This week, HDNet is re-airing a segment of Dan Rather Reports titled "Christian Soldiers," originally aired on October 2, 2007. The segment features Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and Stephen Mansfield, author of the soon to be released book The Faith of Barack Obama, and critic of MRFF.
For those who don't get HDNet, the "Christian Soldiers" segment can be viewed on MRFF's website or on the HDNet website, where you can find video of this and other past episodes of Dan Rather Reports, as well as transcripts and a schedule of upcoming episodes.
When the Dan Rather Reports segment first aired last October, I wrote a rebuttal of the assertions made by Mansfield, which was emailed to the MRFF mailing list and posted on MRFF's website. Mansfield, best known for his 2003 best-seller, The Faith of George W. Bush, is further described by me as a "Christian nationalist history revisionist." So, before getting to my rebuttal of his Dan Rather Reports interview, I want to explain this by writing a little bit about two of Mansfield's lesser known books, and how I first became acquainted with this author's work.
In addition to being the Senior Research Director for MRFF (my "day job"), I also write for the blog Talk2Action on the subject of historical revisionism, and how the religious right uses this as a tool to justify and gain support for virtually every aspect of their agenda. I don't want to digress too much into this broad topic here, so I'll just recommend an article by Talk2Action co-founder Fred Clarkson from the Spring 2007 issue of The Public Eye Magazine titled "History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters."
My work fighting history revisionism often overlaps with my work for MRFF, simply because many of the same characters who promote the religious right's distorted version of American history are also among the most outspoken critics of MRFF. This is the case with Stephen Mansfield. When his last book, Ten Tortured Words, came out last summer, Mansfield joined the ranks of the Christian nationalist history revisionists, perpetuating, in some cases through near-plagiarism, the lies of pseudo-historian and former Texas Republican Party chairman David Barton, a man who Mansfield described in the book's acknowledgments as a friend and mentor. Doing what I normally do on Talk2Action, I wrote a three part review of Mansfield's book (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), debunking its many historical myths and lies. By sheer coincidence, on August 25, 2007, the same day I posted the third part of this book review, the conservative Christian publication World Magazine carried a highly critical article about MRFF, in which Mansfield was quoted on the issue of evangelism in the military. A few weeks later we found out that Mansfield was going to appear in the Dan Rather Reports segment to offer the opposing viewpoint to Mr. Rather's interview with Mikey Weinstein.
What makes Mansfield an "expert" on this subject is his 2005 book, The Faith of the American Soldier -- a book in which he devoted seven pages to defending and praising Gen. William Boykin and his 2003 "sermon," in which he stated, referring to the capture of Somali warlord Osman Atto, "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." According to Mansfield, by making such comments, "Gen. Boykin gave many in the field just the kind of warrior code they needed to fulfill their duties with moral passion." Mansfield, who somehow obtained the Pentagon's permission to be embedded with the troops in Iraq while writing this book, has also appeared as a lecturer at West Point.
The following is from "Government-Paid Missionaries for Christ," written in October 2007. The portions in brackets are updates, inserted wherever anything has changed in the eight months that have elapsed since this was written.:
A six month investigation by MRFF into the various evangelical organizations operating within the U.S. Military has revealed a well planned, coordinated effort by organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ's Military Ministry to "Evangelize and Disciple All Enlisted Members of the US Military. Utilize Ministry at each basic training center and beyond." This formally expressed goal is not some unfounded allegation from MRFF, but Campus Crusade's very own words.
The goal of the Officers' Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization consisting of over 14,000 officers and operating on hundreds of U.S. military installations worldwide, is to "create a spiritually transformed U.S. military, with Ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit." Again, this is not MRFF's description of this organization's goal, but the stated mission of the OCF.
Rebutting MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein on a recent segment of Dan Rather Reports, best-selling author of The Faith George W. Bush and noted Christian nationalist historical revisionist Stephen Mansfield contended, "To say that this is a coordinated conspiracy from some religious center in the world that's sending dominionists into the military, I just don't believe that."
Well, maybe the words of Maj. Gen. Bob Dees, U.S. Army (ret.), the Executive Director of Campus Crusade's Military Ministry, might make a believer out of Mr. Mansfield. According to Dees, in the October 2005 issue of the organization's "Life and Leadership" newsletter:
"We must pursue our particular means for transforming the nation -- through the military. And the military may well be the most influential way to affect that spiritual superstructure. Militaries exercise, generally speaking, the most intensive and purposeful indoctrination program of citizens [...]"
(A video of Maj. Gen. Bob Dees can be viewed here.)
And then there's the Military Ministry's slogan [in use as of October 2007], "Reaching the World through the Military of the World," a mantra picked up by other organizations such as the Military Missions Network, whose "Vision" is "an expanding global network of kingdom-minded movements of evangelism and discipleship reaching the world through the military of the world."
There's also the Military Ministry's frequent use of the term "Government Paid Missionaries." Describing one of their ministries at Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston, for example, the Military Ministry website states: "Responsibilities include working with Chaplains and Military personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out into the world as Government Paid Missionaries."
(Shortly after this was written, MRFF discovered a Campus Crusade promotional video filmed at the Air Force Academy in which the ministry's director at the Academy stated, "Our purpose for Campus Crusade at the Air Force Academy is to make Jesus Christ the issue at the Air Force Academy and around the world. [...] We're seeing kids come to Christ, being built up in their faith, and being sent out to reach the world. They're government-paid missionaries when they leave here.")
During the Dan Rather Reports segment, Stephen Mansfield offered Weinstein this bit of advice: "I would say to Mikey Weinstein, don't look for a conspiracy. Evangelicals are doing good to run a church, much less run a conspiracy inside of the American military."
