Praying and Singing Hymns to God

You’d think by the title that this refers to Acts 16, where Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi. But it’s about a 27 year-old named Tyler Dinsmoor. “He is in a concrete box, but is holding strong. He has his bible, and is singing Psalms!”

Dinsmoor had regularly been posting anti-LGBTQ+ death threats. “All homosexuals are child-rapists in wait, and all (every single one) should be put to death immediately”. What caught the authorities’ attention was his plan to attend a Pride Parade on the following day, “with the implication that he’s going to do something violent unless someone stops him”.

He was charged with felony civil rights malicious harassment with a hate crimes enhancement. Essentially, crimes motivated by bigotry which threaten reasonable fear of harm. (It so happens that he emblazoned the words “Bible Bigot” on his truck). Dinsmoor, who owns “a small Bible Christian family tannery”, remains in jail under a $1 million bail.

You read the words “Bible Christian” correctly. Dinsmoor is a fervent Christian, attending a church where the pastor preaches that homosexuals should be shot in the back of the head. If he had been able to carry out his fantasies, it would have received “the encouragement of those who share his religious and political views”.  Like the Christian Right-dominated Texas GOP, which just declared that President Biden was not legitimately elected, and that homosexuality is “abnormal”. Closer to home, a Give-Send-Go defense fund was started, claiming his only crime was hurting the feelings of a homosexual. Donations are now up to $27,000, with many Christians expressing sympathy with this God-fearing political prisoner.

Juxtapose this hero-worship – à la the martyred Ashley Babbitt – with the resentment directed towards the enemies of Christian Nationalism. Like at a Michigan local right-to-life organization, where someone busted glass windows and defaced the building with pink spray paint. “That “people that would do such a thing … what a sad state of affairs that groups like this ….can resort to terrorism and hate crimes,” the angry Director stated. I’m not condoning law-breaking, but can’t help noticing how Charisma News and other fishwrap are full of these White Christian victimization pieces.

A few months back, I blogged that evangelical churches have increasingly become nurseries of sedition – not simply against an Administration they hate, but more importantly, against the Jesus of the Gospels. This home-grown surge of Christian extremism is largely fomented by religious leaders – there are thousands and they are interwoven with extremists of all types. These pastors, teacher and “apostles” have long practiced stochastic terrorism from the pulpit are seeing their seeds of incitement come to fruition as real world violence. “We’re a mighty army. They’ve gotta listen. They can’t ignore us,” says Pastor Greg Locke – who was at the Capitol while it was being stormed. Inflammatory speech just hasn’t been enough – it seems the time has come to make people listen to God from a gun barrel. It reminds me of Harry Chapin’s ballad, “Sniper”:

The first words he spoke took the town by surprise.

One got Mrs. Gibbons above her right eye.

It blew her through the window wedged her against the door.

Reality poured from her face, staining the floor.

And evangelicals of all persuasions are praying and singing praise to God

Pissing Into The Wind

Train up a child in the way he should go:
Advert featuring Proverbs 22, used by the Uvalde massacre gun manufacturer

The time to stop the next shooting is right now”. This past week, I’ve noticed a prophet in the biblical tradition speaking out against American gun idolatry. Beto O’Rourke confronted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at his press conference after Uvalde. . “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed,” he said. Amidst jeering and shouts for O’Rourke to shut up, Dan Patrick – Texas Lt. Governor, Southern Baptist, outspoken Christian, and politician with an  “A+” rating from the NRA–  stood up to tell O’Rourke, “You’re out of line and an embarrassment.”  Super-Christian and gun-lover Ted Cruz shamed Beto’s behavior as crass, embarrassing; “it was disgusting”, accusing him of a political stunt. O’Rourke was not dissuaded: “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

It is the prophet’s duty to proclaim a message from God. It doesn’t always involve fore-telling; but forth-telling. The present is the kairotic moment of the prophet’s message. It is this day, and also for this today, that we are to listen, not to hang on predictions concerning tomorrow. There is an immediacy; an urgency in the prophetic word to respond by retracing our steps towards the Jesus waiting for us in the Gospels. Today, we need more people who speak honestly about our own blind spots – prophets to tweak the conscience of evangelicals and recapture the prophetic mission of the church. “The task of the prophetic imagination,” writes Walter Brueggemann, “is to cut through the royal numbness, to penetrate the self-deception so that the God of endings is confessed as Lord.” [i] That’s exactly the prophet’s calling! It’s not a choice; it’s a divine obligation.

“Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting.” Unlike St. Stephen in Acts 7, Beto wasn’t stoned, but he was escorted out with the mayor screaming he was “a sick son of a bitch”. Likewise, a quick review of biblical prophets discloses that their prophetic utterances did little more than piss off those mired in persistent disobedience. “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:52-3)  Jesus suffered and died on the cross, having exposed the moral hypocrisy of the religious elite – the Pharisees – who appeared on the outside “to people as righteous but on the inside are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt. 23-28).

A quick glimpse through Google for “white evangelical prophets” returns the glaringly obvious. Most of this soothsaying issues forth from the religious flotsam sitting at Donald Trump’s feet. False witnesses aside, I’ve known a few prophetic voices among evangelicals – most of which were scorned, vilified or cast out of the camp. Jim Wallis. Beth Moore. Shane Claiborne. Tony Campolo. And many others who spoke against guns through the centripetal urgings of the Holy Spirit. Divine Truth was entrusted to human truth-bearers. Like the late Sen. Mark Hatfield, who used his National Prayer Breakfast speech to condemn President Nixon for prolonging the Vietnam War. (And managing to piss off Nixon’s golf buddy, Billy Graham in the process). These modern day evangelical prophets gave voice because God spoke first. The words they spoke were of Someone Else. Confrontation was not something they set out to do, but something they had to do.

I place Beto O’Rourke squarely in that prophetic tradition. Beto spoke truth to power; to those who would rather cradle their AR-15 babies than elementary school children. “Stay cool. Run out the clock.. But don’t worry: this moment will be over soon”, was the advice Republican advisors were giving the wake of Uvalde mass shooting. Now here’s a fresh thought: let’s reduce mass shootings by getting more guns! In other words, do nothing in the shadow of death; then do more of the same. Like the Pharisees, evangelical moral perfectionists persist in their sanctimonious refusal to listen – or act in the slightest against gun idolatry. They are too busy Making America Great Again to bother about making childhood childhood again. And the waiting list of children to be blood-sacrificed on the evangelical altar to Moloch grows each day. Nothing stands in the way of AR-15 bullets– except those moved of the Spirit to speak truth to power. Pray that God raises up more prophets to expose the moral depravity of the religious elite! Bold prophets – who aren’t afraid to “spit” into the wind and proclaim “the time to stop the next shooting is right now”!.


[i] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001, p. 45.

The WOW factor…

Hey Mom and Dad!

Tired of buying gifts that your kid just tosses aside as boring? Here’s a fun sensation that’s gonna grab your son’s attention like a bang!  Introducing the all-new Junior AR-15 assault rifle.

Don’t let this fool you – it might be kid-sized, but like its bigger brother, it packs one helluva whollop!  It shoots real bullets – just like Mommy and Daddy’s guns!  Ideal for graduations, birthdays, first communions – or those occasions when he seems a bit down and just needs a mommy hug and something to cheer him up.

Come and get this super-soaker guaranteed to cool his summer down.. This is one stress-reliever that keeps the WOW factor with the kids. Buy now and we’ll include “Why Everyone Needs an AR-15: A Guide for Kids” for free. This helpful AR-15 guide walks you through how awesome the Second Amendment is.

Take it from Sarah Palin: “an AR-15 makes a great gift – what more says ‘I love you’”?

Franklin Graham, Ukraine and the Biblical World View

It wasn’t hard to suss out what Billy Graham believed. A self-defined premillennial dispensationalist, his Crusade sermons usually featured some disaster or tragedy he clipped from the newspaper. The world was going to Hell. His steady drumbeat was “accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior” right now before its too late. The late Michael “iMonk” Spencer called this house- on-fire tactic, “wretched urgency”. Graham’s political theology was highly influenced by two prominent Presbyterian churchmen: his father-in-law and oil magnate J. Howard Pew, who stood up his career. Both were John Birchers whose anti-communist End Times paranoia fed into conservative politics and evangelical religion. The Birchers are back. And they’re winning.

