Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 10:05:57 PM EST
When Christianity Meets Military/Corporate Culture
It is the day before Independence Day in the Year of Our Lord, 2005, and our men and women in uniform are fighting overseas for our God-given freedom. That's what a few thousand worshipers have come to hear about during the 10:30 morning service at Grace Church, the casinolike "independent evangelical" complex that sits amid the rolling hills of Eden Prairie. The arena-sized parking lot is filled with newish cars and trucks, including a souped-up Lexus adorned with American flags, flag decals, and 1280 The Patriot bumper stickers. Parked next to that is a sedan whose lone sticker testifies, "Mary Kay: Enriching Women's Lives."
Before the service, worshipers take to the Divine Grind, the church's coffee shop. The counter is manned by well-scrubbed teens clad in aprons and denim shirts embossed with the Divine Grind logo. Many of the customers have their own type of uniform: Old Glory ties, shirts, and skirts. A few busy techies in headsets and Grace-logo shirts scurry about with walkie-talkies, getting ready for the day's program. The subject, according to the listing in the "Faith and Values" calendar of the Star Tribune, is "Righteousness Exalts a Nation."
Read it and weep. Theocracy meets Babbittry meets 21st century marketing techniques. Bernays, meet Strauss. The cathedral mates with the bazaar and gives birth to an abomination.
"We are a ministry to the armed forces of the United States, and to the armed forces of the world, seeking to win the nations of the world and the militaries of the world," begins Dees. "We have several ministries. One is to the enlisted members of all the defense forces of the United States. We touch every recruit that comes through the armed forces of the United States. And then we seek to evangelize and disciple them through their careers, making them ambassadors in uniform.
"We have missionaries all over the world, and it's very powerful when you see the impact, and that you can affect the militaries of those cultures. You can sway the whole culture and the nation towards Jesus Christ. Since 9/11 we've passed out 920,000 gifts into the pockets of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. We give them the Bible, a daily bread, and we have incredible reports from the battlefront of encouragement of the word of God, the sustenance of the word of God, in difficult times."
Dees speaks of the American flag as the screens burst with images of the nation's banner, including coffin drapes. He unveils a sculpture of a kneeling soldier. When he says, "This memorial was made of the bronze altars, the bronze images, melted down from Saddam Hussein's palace," the congregation--unprompted by the video monitors--erupts into a long round of applause. "Is that not a fitting way to honor God, honor our service members?" says Dees. "That's what our service members do when they go in harm's way: They turn evil into good and they try to turn evil to God."
He continues, "We have heard all about weapons of mass destruction. There's been a search for weapons of mass destruction. I'm here today to testify that we have found the weapons of mass destruction. It is Satan's artillery. Satan is a master of deceit: temptation, pride, isolation, deception, self-sufficiency, anger, and malice of all forms. Satan's weapons of mass destruction rage all about us, and these weapons are every bit as real as Saddam Hussein's scud missiles. As the North Korean artillery. Every bit as potent as Al Qaeda."
As he speaks, the screens show images of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, praying, being baptized in foxholes, and evangelizing. A marine's helmet scrawled with the 23rd Psalm fills the screen. "It is encouraging to see these indicators of faith in the foxhole," says Dees. "But the reality is, too many of our troops are prisoners of war still. Prisoners of war to the master of deceit, these troops do not yet know liberty in Jesus Christ."
Now, if we felt as worried about evangelising theocrats as we used to about evangelising Commies, we'd be rather alarmed about an orchestrated effort to brainwash the military forces of our nation and the world into a common ideology, thinking in lockstep. Christian soldiers indeed. Beam me up Scotty!