Ron Luce’s Holy Warriors
"Do you care more about the pigs around you or God?" BattleCry leader Ron Luce asked the crowd of more than 17,000 youth gathered at Wachovia Spectrum Stadium in Philadelphia on Friday, May 12. No, this wasn’t a metaphor. After reading a passage from Luke 15 that mentions pigs, he actually had a bunch of those big, oinking, pink, farm animals on stage with him! Get it, you either get with Luce’s hateful, hyperpatriotic, woman-bashing, racist god, or you’re a … pig?
And it became clear during the BattleCry rally, all the talk of battles, warriors and war is not metaphor either.
White Man’s Burden
Early on the second day, a tribal drumbeat filled the stadium and a voice boomed out "the most violent people in human history."
Grainy images appeared on the stadium screens of indigenous Ecuadorians running and throwing spears. Proof of their "barbarism"? Never mind that their land was destroyed by oil development and their way of life undermined, these "savages" had killed five missionaries who came to destroy their belief systems decades ago. One of the supposed killers is brought on stage. He’s been "civilized" by the Bible and calls on the youth to sign up for mission trips to go and convert others like him.
News flash to Luce’s audience: These indigenous people, whose very existence is hanging by a thread-threatened by the encroachment of the "modern world" of exploitation, racism, environmental destruction and cultural genocide-are at least a hundred million people short of being "the most violent people in human history," even if they did what he accused them of.
The reality is that over a hundred million indigenous people were killed by the Europeans who followed Columbus to the "new world." And let’s not forget that the genocide against Native Peoples was blessed by people carrying Ron Luce’s Bible.
Finally, after being programmed with these racist lies, Luce’s flock flooded down to the floor of the stadium to sign up for missions this summer-to Africa, Latin America, the urban U.S., Australia, the Mideast and beyond. As they went, Ron Luce offered odd encouragement, "You guys are freaks of a whole different breed … You guys are a bunch of wild animals. Man!"
Ignorance and Patriarchy
Next up on the agenda-woman bashing. If you think the world needs an alternative to the worst misogynist heavy metal or hip-hop, but you still want to see women degraded, insulted, and dehumanized, Luce has got just the thing for you.
Lakita Wright, self-proclaimed "sexpert" who has spoken to nations, Congress, and more than half a million young people this past year, stepped up to preach the "naked truth" (get it?) about abstinence and purity. Her specialty seemed to be shamelessly promoting racist and sexist stereotypes that only a Black woman trying to outdo Bill Cosby might be able to get away with.
She began with a parable that portrays "Lies" as female and "Truth" as male, then launched an attack on all the established truths about safe sex and resurrected all the oldest stigmas against those, especially women, who would engage in sex outside patriarchal marriages.
She reserved special derision for the "stupid" young women whose lives are disrupted because they have a baby. "Don’t blame him [the baby]. It’s your fault. You should have zipped it up. Locked it down. Clank. Clank."
She drew chuckles from many men when she "slipped" and called women "flea-males," saying, "Did I say that? Well, if you lie down with dogs"
Wright led a call-and-response about hundreds of sexually transmitted diseases and listed, with great drama, all the pain and disfigurement they can cause. Then, while claiming to care about these diseases, she went on to assail one thing that is proven to prevent them: "Condoms don’t work."
Wright bemoaned the fact that judges in the U.S. today aren’t required to study the Mosaic books of the Bible. These are the parts of the Bible that celebrate taking your enemies as slaves, killing their babies, and forcing women to be concubines (sex slaves), traded and controlled as possessions, and subject to the most horrific of abuses.
Reality check: Condoms save lives. Preaching "abstinence" as a way to prevent STDs kills people. Luce and his klan don’t give a fuck about young people’s lives-this war on condoms is driven by their literalist Biblical message: death by stoning for those who engage in sex outside of wedlock.
Holy War-For Real
After what amounted to a celebration of genocide against Native Americans, and a pep rally for death by STDs, things got really gory.
A featured speaker, Franklin Graham, who delivered George Bush’s first inaugural prayer, was introduced. He implied that HIV/AIDS is a punishment from God. "We get outside of marriage and there are consequences."