In the 1960’s, Graham’s creation, Christianity Today, had nothing positive to say about Rousas Rushdoony and the fledgling Christian Reconstruction movement. It was still bent on revivalism in saving America one soul at a time. Dispensationalism held sway, and Russia was foreign enemy #1 of the USA. Even Reagan said that Gog must mean the communist Russia that set itself against God. Anti-communism was a useful scaremongering resource that filled many ministry coffers. “We are like people under sentence of death, waiting for the date to be set. We sense that something is about to happen… We are now on a collision course”, warned Graham. Back then, the Soviet Union was the anti-Christ. Once scorned, Dominionist theology that Christians are ordained to rule and reign is embraced by a majority of evangelicals. “Rushdoony provided a way to sacralize these ideas”. And Putin’s Russia is the darling of the Religious Right. Funny how far evangelicalism had come.

Following Reagan’s “tear down that Wall”, evangelicals began to look inward for enemies of Christ. And there were plenty of domestic targets. Billy Graham maintained that if all of us could come to the cross, Christ is the solution to all the problems that beset America. But evangelicals began to realize slow motion-saving people from the satanic End Times wasn’t immediate enough to bring America back to its founding Christian principles. America’s strongest adversary was itself: abortion, homosexuality and trans-genderism were the sins destroying the national fabric.

The Bible hasn’t changed since the 1960’s, but the evangelical biblical world view has. Jerry Falwell emerged from fundamentalist isolation to wonder, that if a super-majority of Americans still believed in morality, why is America having such problems? “We must look for the answer to the highest places in every level of government.” Falwell – with his “I Love America” rallies –, Pat Robertson, and a host of others set in motion a pro-family political machine, creating partnerships between Christians who never had talked to each other previously. “There are bigger issues now,” as his son, Jerry Jr. explained. “We can argue about theology later after we save the country.” Previously other-worldly focused evangelicals started to contemplate the biblical reordering of society, which would lead to the Second Coming of Christ. Raised on a steady diet of liberal humanist conspiracies, this was an existential war against the satanic control of America. The centerpiece strategy was to seat Christians into the hands of power. Or usurp it, as in the Capitol insurrection – “marching under Jesus’s banner to implement God’s will to keep Trump in the White House.”[i]

“As the process of dominion extends the authority of Christians over more and more areas of life,” wrote Gray North, “we will see the creation of a comprehensive theocracy.” Francis Schaeffer claimed he didn’t want a theocracy. But at the same time, as his son Frank recounted, “we were calling for civil disobedience, the takeover of the Republican Party, and even hinting at overthrowing our ‘unjust pro-abortion government.’”[ii] Sara Diamond rightly recognizes Schaeffer as an early influencer of dominion theology.[iii] Rushdoony, once a bête noir had now become the éminence grise of theocratic Christian Right politics.

And so, finally, back to the original question. What is Franklin Graham’s “Biblical World View”? His father was a Johnny-one-note revivalist. Praying that God will save the nation has nothing to do with old-fashioned revivalism. Franklin’s focus has shifted towards the “new normal” mandate to take dominion. Dominionism is “being used to bring together a new and determined Moral Majority for the 21st century.” And Franklin is a believer: “Speaking of regime changes—we need one in this country!”

The issue is FREEDOM, the freedom to make our own choices.” Franklin was hailing the Canadian truckers’ convoy as “riding against oppression”. His father, on the other hand, preached freedom in Christ:  “Have you honestly faced the truth of your so-called ‘freedom’? You see, in reality you aren’t free; instead, you are ruled by your own lusts and desires… Instead give your life to Jesus Christ and discover what it means to be truly free.” It’s quite a jump from saving souls one at a time to saving America, and truckers’ “freedom”. Somewhere along the line, Franklin’s biblical world view lost the simple purity of the Gospel message.

“They shut the churches down. This is what the communists did in Eastern Europe”, Graham warned.  Speaking with Todd Starnes, Franklin reminded him that thousands of pastors and priests were slaughtered under the Soviet Union. The same could be said for today, as the horrors of Bucha come to light. Hospitals bombed, civilians executed, children shot, women raped, churches under siege. Russian soldiers running amok, mercenary death squads, abduction and mass graves, intentional terror targeting – like the train station massacre with “for the children” scribbled on the rockets. Shutting down of churches and killing of pastors – apparently Franklin cannot see that this is happening now!

