Looking East from Hilltop Farm towards Gladstone South Australia

Crazy Christians

When people talk about militant Muslims and what a danger they are, I'm always inclined to ask, “What about the Crazy Christians?" It’s not that Muslim terrorists are harmless, but I can’t help thinking that they don’t sound much different than a lot of so called Christian rhetoric.

I find it hard to communicate this. Many people find it difficult to see the similarities between the actual violence of some Muslims and the rhetoric of many Christians.

They also tend not to see the actual violence of many Christians, which is hidden, or legitimised by the fact that it happens within the structure of the U.S. Military, for example.

Since the standard and content of what passes as a Christian bookshop is set by Koorong et al, how many of us realise just how conservative the milieu we have been habituated into actually is. It is interesting to look at such places with fresh eyes, and ask what they tell us about the church. Presumably their commercial success says that many Christians approve of them and their goals and content.

Someone gave me a gift voucher to Koorong  which meant I had to actually visit the store. So, on a trip back to the city, the ministers arrived with their two kids who had never been in such a place. That is, although we had spent many hours in Dymocks and similar since they were babies, a “Christian”' bookshop was a new experience. The culture shock was profound! Their response to the light, airy, and pastel layout, plus the music and cafeteria was, "Creepy!”  They mocked the obsessively clean dress standard and haircuts of the staff. Then they looked at the books.

That was a truly embarrassing experience. They coped with their own discomfort by talking out loud to each other, across the aisles, as they made each new discovery. I thought we would be asked to leave! Sarcasm, ridicule, groans, and hoots of laughter tracked their progress around the store.

These were Christian kids. They grew up on a theological college campus. They were in church every Sunday, sometimes twice. They went to kids’ club, youth group, church camps, and played in the church sport teams. One of them had recently requested baptism. How much more odd we must look to those who have no contact with church culture!

Among the authors in the store were people like James Dobson from  Focus on the Family, one of many groups mentioned by Alan Matheson, a retired Churches of Christ minister in a disturbing article just published in OnLine Opinion. Matheson talks about Australian experience of the American Command in Iraq:

Major General Jim Molan, an Australian officer attached to the USA operational command (Iraq), quickly learned, “the American way”. At the end of each briefing by General Sanchez, officers having been dismissed with prayer, sprang to their feet, saluted, and with one voice, shouted, “Victory”!

Speaking of the group New Apostolic Reformation,  with which Sarah Palin is associated he says:

The language of the NAR is aggressive and militant. Apostles talk of Generals, spiritual warfare, freedom fighters, arms and weapons, SWAT (Strategic Warriors at Training), and of Todd Bentley’s Joel’s Army, “prophesied to become an Armageddon - ready military force for young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian dominion on non-believers”.

At one level, I guess all this is not so hard to swallow when US soldiers are already carrying “Jesus Rifles” (“spiritually transformed firearms of Jesus”) with biblical verses inscribed on their gun sights (2COR4:16), and a Defence Secretary was found slapping Bible verses on top secret intelligence briefings.

Matheson claims

The American Christian right ideology is pervasive in Australia, and in some denominations, such as Pentecostals and the myriad of para-church groups and companies, is totally reshaping them. It’s difficult to actually measure such influence, or the degree to which, for example, NAR networks are moving cash and resources into Australia.

I wonder, for example, are those politicians supporting the Parliamentary Prayer Network aware that the organisers are ICA members combating the Queen of Heaven? Do those who send their kids to YWAM activities know they’re an integral part of Loren Cunningham’s campaign for a global American empire?

He finishes with these words

Does it matter that NAR’s Joel’s Army pastors are called “commandant”, and that they believe “that once democratic institutions are overthrown, their hierarchy of apostles and prophets will rule over the earth”? Will it matter much if Sarah Palin finally becomes a General in Joel’s Army? (“Arming for Armageddon”)

Well remember, it was only a couple of years ago that NAR groups in Australia were having their own tea party with a Prime Minister, that the Treasurer was praying with them, and when they organised National Days of Prayers, even Opposition Leaders and Governor-Generals blessed them!

Read Matheson’s article, and then visit your local Koorong or Word Bookstore and look for the names. They will be there.  The names he mentions are a commonplace in many Australian churches.  We are like frogs in slowly heating water, not noticing the change in our environment. Even where a congregation or denomination is not aligned with the sort of groups as Matheson mentions, where do its members buy their books?

An interesting thought experiment is to consider what the religious right says and claims, and to ask why we do not decry them as vigorously as we tend to decry Muslims and others.

Matheson's Article is here.

A useful site referenced by Matheson is Talk To Action.
Talk To Action is an online publication, and a forum for discussion, that is focused with unparalleled intensity on the rise of the Christian right as a social and political force - and on what those who are opposed to that movement can do to counter it.

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