….a time of war, and a time of peace

[N]o national government could ever secure a more powerful organ of official propaganda than a church quickening moral indignation against the enemy of the moment. – Herbert Butterfield

I vividly recall the chaotic scenes as the South Vietnamese army abruptly collapsed, with overloaded Hueys and C-5As trying to ferry a desperate last few to safety.  “This is manifestly not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed, despite the clear correlation to Vietnam in 1975. But with the Americans pushing and shoving a hasty evacuation from Kabul as the enemy overruns the city – in all its heart-wrenching tragedy – I’ve seen this movie before.

“The blood of this nation will be on the hands of the Biden/Harris administration,” intoned Franklin Graham. “If you voted for Biden, you did this,” one right-wing pundit intoned. I agree. But if we’re playing the blame game, we all are implicated. Yes, America’s abrupt exit from Afghanistan has been a debacle, as we’ve heard from numerous armchair quarterbacks. It’s the end of an American-made, slow-motion catastrophe. Someday, a historian, looking back on our time will judge that war-mongering evangelicals helped light the conflagration – and kept it burning with divine complicity.

With the enthusiastic aid of evangelical leaders, what started out as a punitive military mission to force the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden took on messianic overtones. GWOT – the Global War On Terror – became an unlimited ‘war for righteousness’. President Bush’s repeated use of the heavily-weighted word “crusade” was interpreted by many outsiders as implying a clash of religions – not so much their respective civilizations. “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did.”

Bush spoke of God, to God, and ultimately, for God. The problem was not all inside Bush’s head. “When we pick a president, we are in fact choosing a minister of God”, wrote Bryan Fischer. Many evangelicals believe the President is anointed, not elected. Taking matters into our own righteous hands was the theme of the day, with some advocates blithely calling for vengeance on whatever Muslim enemy was most readily at hand. A Pew survey conducted in 2012 found over half of Americans felt our wars should be fought, whether right or wrong.

In committing the country to war, Bush had also committed the evangelical god into making victory happen. America’s military foray was divinely ordained for a higher purpose as God’s blunt instruments of wrath on iniquitous humanity. The church in deifying the state was now complicit as its court chaplain, and biblical peace-making became the answer to a question no one was asking. In fact, authoritative evangelical voices moved to quash any potential moral opposition; it becoming a matter of apostasy to question the born-again President.

There were seasons over the past 20 years for evangelicals to exercise the Divine “No” as America killed its way to peace. What began as a Just War became Just A War no longer having a discernible rhyme or reason. “History is rife with discarded grand meaning where wars became drawn out,” wrote Herbert Butterfield, “and continued long after their high-minded aims seem forgotten”.  Even by 2012, Afghanistan had become a purposely-ignored problem – just as the KIA number hit the 2,000 mark.  It seemed the war had twisted into such an abstract form that it no longer resembled the objectives we originally sought to achieve.

Walter Wink wrote that where “man first directs war, only too soon it is war which is directing man; as though a devil were presiding over the affair.” And that is where our Holy Afghanistan Crusade has taken us. This week, America lost its war in Afghanistan. Evangelicals lost their spiritual version of it long ago by doing the will of the demonic enemy within ourselves.

Onward Christian Terrorists

“The attack on Washington?” Rayford said, craning his neck to talk to the officer. “Washington, D.C.?”

One prediction the Left Behind tag team of LaHaye and Jenkins got right – unintentionally, by the way –features in their 1996 installment, The Tribulation Force. (I’ll summarize the plot so you don’t waste your time). Our born-again hero has a growing awareness that he is working directly under the honest-to-goodness Anti-Christ. The antagonist, U.N. Secretary-General Nicolae Carpathia, having largely succeeded into hood-winking the religions of the world to unify, is well on his way to One World Government – starting with disarming America for world peace. The U.S. President is opposed, and enlists the well-armed “patriotic militia forces” to resist. Carpathia responds:

“If we accomplish what I have proposed, do you really think a bunch of zealots running around in the woods wearing fatigues and shooting off popguns will be a threat to the global community?” Yet, their President character whispers a warning to the righteous hero: stay away from Washington.