But hey, who cares? Not Franklin; he’s been as quiet as a mouse over war crimes committed by Russia. And yes, a minister – the Dean of the Slavic Evangelical Seminary in Kyiv – was among the hundreds of murdered civilians. Yet Franklin is preoccupied with refugees coming into America. “What’s going on at our southern border is out of control.”

In 2015, Franklin tried to find some silver lining in Putin’s heavy-handed assistance to the Assad government – which included attacks on civilians using cluster bombs, chemical weapons, and thermobaric weapons. “What Russia is doing may save the lives of Christians in the Middle East,” Graham said. The truth is different. “Russia’s military intervention contributed to untold suffering for millions of Syrian civilians”.  The same war crimes are being committed daily in Ukraine.

Interesting which sides Franklin Graham’s moralistic worldview picks. Graham has made several “non-political” trips to Moscow, to have photo-op chats with both Putin and Orthodox prelates, and came away asserting that “many Americans wished that someone like Putin could be their president.” Just before the invasion was underway, he made a plea to pray for Putin – neglecting to solicit prayers for Ukraine. Graham intends to make up for that omission with a trip to preach in Ukraine. (He’s billed it as an Easter service. But it’s not Orthodox Easter (April 24); just another grim day of misery and violence that Ukrainians have suffered for two months. And the days to come will get much dirtier, with the arrival of Russian general Dvornikov – dubbed the Butcher of Syria. With his appointment, many fear “a significant escalation and deliberate ‘terror campaign’ in Ukraine.” Russian media assures its viewers that genocidal vengeance –  a “final solution” – is in the plans.

This is not just total war – Ukraine is a Holy War, with Patriarch Kirill urging true patriots to eradicate scum and traitors. Putin’s war is about the survival of a totalitarian dictatorial regime. Dominionists want to defeat their democratic regime. Graham and Kirill are attempting to reach the same goal from opposite poles. Both, as Kirill defined it, “are talking about human salvation, something much more important than politics.”

Which is why, at Graham’s “Easter” celebration, we’ll hear a hearts and prayers sermon, preaching that sinners need to come to Christ. Meaning everyone aside from Franklin, and his rationalizing and minimizing criminal wrongdoing by Trump. Years of soft-peddling murderous Putin should grieve him deeply as well. Graham praised Putin as inspirational. Either he didn’t listen to Putin’s rhetoric threatening Ukraine since the 2014 Crimean take-over, or chose to ignore his barely concealed hatred – that the “Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate and Russia has to be prepared to act to protect compatriots”. If it were me praising Putin’s high moral standard, I’d be embarrassed to show my face in a Ukraine victimized by a hero who embodies his own Christian values. This is not just a shooting war; there is the second, fundamental war of ideas that drove it. It’s impossible to express remorse for one without repudiating the other. As Mark Silk points out, “as for his issuing a prophetic denunciation of Russia, I’m not holding my breath. It would mean disavowing an alliance he has been involved in for years.”

More fundamentally, it would clash with his Dispensational/Bircher/Dominionist-inspired “Biblical World View”. Ukraine shows us how, that if his theology were realized, it would lay waste to our own country. Maybe the one we should be praying for most fervently on Easter is Franklin himself. And, our future as a democracy.


[i] An online petition calling for Graham’s firing collected more than 24,500 signatures, claiming Graham spread “discredited election conspiracy theories” and “white nationalist terrorism,”– which it contended  led to the riot at the U.S. Capitol. https://julieroys.com/petition-franklin-grahams-firing-capitol-riots/

[ii] Ken Kersch, Conservatives and the Constitution (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019), p. 281

[iii] Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion, (New York: Guilford Press, 1995) p. 246.

Walter Mitty and a Ukrainian Calling.

