Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition Revisited

On 5 April 2005 Josh Andersen was a freelance writer and former intern at the U.S. Center for World Mission and at Sojourners. I really do not know what is he doing now. But I think his text might be reconsidered given new political development. I received this text from one of my friends, I am not sure which one. In the end there is the original song with the same title, sang during WWII. Go for it!

Is the advance of God’s kingdom through missions being confused with the advance of American hegemony through the military?

by Josh Andersen

For well over a decade, the evangelical church has paid close attention to an area called the „10/40 Window,” a term coined by Argentinean evangelist Luis Bush. This area, demarcated by a giant rectangle between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, stretches from western Senegal to eastern China and contains the „core” of people who have had little or no exposure to the gospel. Close to 4 billion people inhabit the 10/40 Window, including 90 percent of the world’s „poorest of the poor,” according to Window International, an organization spearheading much of the 10/40 movement.

 In focusing mission efforts on this swath of the globe, evangelicals have come to believe that two spiritual „forces” exist in the center of the 10/40 Window. Missions researcher George Otis Jr. refers to these powers as „the prince of Persia (Iran)” and the „spirit of Babylon (Iraq).” Otis and others believe that these strongholds must be „penetrated” by the gospel in order to be faithful to the commands of Jesus.

 But this geographic and spiritual bull’s eye has captured the imagination of more than just American evangelicals. It is also a region of utmost importance to current foreign policy-makers within the U.S. government, which has waged two wars during the last three and a half years in the heart of the 10/40 Window.

 Many evangelical churches are not only launching bases from which missionaries are sent to the far reaches of the globe, but also wellsprings of support for George W. Bush’s foreign policy. It is out of these same communities of Christians that an aggressive political vision has begun to ride shotgun with a pre-existing commitment to reach the nations with the gospel.

 Are White House speeches—and, worse, many worshipers in American pews—confusing the advance of God’s kingdom through missions with the advance of American hegemony through the military?

 From the White House, President Bush has repeatedly adorned his foreign policy with strong evangelical overtones. Much of the administration’s rhetoric surrounding these two wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) has imbued its policies with a sense of spiritual and moral urgency. As a result, wars conducted against nation-states threaten to link seamlessly with the spiritual battles missionaries have been engaged in for centuries.

 The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank influencing much of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, reveals a strikingly similar map to that of the 10/40 Window. This map, however, carries with it a decidedly different agenda: a blueprint for empire. On its Web site, PNAC proposes a return to a „Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity,” claiming the need to „accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.”

 According to many in the missions community, PNAC’s map is fundamentally opposed to the one that evangelicals have traditionally placed in their sanctuaries and prayer closets. Yet it is largely from the evangelical community that a great deal of support is fueling this neoconservative vision—a vision that many others feel is harming the cause of missions and exacerbating the extremely volatile context in which many missionaries serve.

 From the International Mission Board alone, the missionary-sending agency of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, more than 10,000 people are engaged in domestic and international mission, supported by a volunteer force of more than 25,000. In late 2003, the SBC not only sent missionaries to the field, but they also helped draft a letter to the president actually „urging Bush to attack Iraq,” according to the Associated Press, claiming that „such an action is well within the bounds of the ‘just war’ tradition.”

 Why, if waging war in the 10/40 Window could severely disrupt mission activity, has U.S. foreign policy still received such vehement support from mission-minded evangelicals?

 „I think that the media, especially the Christian media, plays a very strong role in confusing Christian mission with the American political agenda,” says Eloise Meneses, associate professor of anthropology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. „Some Christians live in cultural enclaves [that] foster this confusion heavily, and vilify any opposing political opinion as un-Christian.”

 Also, in the early days of the recent U.S.-led wars, many Christians felt that American advances into the Middle East were effectively opening doors for Christian agencies to flood into Iraq and Afghanistan. It was not uncommon for Christians to see the advance of missions and humanitarian work on the heels of the U.S. military as proof that God had blessed the invasions.

 Mick Antanaitis, world outreach pastor for Belmont Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a large evangelical congregation involved in Iraqi mission activity before and now during the war, says, „God’s mandate to carry the gospel will be through all of the epochs of time, through all of the ups and downs that are going to visit cultures. We don’t stop missions activity because there is a change of regimes. The church continues irrespective of what’s going on.”

 But many question whether much of this Christian activity, impossible under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban, has ultimately been effective for the advance of the gospel. Ralph Winter, founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California, compares post-invasion mission exploits in the Middle East to the „mammoth and largely misguided rush to Russia and the Eastern Bloc” in the early 1990s, a rush that he says „took place on the part of people with little or no cross-cultural background.” According to Winter, we are seeing another „post-glasnost stampede” in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Dr. J. Dudley Woodberry, Professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, this stampede occurs in the shadow of wars that have „increased the hostility of much of the Muslim world, in particular to Christian missions, since these wars have been broadly interpreted as wars against Islam.”

