Soldiers for Christ in New Hampshire
Sarah Posner printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 11:25:21 AM EST
Although Mike Huckabee wasn't about to pull off any miracles in New Hampshire, he did try to rally a crowd of 350 to enlist in "God's army" and be "soldiers for Christ" at The Crossing church in Windham Sunday, according to the Washington Post.

I caught up with an employee of The Crossing, Rebecca Schmitz, on primary day. Schmitz said the church is a 150 member, non-denominational "plant" of the organization YouthStorm. (In church parlance, a "plant" is a church that is launched by a sister organization.) The church had invited Huckabee to Sunday's event, said Schmitz, but it was not a campaign stop; instead, she said, it was "all about Jesus."

Schmitz said that Huckabee had spoken a few months ago at YouthStorm's "Prayer Furnace," which she described as a "house of prayer." (YouthStorm's website describes it as "a 24/7 prayer initiative being developed to fuel our aggressive mission endeavor and societal transformation. Kingdom-minded congregations and lovers of Jesus are joining together to stoke the eternal flame of devotion through prayer, fasting, and worship.") The purpose of that event was for Huckabee to "introduce himself" and there was a meet and greet afterwards. "Some of us are hopeful for him," said Schmitz, referring New Hampshire evangelicals' assessment of his prospects there.

According to YouthStorm's Web site, the organization views itself as being "on the verge of being history makers!" as it pursues "the greatest revival yet." To wit:


Historically, Satan has tried to extinguish God's plan for a generation that is destined to manifest the glory of God. America has seen this young generation attacked with everything from abortion to drugs, and now the American church is seeing her first martyrs, and they are the youth!! Now is the time to spend our lives for the kingdom.

    YouthStorm has been established to seize this divine opportunity and facilitate a united front.

This is pretty standard dominionist stuff -- the belief that Christians have a duty to take dominion over governmental, societal, and cultural institutions -- and this kind of aggressive evangelizing, studded with militaristic metaphors, is increasingly marketed to young people. YouthStorm echoes the same sort of ideology as Ron Luce's Teen Mania, which focuses on regimentation and holiness, or Lou Engle's The Call, whose support for Huckabee I discussed in last week's FundamentaList. It centers on one's own devotion to Christ as an end in itself, and as evidence of one's obedience and purity. YouthStorm's "enlistment" form requires pledges of "allegiance to His kingdom," that "I will present myself a living sacrifice," and that "I will not be entangled with youthful lusts and the affairs of this life but endure hardship and fight the good fight that I may obtain His favor and obtain an incorruptible crown of righteousness."

This is not a primarily religious movement, despite all outward appearances, and it is not benign love-thy-neighbor stuff. It is overtly political, with a laser focus on spiritual battle with satanic forces by combating the evils of secularism, abortion, and sexuality of any kind, except within heterosexual marriage. (YouthStorm has reprinted a paper written by one of its directors condemning dating because God commands monogamy.) Mike Huckabee is the first major presidential candidate to so openly embrace this sort of militaristic evangelism -- more evidence of his unabashed coalition-building with even the most controversial and extreme foot soldiers of the evangelical right.

This post is excerpted from The FundamentaList, Sarah Posner's weekly countdown of the top news from the religious right at The American Prospect Online.


Good post. I often wonder what the Christian Right would do if, say, an Islamic presidential candidate in the U.S. would use the same religious language Huckabee uses as part of his campaign, with nuggets such as "Allah's army" and "soldiers for Mohammad".

Nevertheless, I would like for you to explain to me this phrase that you use to describe Huckabee's ilk: "This is not a primarily religious movement". I mean, they're motivated by a particular interpretation of a specific religion and they identify their opponents as being of a secular nature, so how can they not be religious? I know that most liberals (including myself) would like to think that religious activity differs from political activity, but for groups like this they are clearly both the same thing. Ergo, how are they not a religious movement?

by Mitchell on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 01:19:40 PM EST
probably gets defined differently by different people.
99% religion, 1% political
90% religion, 10% political
55% religion, 45% political

She probably is indicating that it has a 55/45 split, unlike many churches which have a 99/1 split. Mine would be in the 99/1 category, the political messages being 1. treat immigrants humanely, whatever your preferred policy (in, out, temp., amnesty, etc) 2. go forth and vote as part of your civic duty.