“An Army of One” was the Army’s recruiting slogan in the early 2000’s. To address its sagging manpower goals, Army marketing research went into reaching the stereotypical male teen, playing video games by himself in the basement all day. The Army concluded the current generation of young people is so individualistic, so resistant to authority and rules, that it has to market military life as the natural home of the free-wheeling unfettered spirit.” A critic saw the base dishonesty in the pitch. “The Army is not, never has been and never will be about one soldier. Individuality has absolutely nothing to do with Army life,” he wrote.  Another commentator remarked, “if you want to be an ‘Army of One’ you probably want to join the Hell’s Angels, not the U.S. Army.”

It’s in that context that thousands have volunteered as free-agent soldiers for Ukraine’s freedom. News reports indicate Ukraine has had little trouble attracting young American men to join in the fight. Under American law, it’s legal for a U.S. citizen to provide combat services as a volunteer – although it is illegal to fight as a compensated foreign mercenary.  The Law of Armed Conflict defines the conditions to needed to recognize a fighter as a legitimate combatant:  (1) they form part of a military command structure, under formal orders and preceded by an “official request”; (2) they display a distinctive badge; (3) they carry arms openly; and, (4) they conform to the rights and obligations of war.

Take for example, a young Ohio man (said to be a rightwing militia member) whose flight was paid by donations through GiveSendGo. (The same Christian funding site was used by “American hero”, Kyle Rittenhouse, who moved on to “make a killing (pun intended) on the evangelical speaking circuit )”. After publicizing his complaints about harsh field conditions, including inadequate supplies of weapons and ammunition, our brave Ohio freedom fighter deserted his post and fled Ukraine. “I have been here 15 days now and still nothing is happening,” another volunteer bitched on a phone interview. “I am not putting up with that.” Perhaps that’s why none of these “armies of one” ever enlisted in the military.

In Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Du Mez wrote of how Wayne became an icon of evangelical masculinity: “his toughness and his swagger; he protected the weak, and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way of his pursuit of justice and order.” She adds Trump’s “testosterone-fueled masculinity aligned remarkably well with that long championed by conservative evangelicals.” For any number of young evangelical Walter Mittys, the heady battlefield mix of testosterone and adrenaline is the chance to prove their Christian manhood.

But there’s a time when lofty idealism meets grim reality. It’s one thing to rack a high score at the local gun range, or on your Big Game Hunter video game. Or in the woods, shooting at animals that don’t shoot back. It’s quite another when you’re hunkered down in a fetid dirt trench, while 120mm mortar rounds splash all around you. That’s literally the baptism by fire, where even seasoned veterans often lose their nerve – and the contents of their bowels.

A California guy who said he liked “guns, cars, building stuff, basketball, sports and MMA” was eager to get on the battlefield and kill Russians. He had no military experience, but wanted to be a sniper. “They have no experience in doing such a job,” Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the Georgian National Legion said. He added that war tourists were an unwelcome – if not dangerous – nuisance. “You are not Rambo, there to single-handedly slay Russians and post your selfies,” a former CIA operative cautioned. His advice was basically: grow up, shut up, and do what you’re told. Just the sort of thing that millenials didn’t want to hear from their parents, either.

Its interesting to note that the chance of seeing combat in the army is low. Only 10% are deployed into front line combat. The remainder are assigned to supporting units: administration, maintenance, logistics, medical, military police, chow hall, etc. Many of these soldiers are doing non-sexy jobs like supervising cargo deliveries or guarding critical infrastructure. That’s the lowered expectations that a Michigan male went in with. A veteran with a 50 year-old back has given up on the idea of slogging through mud with an overweight pack. “I’m a realist,” he says, comparing his physical condition to his service days in the 1980’s. “He suggested that he might drive a truck to transport refugees or bring food into areas of need,” the article comments.

Well, these skills aren’t exactly exclusive to the military. During my years in Sarajevo, people would tell me stories of Serb forces allowing European trophy-hunters to zero in on Sniper Alley. Humans are the ultimate big-game. It nauseates me to think of volunteer killers. It seems odd that so many volunteers drop their teddy out of the crib and go home if they can’t kill someone. If they have to drive an army truck to support the Ukrainian military, that’s not on their adventure bucket list.

In fact, why must it be a military truck? Why not use that plane ticket and fly to someplace in eastern Poland, and volunteer with a civilian refugee aid organization?  Flights from the U.S. to Warsaw are still under $1000. If young Christian men want to serve Ukraine, that’s what I’d recommend.