They could have been writing about January 6th, 2021. A collection of self-declared vigilante organizations – Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters and less-glorified street gangs – were leading the siege. And Franklin Graham can lie all he wants – it would be out-of-character for him not to – but evangelical Christians were among the mob forcing its way inside the House chambers. “We love you and we thank you, in Christ’s holy name we pray.” There may not be a self-styled ‘Christian’ militia, but armed Christians permeate these private armies. “God is not on the Democrats’ side,” said a rioter who kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door. “And if patriots have to kill 60 million of these communists, it is God’s will.”

Slowly, America is waking up to the fact that these are not just “a bunch of zealots running around in the woods wearing fatigues and shooting off popguns”. Especially, given that Donald “good people on both sides” Trump’s campaign underwrote the January 6 rally organizers to the tune of $2.7 million. “Be there, be wild,” the now-disgraced former President cheered.

I am a former National Guard officer – a JAG, to be specific. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I know a thing or two about militias under the Constitution.  I know enough about the so-called Anti-Klan laws – now codified as 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 – 1986 – to recognize a civil conspiracy to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights. I don’t think many evangelicals are involved; maybe it was the same in Klan days. But almost all Southern white folk supported the night-riding vigilantes. Evangelicals today should ask themselves, how much further down into the Tribulation Force do they want to sink? All its hateful malevolence is unfolding right before our eyes, and I’ll be blogging about it for the foreseeable future.

Nurseries of Sedition

There are any number of examples through history where millenarian Christianity fused with secular rebellion. Like Thomas Müntzer, Luther’s religious antagonist, who led the German Peasants’ War.[1] Or the antebellum Southern churches, which “led by their ministers, have gone heart and soul into the rebellion and the war against the Government.”[2]

The phrase Nurseries of Sedition became known during the English Civil War era to describe Dissenters whose aim was “not to spread the Word of God or the imitatio Christi, but with great caution and stealth” to support those intent on overthrowing the government.[3] The most radical among them made up the Fifth Monarchy movement, whose “millenarian convictions, combined with an assurance of divine sanction for their use of military and political means to bring down earthly governments and establish the reign of the saints to usher in the millennium.”[4] Funny thing about spiritual warfare: the fight is usually more visceral than supernatural.

“Christians should rule the world,” says Dominionist Michele Bachmann. Her hero is proto-culture warrior and fervent anti-abortionist Francis Schaeffer, whose son quoted him calling for “the violent overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed.” Politics, for many evangelicals, is an apocalyptic, zero-sum struggle. Whether you’re a radical Atomwaffen devotee of accelerationism, or a Tim LaHaye-indoctrinated Dispensationalist, or a Dominionist/NAR/INC/Christian Reconstructionist immanentizing the eschaton, dismantling democracy is a small price to pay for a government of White supremacy, preferably theocratic. Secular and sacred sedition have the same goal: domination. We answer to a higher authority to get holy revenge. Don’t believe me? Try this: Let’s count Christian ministers who’ve advocated death for gays.

Evangelicals from across America hopped on a plane or bus to travel to the Washington “Save America March,” to have the president’s back as he has had ours. Many of their churches encouraged them to do so, some even hiring busses. “The name of God was everywhere during Wednesday’s insurrection against the American government,” writes Emma Green for The Atlantic. Like the January 6th Jericho march, whose organizer framed it as “denouncing any and all acts of violence and destruction”. Yet, the organization’s website listed skilled incendiaries like Mike Flynn, Mike “My Pillow’ Lindell, Eric Metaxsas as speakers that day. “I didn’t incite anything,” protests another speaker, convicted felon Ali Alexander. “The lord says vengeance is his, and I pray that I am the tool to stab these motherfuckers,” the Christian activist also said, which seems to be a slight contradiction. Giving a platform to these radical Christianists was like carrying lit matches into a gunpowder factory. Metaxsas boasted he was prepared to shed blood for Trump (although it conveniently turned out to be other peoples’). Also on their webpage was a large photo of Donald L’état, C’est Moi Trump with the caption, Be There, Be Wild.  This didn’t exactly have the makings of pious, law-abiding Christians being uplifted at a Billy Graham Crusade.