Youbetcha the religious Right would go ape if some Muslim American politician started talking using similar military-theocratic language.

by NancyP on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 05:49:33 PM EST

While it is helpful to have percentages to speculate what the difference is between "religious activity" and "political activity", that still doesn't answer my question. I'm sure if presented with this possibility, Huckabee and/or members of his "God's army" would say they are 100% for Jesus and not bother with any nuances. Along those lines, what would the Vatican be classified as in terms of an institution? It's the headquarters of Catholicism, a religion, but it also has the status of a nation in the U.N., a status that includes benefits such as diplomatic immunity. In light of this, is the Vatican religious or political? Should it be allowed to be both if separation of state and religion is supposed to encouraged on the international level?

by Mitchell on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 09:24:36 PM EST
As pastor of a small, "mainstream" Christian congregation, I have been arguing for some time that the Christian Right, as currently configured, is primarily a political and not religious movement. I wouldn't cast it in terms of percentages; I would simply say that, when you look at the behavior of groups such as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition (and the Moral Majority before it), CUFI, the Family Research Council, etc., their primary activities and goals are political. It doesn't matter what gloss of religion they overlay on that, they are primarily political groups. It would be hard to argue similarly that the primary goals and activities of the Vatican or, say, the Presbyterian Church (USA) are political, not religious. Yes, they and other churches and religious institutions sometimes engage in political activity such as lobbying, letter writing campaigns, etc. And the Vatican does have some of the characteristics of a nation-state. However, the Vatican and other denominational headquarters spend the vast majority of their time and effort directing national or international churches and religious centers. Their political activities are clearly, on balance, not their primary functions.

by revpauld on Thu Jan 10, 2008 at 07:59:52 AM EST

That is now referred to as the "Wedge Document" that lays out a political concern that scientific awareness created materialism, and that :

...This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.
The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs. Such moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology.

Materialists also undermined personal responsibility by asserting that human thoughts and behaviors are dictated by our biology and environment. The results can be seen in modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare. In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.

Finally, materialism spawned a virulent strain of utopianism. Thinking they could engineer the perfect society through the application of scientific knowledge, materialist reformers advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth.

Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies....

While rarely laid out so clearly, particularly as this itself lays out what is a subversive plan rather than make an argument against what the writer sees as the issues of concern. The point of the project is secular in that it seeks to impose a totalitarian state with religion as a prop, by means that are hardly called for as religious ideals of any sort.

by FreeDem on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 06:54:02 AM EST

It appears to me from the comments I'm reading here in response to my question is that it appears that the Religious Left claims that the Religious Right is too political to be religious, while the Religious Right feels that the Religious Left is not religious because it is not political enough.

Clearly, whatever language they use in their arguments, such as in the "Wedge Document", the Christian Right is motivated by religious belief. While their means my be political at times, their ends are clearly religious in nature. To call them political and not religious is to completely miss the point and only confuses the issue. In fact, you could say that the Christian Right enjoys blurring religious and political discourse when it suits them: think back to the court cases where the Christian Right has tried to preserve things such as Ten Commandments displays and "under God" in the pledge by arguing that they are NOT religious artifacts. But no matter what arguments and terminology they use, their end game is the same: preferential government treatment of their RELIGION and their RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. Furthermore, if churches aren't political entities, then why do they still qualify for tax-exemption?

BTW, if you believe that the Vatican is not political and is mostly religious, then ask yourself this: why HASN'T the Vatican reliquished its status as a nation in the United Nations? This status was originally given to the Vatican by facist leader Mussolini; you'd think that such an association would encourage the Vatican to distance itself from this kind of history by giving up its nation status, but it hasn't. It still has diplomatic immunity and still maintains embassies, just like a political body would. I'd wager, though, if you asked them why they won't give up the status of nation and its privileges, they'd probably tell you that this privileged status (one that no other religion's headquarters enjoys, BTW) is necessary to better serve Jesus--the same answer you'd probably get from Huckabee and his ilk when asked about their activities.

by Mitchell on Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 09:28:12 AM EST

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