A MAGA-Defiant Military

Kevin Stitt is Governor of Oklahoma. He attends an Assemblies of God church in Tulsa. “Under vaccines, I believe in choice,” Stitt stated. This is a governor who named a state highway after Trump, blamed President Biden for a Chick-Fil-A sauce shortage, and who tested positive for COVID. “I was pretty shocked that I was the first governor to get it,” he said. A bigger shock was that the state was recording over 1000 new infections per day. Oklahoma rates in the top 6 States for death rates from coronavirus, and ranks 39th in terms of population fully vaccinated.

If one realizes that Gov. Stitt is not only a politician, but also the Commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, it’s not hard to understand that the Guard is at once a military element and a political animal.  And Stitt is using his authority to stick it to the libs.

The Pentagon has issued direct orders for all service members to be fully vaccinated. Active duty members have largely complied. Those hold-outs refusing are subject to punishment, out of which a number have been involuntarily discharged. The Pentagon’s orders applied to National Guard members as well, with only 40% of Oklahoma’s Army Guard vaccinated.

The problem is, the Pentagon does not command state National Guards, unless/until directed by the President. In ordinary drill status, Guardsmen take orders from their Governor. Through his commanding general, Stitt issued a directive countermanding the military vaccination orders. As if to solidly his showdown with Washington, he directed his attorney general to sue the Biden administration to halt its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Stitt was technically on solid legal ground. But in making MAGA points by his stunt, he seriously let his Guard members down. Refusers were essentially locked out of a State system which depended on Federal resources. To name only a few necessities: military schools needed to qualify in their jobs, Federal subsidies added to their pay, the award of Federal medals, and Federal recognition of their promotions. On a unit level, Federal assets on loan to the Guard, such as airplanes, tanks and weapons could be withdrawn. Making this a partisan point against Biden policy has a tremendous organizational downside.

I fully support the authority of the Governor under the constitution and Title 32 to govern his forces in Oklahoma,” the newly-appointed Adjutant General Thomas Mancino stated. (His predecessor, a vaccine proponent, was abruptly relieved of command. It may well be that he stood up for his troops’ well-being and got the chop). His more compliant replacement, Brigadier General Mancino, now finds his second star in limbo due to State intransigence. In one way or another, the quarrel will resolve itself in the Pentagon’s favor.

“It’s the fault of the elected officials,” one researcher said. “They are politicizing members of the military; this is almost unprecedented.”  The standoff has serious implications for good order and discipline, where one component thumbs its nose at the rest of the military. It harkens back to 1997, when the Secretary of Defense ordered the troops to receive an anthrax immunization to protect them from chemical weapons threats upon deployment. While the vaccine remained experimental, some 2 million U.S. military personnel received it. Some – including a number of National Guard personnel – nopted out, either by resigning or bearing harsh consequences for disobeying a direct order. There was no Christian MAGA Right to lobby for them then. Billy Graham was silent on the matter.

It is curious, then, that anti-vax became an evangelical cause; it never was so until it became an ideological marker of Trumpism.. A generation later, and with Christian nationalism in full tilt, Graham’s son took time off from saving souls to help rescue these poor soldiers from a diabolical Biden. Franklin wrote: “Oklahoma’s Attorney General John O’Connor is suing the Biden Administration over their Covid-19 vaccine mandate for the military and federal employees, saying that it “does not reflect the Land of the Free.” I must say that I agree with him… . The pandemic has given power-hungry government officials the opportunity to overreach into our lives—and they will just want more and more control.”

Someone should ask Franklin Graham how a “woke” military mandate to vaccinate against Covid-19 is any more tyrannical than requiring some 16 other inoculations to protect the troops and defend the American people. When I entered the service, my left arm felt like a pin cushion – but it was needed to be world-wide deployable. Especially ask Graham why, given the US death toll from Covid-19 has passed 800,000, with more than 200,000 of those deaths occurring after vaccines became available. A number of military members have lost their lives – the majority in the Reserves or National Guard. Graham has never served in the military, much less having been told by anybody what to do. It’s a different ballgame in the military; you do as your superior orders. Jesus encountered this, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.” (Matthew 8:9)

Perhaps evangelicals like Graham and Stitt fight this vaccine mandate as the devil trying to attack true Christians. If so, we have met the enemy and they are us.

