God’s Army

Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military
Jeff Sharlet, Harper’s Magazine, May 2009, pg. 31

Download the article (pdf).

If the following excerpt doesn’t piss you off the remainder of the article surely will. The pious evangelical Christians who would have you think they are a benign-to-positive force are disingenuous at best. They are, quite literally, at war with evil–which is to say, people who do not believe in their mythologies.

They had commissioned the Special Forces interpreter, an Iraqi from Texas, to paint a legend across their Bradleys armor, in giant red Arabic script.
“Whats it mean?” asked Humphrey.

“Jesus killed Mohammed”, one of the men told him. The soldiers guffawed. JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED was about to cruise into the Iraqi night.

“Jesus kill Mohammed!” chanted the interpreter. “Jesus kill Mohammed!”

A head emerged from a window to answer, somebody fired on the roof, and the Special Forces man directed a response from an MK-19 grenade launcher. “Boom,” remembers Humphrey. The head and the window and the wall around it disappeared.

“Jesus kill Mohammed!” Another head, another shot. Boom. “Jesus kill Mohammed!” Boom. In the distance, Humphrey heard the static of AK fire and the thud of RPGs. He saw a rolling rattle of light that looked like a firefight on wheels. “Each time I go into combat I get closer to God,” DeGiulio would later say. He thought The Passion had been a sign that he would survive. The Bradley seemed to draw fire from every doorway. There couldn’t be that many insurgents in Samarra, Humphrey thought. Was this a city of terrorists? Humphrey heard Lieutenant DeGiulio reporting in from the Bradley’s cabin, opening up on all doorways that popped off a round, responding to rifle fire—each Iraqi household is allowed one gun—with 25mm shells powerful enough to smash straight through the front of a house and out the back wall.

Humphrey was stunned. He’d been blown off a tower in Kosovo and seen action in the drug war, but he’d never witnessed a maneuver so fundamentally stupid.

The men on the roof thought otherwise. They thought the lieutenant was a hero, a kamikaze on a suicide mission to bring Iraqis the American news: JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED.

This is, perhaps, the scariest bit of all. This is why I will not shut up. This is why non-believers and other rational thinkers need to have a strong voice in opposition to radical fundamentalists, Christian or otherwise.

Grace, of course, means you’re favored by God, no questions asked, a blessing that you can neither earn nor deserve. To fundamentalists, it’s worth more than freedom, and they’re willing to sacrifice their freedom—and yours—for that glorious feeling. That’s a paradox, a box trap the fundamentalists have built for themselves. The first casualties of the military’s fundamentalist front are not the Iraqis and Afghans on the wrong side of an American F-16. They’re the spiritual warriors themselves, men and women persuaded that the only God worth believing in is one who demands that they break—in spirit and in fact—the oath to the Constitution they swear to uphold on their lives. “You’re laying down your life for others,” Hrabak says. “Well, there has to be some true truth to put yourself in harm’s way for.” True truth; truth that requires an amplifier. For the God soldiers, democracy is not enough.

One Reply to “God’s Army”

  1. My younger brother, Ken, is currently in Basic Training in the US Army. His wife, Heidi, posted to her blog the following from a recent letter.

    Then everybody who wanted to see "Passion of the Christ" went to some church and those who didn't got to stay in the bay and do whatever.

    This should put to rest any doubts about exaggerated claims in the article. The soldiers in Basic Training, because of religious freedom, have a choice; they can either stay in the barracks/dormitory where they have strict rules and watching eyes or they can go to church and enjoy a bit of freedom and relax. Perhaps there is a need for a secular "church".

    He also said that since they have started they have had 10 baptisms.

    That the Mormon church (and others) are targeting new recruits–who use "church" as an escape from the rigors of training–is egregious. Baptizing soldiers who have neither had time to read, study, contemplate or seek counsel from friends and family is disgusting and unethical.

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