When the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call labels your latest novel "a Christian Jihad," angry emails are sure to follow.
My new novel entitled, The Apocalypse Directive, is out this week. Unfortunately, long before the book came out, I started to get emails from self-proclaimed Evangelicals who had seen the cover or a description of the book online, and based solely on that, decided to condemn me to the fires of Hell. Once the two-page Roll Call article came out, the hate emails increased in volume and creativity.
In a previous career, I spent three years working in a Joint Command at the Pentagon. I had gone there after a stint at the White House. About two years ago, two former colleagues of mine from the Pentagon called to warn me about a "right-wing Christian organization that was operating out of the Pentagon." Both of the people who called me would describe themselves as "conservative Christians." Knowing that, if this group scared these two individuals, then I felt a little more research was in order.
While doing some digging, I found out that The Washington Post had done two major editorials on this "right-wing Christian organization." The first editorial, entitled, "Questionable Mission," said in part:
"THERE ARE over 25,000 Department of Defense leaders working in the rings and corridors of the Pentagon. Through Bible study, discipleship, prayer breakfasts, and outreach events, Christian Embassy is mustering these men and women into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ," a narrator explains toward the start of a promotional video for Christian Embassy, an offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ that focuses on diplomats, government leaders and military officers. As a uniformed Air Force Maj. Gen. explains, "I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate, and I tell them right up front... my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am."
Free exercise of religion doesn't stop at the entrance to the Pentagon or other government buildings, but when those in senior positions are moved to share their religious views with colleagues and subordinates, the tension between the twin constitutional guarantees -- the mandate of free exercise of and the prohibition against government establishment of religion -- comes into play. The Christian Embassy video suggests that such sensitivity has not always been present. With its extensive, inside-the-Pentagon footage and interviews with senior officials and high-ranking officers in uniform, the video conveys a sense that the group's mission has been endorsed by the Pentagon... the video has been removed from Christian Embassy's Web site and the Pentagon is reviewing the matter. It would be wise to consider not only whether the video and the Christian Embassy's other activities comply with the letter of Pentagon rules but also with the spirit of the Constitution its personnel are sworn to protect.
The second Washington Post editorial, entitled, "Pulling Rank on Religion -- an Evangelical group and top officers cross a line," said in part:
THE PENTAGON'S inspector general has concluded that seven current or former military officers, including two major generals and the Pentagon chaplain, violated ethics rules when they appeared in uniform in a promotional and fundraising video for the evangelical group Christian Embassy...Maj. Gen. John J. Catton Jr. explained that he felt comfortable praising the group because it had effectively become a "quasi-federal entity."
What's important to me in the context of our work here in the Pentagon is to get together with other believers and be encouraged," Maj. Gen. Peter U. Sutton says on the video. Maj. Gen. Sutton is now based in Turkey, where an article in a Turkish newspaper about the video described him as a member of a "radical fundamentalist sect."
A "radical fundamentalist sect." Where have we heard that before? How many people in our nation and our government have uttered those exact same words?
As someone who has experienced the good and the bad of life, I know that any human can become twisted. I also know that any faith can become twisted. Hence, the premise of a novel that is now offending some of my fellow Christians.
While fiction, the novel is meant to also serve as a bit of a warning. What if you had a conservative Evangelical President in the third year of his second term who believed the Lord spoke directly to him? What if he, and like-minded individuals in the military, shared a common belief that the apocalypse was not only coming but that it was their duty to God to hasten the process? What if, they felt they had to act before losing control of much of the government and much of our nuclear arsenal? What if, unless stopped, they would set in motion a chain of events that would wipe clean the face of the earth?
As comedian Jon Stewart once said: "Not so funny when it's your guy." How right he was.