According to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Campus Crusade's total revenue for the year ended August 31, 2006 was $497,516,000. The ECFA also lists twenty-nine of Campus Crusade's subsidiaries. This mega-fundamentalist organization is hardly some rinky-dink little group of religious enthusiasts that's barely capable of running a church.
Because the ECFA's list of Campus Crusade subsidiaries includes only the names under which fundraising can be done, Military Ministry is listed as one entity.
Military Ministry, however, actually has a number of subdivisions, each designed to target a specific segment of the military. The three primary divisions are Military Gateways, which targets basic training installations and other training locations such as the Defense Language Institute; Military Campus Ministry, which targets U.S. Military Academies and ROTC; and Valor Cadet and Midshipman Ministry, which also targets ROTC.
Military Gateways is further subdivided into branch specific organizations: Airmen for Christ, operating at Lackland Air Force Base; Sailors for Christ, operating at the Great Lakes Recruit Training Command and Navy Training School Command; and Warriors for Christ, operating at Parris Island.
Military Gateways is also operating at Fort Jackson, the largest Army basic training location, and names Fort Benning, Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill as their next three targets, as well as listing others on their current "Strategy Sheet."
(Two months after this was written, MRFF uncovered a website run by the Fort Jackson Military Ministry of Campus Crusade's Frank Bussey, which contained, among other things, photos of basic trainees at Fort Jackson posing in uniform with their rifles in one hand and Bibles, described in the photo captions as their "sword," in the other. This website was taken down after being exposed by MRFF. See MRFF"s December 2007 report.)
The following explanation of their "gateway" strategy appeared on Campus Crusade's Military Ministry website in 2002:
Young recruits are under great pressure as they enter the military at their initial training gateways. The demands of drill instructors push recruits and new cadets to the edge. This is why they are most open to the "good news." We target specific locations, like Lackland AFB and Fort Jackson, where large numbers of military members transition early in their career. These sites are excellent locations to pursue our strategic goals.
Similar statements can be found for each of the various Military Ministry divisions, like this one from their Valor Ministry, a ministry that has recently entered into a partnership with the OCF:
The Valor ROTC cadet and midshipman ministry reaches our future military leaders at their initial entry points on college campuses, helps them grow in their faith, then sends them to their first duty assignments throughout the world as "government-paid missionaries for Christ."
MRFF's investigation culminated with the discovery of the instruction manuals of two organizations -- the Campus Crusade Military Ministry and the Military Missions Network -- both providing strategies for fulfilling the "Great Commission" from Matthew 28:19 -- "Go and make disciples of all nations" -- by recruiting, creating, and sending out "government-paid missionaries" from U.S. military training installations.
According to the Military Ministry instruction manual, "We should never be satisfied with just having Bible studies of like-minded believers. We need to take seriously the Great Commission."
The same manual also includes a three level "Evangelistic Intensity Scale" for what are called "Momentum Events." In general, low-level events, such as dances, show the "pre-Christians" that Christians can have fun; medium-level events target the not so committed Christians, but do not include a "pray with me" where the audience is asked to commit their lives to Christ; high-level events are all-out evangelistic extravaganzas that do reach their apex with a "pray with me."
How detailed are the Military Ministry's instructions? The following is from the section on how to promote Momentum Events: "Now, you don't have to put on your posters such warnings: 'An event designed to convert you to Christ!' If you are planning for example a more evangelistically intense event, however, you should include a gentle tip-off. 'Hear the inside scoop on leadership from Admiral So & So and learn about his intriguing, behind-the-scenes spiritual journey and its effect on his leadership.'"
So, who will rein in these organizations?
Will it be the chaplains? Well, probably not at Lackland Air Force Base. A recent top chaplain there is on the MMN Board of Directors. This is his bio from the MMN website: "Chaplain, Colonel Tom Blase is Wing Chaplain at Lackland AFB, Texas. He is the senior chaplain of the largest USAF Chaplain Service team which ministers to Team Lackland personnel. Lackland is the 'Gateway to the Air Force,' where all enlisted members receive Basic Military Training."
Although the MMN website lists Colonel Blase as being currently stationed at Lackland, he moved "across town" to Randolph Air Force Base within the last few months, according to the Lackland chaplain's office. [The MMN website now lists Col. Blase as the Chief, Chaplain Force Development Division at HQ Air Force Personnel Center.]
How about at the Military Academies? Will it be Maj. Gen. (sel) Robert L. Caslen, one of the officers found guilty of violating ethics regulations by the Pentagon Inspector General for his appearance in the Campus Crusade's Christian Embassy video? Caslen, who is now the 70th Commandant of Cadets at West Point, was not only a Discipleship Group leader for Campus Crusade's Christian Embassy, but a council member of the OCF, an organization that endorses the Military Ministry.
(On April 29, 2008, Maj. Gen. Caslen's promotion was confirmed by the Senate and he was appointed to the prestigious position of Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division. He is now also the president of the Officers' Christian Fellowship.)
Is MRFF's naming of Secretary of Defense Gates as a defendant in its current lawsuit as over the top as some critics assert?
Absolutely not. With countless commanders and chaplains not only allowing organizations like Campus Crusade to use their installations as recruiting fields, but being extensively involved in this effort themselves, our country is now clearly faced with a military-wide constitutional crisis.
As Mikey Weinstein puts it:
America is now perilously facing an internal national security threat comprised of a massive, unconstitutional cabal of fundamentalist Christian conversion zeal which is wretchedly conspiring with the very same Americans who have been duly sworn to sacrifice even their lives to prevent such an illicit alliance; the comprehensive command structure of our United States armed forces.