Harlan Sanders and Chicken Colonels

Recently, headlines have focused on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call to create a Florida defense force separate from the National Guard. The Florida State Guard would be under his exclusive control, “not encumbered by the federal government”. Concern was raised that the move was a wannabe dictator establishing a Praetorian Guard with loyalty solely to himself. While DeSantis’ aggressive MAGA track record imputed a nefarious intent, the uproar was, at least TBTG for present, an over-reaction.

Federal law recognizes peacetime state defense forces and some 22 states have some sort of independent state military structure. The New York Guard, for example, is an unpaid volunteer force serving at the direction of the Governor. Among other duties, the force can be melded with the National Guard in state emergency support and disaster missions.

My experience with state defense forces is that they are civic-minded individuals who either long to put a uniform back on, or had some condition preventing them from putting one on in the first place. In traffic court one day, representing a client, I appeared before a judge with Strabismus, where his eyes didn’t align with each another. It was a disability preventing his enlistment. But there he was at the Armed Forces Week Military Luncheon, in the uniform of a New York Guard captain.

There are varying requirements to join a state guard, but from what I’ve seen, the major prerequisite is connection. You need politically-trusted references to join. State guards are small, cadre-sized units top-heavy with high rank. It’s a way for the governor to reward loyalty with a shiny military uniform. In a similar way, some 13 states award civilians the honorary title, “Colonel” – as in Col. Sanders or Col. Tom Parker.

These are what in NATO we called “chocolate soldiers”; pretty harmless in combat. But on the cultural battlefield, these influential lawyers, business people, teachers and otherwise noteworthy individuals could be a force to be reckoned with. Put to use under a Christian nationalist like Noem of South Dakota or Stitt of Oklahoma, these chicken colonels could become a formidable military resource pledged to do a theocratic governor’s political bidding. In 2015, Gov. Abbott used his Texas State Guard to spy on Navy SEAL/Green Beret joint training exercise, which was taking place in Texas. Fueled by alt-right disinformatia, Abbott was convinced it signaled an  imminent federal takeover of Texas and subsequent imposition of martial law. It gave him spit-and-polish creds to his ultra-nationalist followers. To sane people, however, it looked like a poor satire of The Mouse That Roared. “It doesn’t take an intelligence expert to see that Trump Republican Greg Abbott calling the Texas National Guard on the U.S. Military was downright idiocy,” a Texas Democratic leader remarked.

But it put a seed in fellow MAGA Governor DeSantis’ grandiose mind. As CNBC notes: “It’s yet another sign that the Republican Party is willing and ready to round up military forces in order to execute its radical visions for America.” Instead of chasing windmills, maybe these soldiers’ duty time would be better off drinking beer and enjoying a military issue of Colonel Sanders’ 11 secret herbs and spices.

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

More Coronavirus Ironies

Let’s Not Meet The Lord In The Air:   Televangelist Kenneth Copeland casts the threat of Coronavirus into his own brand of spirituality. “You get your tithe in that church if you have to go take it down there and drop it off or stick it under the door or something”.[i] He runs a high-overhead business funded by ordinary people sacrificing their paychecks. If his marks are broke, he’ll be broke too. Never mind you’re unemployed; you need to keep giving him the Lord’s money even if you may not see another paycheck for a long time. Maybe a better money-raising idea for him would be to put his fleet of private jets on the block. This is Coronavirus lock-down time; no one’s flying anywhere. As he once protested against his flying commercial – “This dope-filled world, and get in a long tube with a bunch of demons. And it’s deadly.”[ii]

Guess the Country Quiz: “________ have been put at risk by the callous policies of _____________ that values retaining power, protecting its image, and safeguarding its own economic, political, and ideological interests over public health.”[iii] If you guessed this was some rational person talking about Trump, you’d be wrong.

Pooping out Christian lawyers into an oversaturated market satisfies the Fundamentalist itch to save America. Liberty is the go-to pipeline to fill out the Trump administration; they have that working for them. Perhaps its best that the University preferred a law school over a medical college. Given the prevalence of anti-vaxxers, even if a vaccine were found, these tribalists probably wouldn’t support it. Being anti-science is a quaint religious belief, until it starts killing other people.