He went on to assert that God sees marriage as a "relation between a man and a woman. Not a man and a man or a woman and a woman." This drew him his loudest applause of the day, never mind that the Bible celebrates many instances of marriage between one man and many women. Maybe next time I go to one of Luce’s conventions, I’ll bring a bunch of bumper stickers that have a stick figure of a man plus stick figures of 1,000 women with an equals sign and then the word "Marriage." People can put them on their cars to promote a model of marriage in the Bible-where King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (and for some reason God never gave him AIDS as a punishment).
The "heart" of Graham’s speech was a call for holy war. He preached about the "battle for souls of men and women from North to South, East to West, over the entire earth." There is, he declared, "No way to God but through Jesus Christ."
Now, I actually don’t believe that religion is the root cause of war-that’s more driven by economic and political forces. But how long must we put up with a world where people are whipped up to kill people because-as Christian fascist general Jerry Boykin (whose troops got their asses kicked in Somalia) said: My god is bigger than your god.
Graham told the biblical story of Daniel "taming the Babylonians." After celebrating the U.S. troops who are killing in Iraq right now, he preached that there is "no difference between the Iraqis today and Babylon 1,000 years ago." In the Bible Babylon is the epitome of evil and decadence. All manner of bloodlust and plunder against it is not just condoned but celebrated. As Psalm 137:9 spells out, even the babies are to be dashed to death against the rocks!
While calling on the youth present to engage in this "battle for the souls of men," he exhorts them, "No souls can be saved without the shedding of blood. Blood must be shed!"
Then, a group of Navy SEALs are projected on the large screen above the stadium as they make their way from backstage. Dressed in camouflage, carrying automatic weapons, kicking down doors and firing blanks into empty rooms along their way, they looked like the house-to-house raids and indiscriminate killing seen in rare footage out of Iraq.
Fireworks exploded and flames billowed as Ron Luce greeted, bragging that all of these men have been involved in real battles. They are part of FORCE Ministries, which conducts Bible studies at military bases around the world and is made up of current and retired SEALs, law enforcement, and other military who preach the Gospel. Among those on stage, one is a SEAL just back from Afghanistan and another was a member of a police SWAT team. All of them are trained to kill and do so believing God is sanctioning them.
One of the SEALs told about boot camp and being forced to surrender his entire will to the demands of his instructor. Luce stepped in to tell the audience, "That is your youth pastor. He’s going to make you a SEAL for Christ." Of course, the great Commander of this religious army is God who issues his foot-soldiers armor-"a shield of faith, a belt of truth, and boots of preparedness"-as well as "offensive weapons" like the "sword of the spirit" and the "word of God."
This merging of "God’s Army" and the U.S. military returns full circle to the event’s opening when a letter of greeting and blessings from George W. Bush was read. After that, a minister had led thousands to bow their heads and thank the lord for giving them George Bush, who coincidentally is the U.S.’s Commander-in-Chief.
The Two Faces of Christian Fascism
BattleCry keeps this bloodthirsty holy war madness in the closet. You won’t find it on their website and you won’t hear it in their major media appearances. For all his on-stage bluster, and his stacks of books laced with militarism, when Ron Luce debated me on the O’Reilly Factor, he sounded more like a wilting flower, "Well, there are young people all over America and they are realizing that they are caught in the middle of this culture war They are saying, you know what? We want our voices to be heard. We love the lord and we’re not mean."
How many of the moms and dads and youth gravitating to the Christian fascists looking for life with a purpose have any idea that the agenda of their leaders is as gruesome, bloodthirsty, and horrible as the hell myth that they are being scared into submission with.
But whether or not you realize what you are signing onto, when you make your pact with Luce and his bunch, you’re not only signing onto a brain-deadening fantasy that robs you of your ability to understand and change the world, you end up being led to fight-and shed blood-in a "holy war" for Bush and all he concentrates.
SUNSARA TAYLOR writes for Revolution Newspaper and sits on the Advisory Board of The World Can’t Wait Drive Out the Bush Regime. Click here to watch Taylor debate Ron Luce on the O’Reilly Factor. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org