“The people who stormed that Capitol, the people who killed that police officer, were not a part of the kingdom of God, as some people claimed; they were a part of the kingdom of Satan,” Robert Jeffress stated. For once, this spiritual blowhard for Trump got something right. But many came from churches – probably a horde from First Baptist of Dallas as well. The Kraken comes in various flavors – evangelical being one of the most popular. “The day was peaceful,” writes the My Pillow Guy, “with police letting people in to both the Capitol grounds as well as to the Capitol itself, with some scuffles as the police tried to control the crowds so they would enter safely.” The trouble-free and non-violent First Amendment expression of civil disobedience peacefully resulted in five deaths.

Evangelicals who sit lovingly through Sunday church – probably including a number from Jeffress’ own – jumped the barriers and raged through the Capitol like a pagan horde. Pastor Caleb Cooper, a self-described “young firebrand revivalist,” recounts his exhilaration at being among the hordes of righteous Christians that invaded the Capitol. “The patriots were innumerable. They filled the top platform of the Capitol, with a sea of people extending down the stairs and into the courtyard and beyond. Over the crowd, I saw American flags, Trump flags and Appeal to Heaven flags being carried past the barriers and making their way to the top as the crowd began to sing the National Anthem and shout ‘USA’.” Meshawn Maddock, prominent Trumpist from Michigan, is proud to proclaim, “I’m a Christian and I believe that God qualifies the called.” She organized buses headed to the protest. The hometown paper reported that she and her husband joined a Facebook group which openly discussed civil war.

I don’t fault the pastors of a hundred thousand churches across America trying to keep their flocks together amidst a pandemic and political partisanship, both of which are out of control. I accuse the politically radical media Christians. Like Charlie Kirk, the college dropout that manages the Falkirk “think tank” – and who launched more than 80 busloads of Trumpists aimed at the Capitol. “This attempted coup,” writes Hemant Mehta, “could not have happened without the active participation of Christian Nationalists who have been brainwashed into thinking they’re victims of persecution by pastors who will never admit their role in this tragedy.” He’s not exactly right, but well on the way. Of course, there are Christian Nationalist/QAnon pastors – many of them – and he points to one in Minnesota who says Trump must enact martial law. But that is a man who “shepherds” in a black robe with an AR-15 strapped on. These blind folks feed a false Gospel to a blind congregation.

 “America’s problem is not political. It is religious fanaticism,” writes Frank Schaeffer. I don’t always agree with Schaeffer, but he is spot-on saying the “White evangelical delusion problem” is the enemy of democracy. We saw that in action on January 6th, as evangelicals essentially blessed the cannons. We’ve seen it intensify over the past four years, serving Donald Trump – the Cyrus President – as their new savior.

The riot, noted The Atlantic, was “a Christian insurrection”. I wish there some happy note to conclude on, but don’t see an end to it. Not until the various Christian media despots either repent or are deposed. “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” These evangelical fixtures are nurseries of sedition – against the government which they are to pray for and to submit to, but more importantly, against the Jesus of the Gospels. I pity a future of evangelical Christianity largely left in their hands.


[1] “Now if you want to be true governors, you must begin government at the roots, and, as Christ commanded, drive his enemies from the elect. For you are the means to this end. Beloved, don’t give us any old jokes about how the power of God should do it without your application of the sword.” William C. Placher, Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Vol.2 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1988), 29.

[2] Robert Livingston Stanton, The Church and the Rebellion (New York: Derby & Miller, 1864), 245.

[3] Jason McElligott, Fear, Exclusion and Revolution: Roger Morrice and Britain in the 1680s (Farnham: Ashgate, 2006), 193.

[4] Warren Johnston, Revelation Restored: The Apocalypse in later Seventeenth-Century England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2011), 15