See how they love one another!  It’s been widely reported that Jerry Falwell Jr. is not shutting down in-class studies at his Liberty University, implying that the coronavirus outbreak only affects the elderly and infirm. “I think he is dangerously wrong here and seems unable or unwilling to recognize it,” an LU professor had the temerity to write.[iv] Brother Falwell is right one respect – mortality from the virus is more prevalent among vulnerable populations. And yet, any one can be an asymptomatic carrier – and we have no idea how many people have the virus but have not been tested. We’ve always been told that brotherly love is infectious. We’ll see how Typhoid Mary plays out in the Liberty dorms.

“You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” Committed evangelical and Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick was speaking on behalf of all AARP-age people.  He said he and other American seniors would be willing to die from the coronavirus in order to save the economy. Patrick was mimicking Trump, who was mimicking Fox News. “My message is: Let’s get back to work,” he said. “Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”[v] Moral Triage: If the price is a few dead old people, so be it. Like the Nazis thought, they are simply “useless eaters” anyway.

David Brody now on Enemies List? As political reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network, David Brody has had carte blanche access to the President. Maybe not so much anymore, after two negative tweets accused the President of providing “… false information about testing…multiple times! Invoking hyperbole in certain situations may be permissible but false statements about the #Coronavirus is sloppy & dangerous.”[vi] Does this signal an evangelical divorce from President Trump? No, but Trump will etch this disloyalty into his very stable genius. He never forgets a slight, and forgiveness is not in his moral vocabulary.

What do you say to these beans? They’re magical. Plant them overnight and …”, Jack protested to his mother. Never mind that Jim Bakker can’t sell his miracle silver Kool-Aid any more. Now he’s peddling “some of the most common and powerful medicinal herbs that can be readily grown from seed”. You can buy a bucket’s worth of this medicine exclusively from him for $99. Or you can get a similar one on Amazon for $20. You have to hand it to Brother Bakker. He may be greedy, but at least he’s resourceful.[vii] 


[i] Michael Stone, “Televangelist Copeland Commands Unemployed Followers To Keep Giving”, Patheos, March 19, 2020. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2020/03/televangelist-copeland-commands-unemployed-followers-to-keep-giving/  (accessed March 23, 2020).

[ii] Jessica Chasmar, “Televangelists Defend Private Jets: Commercial Planes Full Of ‘Demons’”, The Washington Times, January 5, 2016. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/5/kenneth-copeland-jesse-duplantis-defend-private-je/  (accessed March 24, 2020).

[iii] James Phillips and Nicole Robinson, “Iranian Regime’s Reckless Disregard Made the Coronavirus Outbreak Worse, Daily Signal, March 20, 2020. https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/03/20/iranian-regimes-reckless-disregard-made-the-coronavirus-outbreak-worse/ (accessed March 24, 2020).

[iv] Marybeth Davis Baggett, “Dear Liberty University Board: Please Stop Jerry Falwell Jr. Before It’s Too Late”, Religion News Service, March 22, 2020. https://religionnews.com/2020/03/22/dear-liberty-university-board-please-stop-jerry-falwell-jr-before-its-too-late/  (accessed March 24, 2020).

[v] Jonathan Tilove, “Dan Patrick’s Coronavirus Sacrifice: I’ll Risk My Own Life To Keep Economy Humming”, Austin Statesman, March 24, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20200324/first-reading-dan-patrickrsquos-coronavirus-sacrifice-irsquoll-risk-my-own-life-to-keep-economy-humming  (accessed March 24, 2020).

[vi] Sky Palma, “‘A Major Failure’: Evangelical Pundit Turns On Trump For ‘Confusing People‘ With His Coronavirus Lies”, Raw Story, March 12, 2020. https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/a-major-failure-evangelical-pundit-turns-on-trump-for-confusing-people-with-his-coronavirus-lies/   (accessed March 24, 2020).

[vii] Hemant Mehta, “Jim Bakker, Unable to Sell Virus ‘Cure, Promotes ‘Make Your Own Medicine’ Plant”, Patheos, March 20, 2020. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2020/03/20/jim-bakkers-at-it-again-chat-post-2/  (accessed March 24, 2020).