pentagon.
(click on image to watch video)
Most, if not all, of the Pentagon officials who appeared in the Christian Embassy video have since received career promotions. For example, Pete Geren is now Secretary of The United States Army, and Bob Caslen is Commandant of Cadets at West Point
*note: originally, I categorized the theological views promoted by Campus Crusade For Christ Military Ministries as both fundamentalist and Premillennial Dispensationalist, and while is debate over whether or not Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright held such views I've come to feel it would be more accurate to describe Campus Crusade itself as promoting what journalist Jeff Sharlet calls an "ecumenical fundamentalism". There is considerable murkiness inherent in the picture - as Sharlet has written, the head of Campus Crusade's Christian Embassy suggested, in an interview with Sharlet, that the US invasion of Iraq may have had Biblical justification. But, that view would not necessarily need to be rooted in an apocalyptic premillennial dispensationalist belief system. In contrast, the Officer's Christian Fellowship clearly promotes such beliefs, through it's study guide that can be found on the OCF's website.