 In addition to the increase in violence against mission and aid workers, indigenous Christians are now fleeing areas where American-led war has helped to escalate the dangers in which they live and worship. One estimate puts the number of fleeing Iraqi Christians at more than 50,000, more than 6 percent of Iraq’s estimated 800,000 Christians. Despite Pope John Paul II’s insistence that Iraqi Christians „continue to offer with generosity their own crucial contribution toward heartfelt reconciliation,” a growing exodus of fearful Iraqis is draining the country of its small Christian presence. Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, Jibran Hannaney, an Iraqi civil engineer, describes the situation as dismal. „As much as I thought the grace of God was coming to our people when Saddam Hussein was pushed from power,” says Hannaney, „basically it’s been the wrath of the devil instead. This liberation-turned-occupation has not helped our people.”

 In light of such postwar trends, it appears that the kingdom of „our security, our prosperity, and our principles” advanced through the United States military might be a different, even opposite, kingdom than the one that many missionaries and indigenous Christians are risking their lives to extend.

 If American Christians wear the politics of war on their sleeves as they simultaneously support worldwide evangelism, they will be sharing a „watered-down at best, poisoned at worst, version of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Eastern University professor Meneses. „Whenever the church allows itself to be co-opted by the political powers of the day,” she continues, „it commits the sin of syncretism,” or „blending the sacred Christian faith with profane elements of the culture.”

 David Johnston, an author and teacher who served for 15 years in Algeria, Egypt, and the West Bank, suggests that many „missionaries living in Muslim countries… have a very nuanced view of current U.S. policies abroad. The problem is that many of these missions are funded by churches that vote solid Republican and that since 9/11 view the world in much the same way as the Bush administration.” While Johnston admits that „patriotism is a good thing,” he says, „[American Christians] have crossed the line and have fallen into nationalism, which is clearly idolatrous.”

 The fears of many in the missions community are based on a century rife with cross-cultural ministry distorted by nationalism. It takes little detective work to find national agendas muddled with mission. We have scarcely moved past eras in which French, British, and even apartheid-ravaged South African mission activity was inextricably linked to national interests.

 Yet despite blaring historical precedent, the kind of syncretism described by Meneses is again threatening to run a deep course through our churches. A year before his death, Adrian Hastings, emeritus professor of theology at the University of Leeds in England, wrote, „None of us anticipated…that the gravest nationalist threat to Christianity by the late 20th century might come from the United States, essentially a rehash of the traditional Christian imperialism of western European countries. It is just the latest example of a self-appointed ‘chosen people’ carrying forth a gospel message reshaped by its own values and bonded to its own political expansion.”

 American Christians with a „chosen people” complex, brazenly supportive of a controversial war, could be guilty of further calcifying an already severe distrust of Western missionary efforts.

 One missionary serving in the Palestinian territories, speaking on condition of anonymity, weighs in on the postwar reality: „Those involved in international ministry have become targets [of] extremist groups as a backlash against the policies of the U.S. government. Missionaries are now in much greater danger as a result of the ‘war on terrorism.’ This has resulted in a diminished effort in many sensitive areas as international workers are returning home.” This backlash has already led to the violent deaths of missionaries and humanitarian workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the potential for many more as insurgent attacks continue to intensify.

 It is no understatement to say that men and women persevere through incredible circumstances in order to share a savior who transforms through changed hearts, not by policy, legislation, or war. But with a portion of American Christians waving flags around a radical foreign policy and simultaneously sending missionaries to the nations, the danger of a „poisoned gospel” is real indeed.

 To „muddle maps” in this way is to taint missionary efforts with the intrinsic violence and self-serving nature of the U.S. government’s foreign policy. For Christians committed to the expansion of the reign of God, efforts to keep the missions movement free from the national political agenda are critical. The lines that define the various „wars” raging around us must remain clear for those who still believe in the contextualized and sensitive sharing of their faith.

 History, after all, is not only an effective teacher, but also a severe judge. 


Tanti Milli iz ă stiudănt! (1)

În timpul campaniei de recoltare a porumbului din toamna anului 1966 i s-a trasat sarcina studioului de radioficare a regiunii Timişoara să facă un reportaj mobilizator. Subiectul reportajului, „Strângerea recoltei de toamnă în satul Bobohalba”. Zis şi făcut. Echipa se îmbarcă în imeseul de serviciu ce putea trece vaduri de un metru treizeci, faţă de gazul sovietic ce le putea trece doar pe cele de un metru dou’şnouă, şi se îndreptă cu toată viteza (adică vreo şaizeci la oră) spre destinaţie. Bateriile erau încărcate, benzina peco 70 stas, afara nu ploua, nu ningea, şi nici nu ardea soarele, numa bine pentru o emisiune pe placul tovarăşului prim. După ce părăsi drumul naţional şi coti pe vreo două drumuri raionale, imeseul păşi hotărât, conform indicaţiilor partidului, pe un drum de ţară. Mai mult praf decât drum, mai mult… dar dă-l încolo de drum, c-o doar n-or veni unii şi o băga bani în el şi i-o pune şi câte o tablă să ştie tăt natul că acolo îs îngropaţi banii noşti!

