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The military-evangelical complex

Does history repeat itself? Sure. Listen to the words of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont, on November 27, 1095, as he called upon Christians everywhere to march upon Jerusalem, and seize the Holy Land from the infidel Turks:

"Men of God, men chosen and blessed among all, combine your forces! Take the road to the Holy Sepulcher assured of the imperishable glory that awaits you in God's kingdom. Let each deny himself and take the Cross."

Urban's call fell upon willing ears. A year later, Jerusalem fell to the Crusader armies, who would occupy it for nearly a century. Far from being Christ's vicar on earth, Pope Urban was a warrior priest, the inspiration to the armies of God. He perfectly embodied the spirit of the times -- that of Christian Jihad, of the Crusaders' absolute moral superiority s over their heathen adversaries.

The Crusaders, bloodthirsty barbarians whose murderous conquest of Jerusalem cost the lives of thousands of innocents, have long since been disowned by the Catholic Church. But the Crusader spirit is alive and well in today's America; it is, in fact, the dominant ethos of an aberrant strain of "Muscular Christianity." Listen to Gen. William Boykin, a senior official in the Department of Defense, describing his battle with a Somali warlord:

"I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

Gen. Boykin has also said that America's enemy was "a spiritual enemy ... called Satan" -- and that the enemy can only be defeated "if we come against them in the name of Jesus."

The Crusades were launched not from Rome, the eternal city, but from Clermont, described by a contemporary historian as "the most noted city of Auvergne." And if our modern crusaders have a spiritual home, it's right here in Colorado Springs.

Look at the Air Force Academy, where a recent report found "an environment strongly influenced by Protestant evangelism." No kidding! When a majority of cadets describe themselves as "born again"; when the football coach actively proselytizes to his athletes; and when the official academy newspaper runs an ad, signed by hundreds of professors and staff members, praising Jesus and declaring him the only savior, I'd call that "strongly influenced."

And when folks who don't share the views of the evangelicals protested, who jumped to defend the status quo? None other than Focus on the Family spokesperson Tom Minnery, who complained that "there is an anti-Christian bigotry developing" at the school.

What we're seeing is the virtual merger of military values with those of the Christian right, a military-evangelical complex that increasingly influences both domestic and foreign policy.

In his book The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, Andrew Bacevich points out that this country has changed dramatically in its view of armed conflict.

"At the end of the Cold War, Americans said 'yes' to military power," Bacevich writes. "The skepticism about arms and armies that pervaded the American experiment from its founding vanished. ... [O]ne striking aspect of America's drift toward militarism has been the absence of dissent offered by any political figure of genuine stature."

Bacevich attributes this absence to the enormous popularity of the military in today's America, a country that sees itself as sloppy, self-indulgent and morally suspect. Contemptuous of ourselves and our peers -- politicians, journalists, businessmen, lawyers, whatever -- we're happy to be protected by the patriotic, self-sacrificing and morally superior men and women of the armed forces. Not surprisingly, service members agree. In a 2003 poll, two-thirds of the respondents said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve.

And what are those standards? Given the obvious affection that our citizens have for the military, it didn't take long for our leading politician and sometimes war evader, George W. hisself, to wrap himself in the mantle of military evangelism.

Consider: When the president appeared on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in full battle dress in 2003, he wasn't simply mingling with the troops; he had merged his identity with theirs. No longer a mere president but their anointed leader, a crusader in word and deed.

And whose ring will he kiss when victory is finally secured over the infidel armies? Not Pope Benedict's -- but why not Dr. Dobson's?

-- johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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