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The Evangelighouls -- How the Christian Right Exploits War's Youngest Victims

06/03/2006 02:55 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Supposedly "Christian" religious leaders helped bring right-wing Republican extremists into power, and were enthusiastic proponents of the Iraq invasion. Now they've exulting over the opportunities created when children are ravaged by war. Like George Romero zombies, they wander a blasted landscape searching for souls - and, more importantly, for right-wing propaganda points.

It's not only ghoulish - it's a textbook example of how ruthless preachers exploit the spiritual impulse for political purposes. I hope Christians ask themselves, what would Jesus really do?

Personally, I think He'd weep bitter tears at the plight of Iraq's children. The folks at Campus Crusade for Christ International, on the other hand, don't share in the sorrow. They're as exultant as vampires in a blood bank. These kids give them an opportunity to find converts, raise money, and promote the Republican agenda.

Listen to their latest fundraising letter (from Vice President Steve Sellars), which begins "Dear friend in Christ":

"Evan as Iraq struggles to stabilize, you can touch the very heart of Iraq by reaching its children for Christ.

"This opportunity has been years in the making, and now is the time to act. ... Campus Crusade for Christ staff teams in Iraq have been working since the American-led liberation, reaching people there with the Gospel. They have seen a tremendous response to the Good News, but recognize the time to so boldly reach out may be short."

Translation: We can benefit from their misery, which has been "years in the making," but only while we're the undisputed rulers there. An autonomous Iraqi nation wouldn't let us proselytize the way its current American overlords are doing.

They seem to have studied Gingrich on political language, too. The phrases "opportunity," "years in the making," and "American-led liberation" are all designed as subtle brainwashing for the letter's well-intended Christian readership. They're all words with positive charge, applied to a war that's now wildly unpopular even among evangelicals. It's a way to use a reader's Christian faith as a tool to persuade them that our GOP leadership was right to attack Iraq, and is doing the right thing by remaining there.

Here's more:

"Our staff are currently pursuing a major effort ... concentrating on reaching orphans and very poor children with Christ's love and message."

So, you see, it's not all bad that we've created so many orphans and poor children. At least now we can bring them to the American Jesus! And if they want to eat, they're going to have to listen:

"The goal ... is to distribute 100,000 gift packs to these little ones. The content varies somewhat ... but each gift includes evangelistic material like a New Testament, an evangelistic activity book, and/or ... the JESUS film - all in Arabic. (we're not told how the poor will view the JESUS film ...)

Also included will be fun treats (such as toys or candy), as well as desperately needed practical goods ..."

You might be tempted to ask Campus Crusade for Christ why they're supporting a government that plunges 100,000 children into "desperate need" in the first place. Don't bother. They're Republican marketers first, and evangelicals second. As Republicans, they want to promote the "positive" side of the carnage at all costs. And as evangelicals for a highly ideologically form of Christianism, the horror of war is nothing more than another marketing opportunity.

Think that's being too rough on them? Listen to this:

"A preliminary distribution of gifts during this past Christmas was a tremendous success. A 12-year-old boy who received a gift pack shared, After I saw my dad shot dead, I thought the only way for me to live [is to form a gang] and contact somebody who can give us money and a gun. But today I noticed that there is a better way to live."

Hey - kill a few more Dads and we can start a Youth Choir!

That 11 year old who watched her entire family being murdered at Haditha should be a likely candidate. She can be a "good news" item in the next Christian Crusade letter, especially when you consider her comments afterward: "I feel sorry. I was wishing to be alive," said Safa. "Now I wish I had died with them."

I guess she's ready to hear about Heaven now. This makes another justification for Haditha - one that can sit alongside Carol Platt Liebau's and Michelle Malkin's.

So here's the drill: The people they helped put into power start a needless war based on lies. That war maims, impoverishes, and orphans hundreds of thousands of children. But that becomes cause for celebration - and why not? Now they can market to Iraqi's most helpless and America's most persuadable at the same time.

Here's a little background on the Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright. As Sara Diamond writes in her book, "Spiritual Warfare":

"In April 1976, Sojourners, a progressive evangelical magazine, published a report on a series of secret meetings convened by key Christian Right leaders ... A meeting ... to solidify the financial base for Third Century Publishers was convened by Arizona Congressman John Conlan and Bill Bright, president of Campus Crusade for Christ ... The initial publications "were directed at manipulating Christians to accept political action as part of Christian thought." In 1975 a meeting was convened by Bright and Conlan to "train regional director in Third Century's strategy to gradually take positions of leadership with the government." Conlan told regional directors that Bill Bright would be working behind the scenes with his Christian business contacts to secure financing ..."

The Campus Crusade has been heavily funded by right-wing extremist billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt. Hunt, a dedicated John Bircher, was convicted of conspiracy for his criminal behavior in manipulating (and ultimately devastating) the international silver market. This paragon of Christian virtue joined with Bright and Conlan with the goal of creating a right-wing, fundamentalist, extremist government. It was a wild-eyed plan - but it succeeded.

Today, the Republican/Christianist hegemony they've created has waged a war that's devastated hundreds of thousands of children. But to the Crusade and Sellars, those kids aren't a problem - they're an opportunity:

"I know you join me in praising God for these softening hearts ... reaching little ones is the key to the future of this troubled nation for several reasons ... these children are Iraq's future leaders. Reaching them for Christ now could make all the difference down the road."

Whatever it takes to "soften the hearts" of these youngsters is apparently OK. And don't forget the parents, too - the ones who've had to watch helplessly as their kids suffer:

" ... offering (the children) practical gifts alongside the gospel message makes a tremendous impact on their parents. ... they see that Christians are the ones showing special care to their children when, due to extremely high unemployment, they can't afford such basics. That makes a big impression for Christ."

In a Dickensian flourish, Sellars adds:

After staff distributed these gifts to children in an Iraqi orphanage, the head master said, "Please stay with me, because I see you have something to help me with saving these boys from a dark future.'"

There's more, but you get the idea. Create a "dark future," then offer Jesus - our Republican Jesus - as the only way out, and use the whole effort to build political support among naïve but well-meaning Christians at home.

And, make no mistake, their contributors are well meaning. I've lived among them. To them, witnessing for Christ is the kindest thing you can do for anyone. You're saving them, now and for eternity. These good-hearted Americans don't realize that what the Campus Crusade represents isn't spirituality, but the carnal longing for political power.

And when it comes to politicking, the Crusade hasn't forgotten its original college constituency. They're proselytizing for Republicanism there, too. Here's my favorite anecdote (from their website):

"UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT WILMINGTON -- One guy named Brad ... stayed at the (Campus Crusade) table talking to the students and staff for a while about his involvement in College Republicans. He later came to a couple of the weekly meetings.

Campus Director Shane Hartley thought about calling Brad several times for an evangelistic appointment. He kept putting it off, though, partly from an assumption that a conservative College Republican was probably already a Christian. He came to mind one night when Shane was calling for appointments, so he called Brad, reached him immediately, and got an appointment for the next day.

They met for almost two hours. After he asked several sincere questions, Brad saw that he had never received Christ. He prayed to receive Christ right there. Since then, he's gone to church with Shane twice and they are meeting together for follow-up.

In case you doubt their conflation of faith with politics, read that line again: "He kept putting it off ... from an assumption that a conservative College Republican was probably already a Christian."

That's the America that was envisioned by evangelist/politico Bill Bright and Nelson Hunt, the billionaire Bircher. It's a radical departure from the secular and tolerant state envisioned by the founders, but they've made it a reality. Now they're using the horror of war to promote their agenda at home and abroad - one devastated child at a time.

Some Christians.

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