Prin parbrizul minuscul satul abia se ghicea, dar prin acelaşi parbriz nu se ghicea absolut nici o urmă de colectivist pe câmp. Era o agitaţie febrilă de tipul celei prestate de musculiţele de oţet la arat, în campania de primăvară. Îngrijoraţi că poate au întârziat şi recolta era deja strânsă, că ar fi izbucnit vreo epidemie de febră aftoasă, vară de-a doua cu gripa porcină din apocalipsa capitalistă prorocită în urmă cu doă veri de a lu’ Păţocu. După ce dădu ocol satului vreme de câteva sute de gropi, îi fierse de două ori apa şi i se rupse (doar o dată) cureaua de la ventilator (spre deosebire de gazul sovietic, căruia i s-ar fi rupt …apa din prima), imeseul o apucă pe uliţa principală a satului. Echipa bătu la o poartă, nimic. Echipa bătu la o altă poartă, nimic. La următoarea nu mai bătu, că bătu Securitatea înainte cu două săptămâni şi nu mai era nimic de bătut. Dar, parcă i-ar fi luat pe toţi securitatea lui Dej. Asta nu era posibil, că doar securitatea nu mai era a lui Dej, ci a lui Ciocescu. Ciudat nume, dar se pare că aşa era pronunţat el în Bobohalba. În fine, după mai multe alte comparaţii şi hiperbole (că parabelicele nu apăruseră încă), echipa observă în faţa unei case, o băbătie ce părea absorbită de depănuşatul unei grămezi impresionante de ştiuleţi de porumb. De fapt, apropiindu-se tiptil (imeseul încă era în pană la marginea satului) echipa constată că femeia citea un ziar. Citea Scânteia! Ziarul era îndoit astfel încât să nu fie întors de vânt. Ei, ce vremuri, când vântul nu îndrăznea să întoarcă un ziar, darămite un post de televiziune! Încântaţi că săteanca era pe felie cu partidul, că era activă şi angajată politic (dar nu mai activă şi angajată ca doamna Udrea în dedesupturile politicii în anul 2009), Carmen Bilinuţă, dădu drumul la magnetofon. Cuprinsă de emoţia specifică unui reporter angajat politic în opera de făurire a societăţii socialiste multilateral şi multilongitudinal dezvoltate, tovarăşa Bilinuţă întinse mâna în care se afla micul microfon de plastic. Buzele tremurânde ale babei, silabiseau un text …de neânţeles. Ciudat! – în Scânteia? Se pare că avea de a face cu capitala Bucureşti, cu dacii şi cu carele.

–         Ă… buc. Ă …dac. Ă… car.

Putea fi un text de istorie, unul despre agricultura din vechiul regim unde carul nu fusese înlocuit cu tractorul, sau cine ştie, era doar un pasaj din operele lui Ion Creangă că numai acolo se puteau găsi aşa cuvinte populare. Siderată de bâlbâielile tovarăşei colectiviste ce se străduia să buchisescă unul dintre textele oficiosului de la centru, şi fără să piardă din vedere chipul încurcato-luminato al sătencei, reporteriţa mai făcu un pas înspre personajul nostru rural. A fost însă de ajuns. Captivată de scenă, tovarăşa reporter călcă pe un ştiulete de porumb tocmai depănuşat, şi se prăbuşi atât de teatral încât regretă că tov. instructor Joja de la brigada de artistică nu se afla prin preajmă. Ei, n-a fost pe fază – şi bineânţeles că nici n-avea cum: imeseul rămas în pană avea faza mare defectă şi oricum era doar ora două după-masa. Săteanca noastră sări ca arsă de gradul trei, scuturată ca un cutremur de gradul 7,8 pe scara Richter, că scara ei nu se mai vedea de când o dăduse cu împrumut pe la culesul cireşelor unui văr cu ciudate tendinţe retrograde, ce din când în când se învârtea în cerc pe câmp şi a cărui nume era parcă, Mihai Bivolaru.

Ochii celor două personaje feminine se întâlniră, feţele le păliră şi vântul începu brusc să bată împreună cu clopotul de la biserica din sat anunţând decesul unei drept-credincioase.

Pope Benedict attacks government over Equality Bill

 BBC says:

The Pope has urged Catholic bishops in England and Wales to fight the UK’s Equality Bill with „missionary zeal”



Pope Benedict XVI
The Pope has confirmed he will visit the UK later this year


Pope Benedict XVI said the legislation „violates natural law” and could end the right of the Catholic Church to ban gay people from senior position

The Pope has confirmed he will visit the UK this year, the first since Pope John Paul II in 1982.