By Sunsara Taylor
Editor’s note: In this opinion piece, a young activist explores the frightening world of a Christian evangelical youth movement that is holding rock concerts and rallies at city halls nationwide this weekend.
(First column a series of three. Second column here, third column here.)
Update: Read what BattleCry attendees are saying about this series of columns.
Update #2: User-submitted photos available: page 1 and page 2
If you?ve been waiting to get alarmed until the Christian fascist movement started filling stadiums with young people and hyping them up to do battle in ?God?s army,? wait no longer.
In recent weeks, BattleCry, a Christian fundamentalist youth movement, has attracted more than 25,000 people to mega-rally rock concerts in San Francisco and Detroit, and this weekend it plans to fill Wachovia Stadium in Philadelphia.
The leaders of BattleCry claim that their religion and values are under attack, but amid spectacular light shows, Hummers, Navy SEALs and military imagery on stage, it is BattleCry that has declared war on everyone else. Its leader, Ron Luce, insists: ?This is war. And Jesus invites us to get into the action, telling us that the violent—the ?forceful? ones—will lay hold of the kingdom.?
BattleCry is a part of the evangelical organization Teen Mania, and you can learn a lot about the kind of society that Teen Mania is fighting for by reading up on its Honor Academy, a non-accredited educational institution that offers directed internships to 700 undergraduate and graduate youth each year. Among the academy?s tenets: Homosexuality and masturbation are sins. Interns are forbidden to listen to secular music, watch R-rated movies or date; men can?t use the Internet unsupervised; the length of women?s skirts is regulated. The logic behind this—that men must be protected from the sin of sexual temptation—is what drives Islamic fundamentalists to shroud women in burkhas!
Teen Mania and BattleCry are multimillion-dollar operations that send more than 5,000 missionaries to more than 34 countries each year. Their supporters and members are some of the most powerful and extreme religious lunatics in the country. BattleCry?s ?partners? include Pat Robertson (who got a call from Karl Rove to discuss Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito before the nomination was made public), Charles Colson (who as President Richard Nixon’s lawyer was knee-deep in the Watergate scandal and who went to jail for obstruction of justice in the Pentagon Papers case), and Jerry Falwell (who blamed Sept. 11 on homosexuals, feminists, pagans and abortionists). BattleCry?s events have been addressed by former First Lady Barbara Bush (via video) as well as former President Gerald Ford. This weekend?s event will include Franklin Graham, who has ministered to George W. Bush and publicly proclaimed that Islam is an ?evil religion.?
What most of these figures have in common is their insistence that the Bible be read literally and obeyed as the inerrant word of God. And, because Ron Luce leads youth to say in prayer, ?I will keep my eyes on the battle, submitting to Your code even when I don?t understand,” it would be foolish to expect that there is any part of the Bible?s literal horrors this movement would be unwilling to enforce, including stoning disobedient children and non-virgin brides (Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and 22:13-21), executing gays (Leviticus 20:13), and keeping slaves (Peter 2:18).
Luce’s followers staged a protest in March on the steps of San Francisco?s City Hall because gay weddings had taken place there. Their answer to the scourge of rape and violence against women is to end the right of divorce, spread ignorance and insist on virginity -? the very things that will entrap more women in these nightmares. And this Friday, they are planning rallies at 50 city halls nationwide.
Of course, like the president, who gave Ron Luce an appointment to the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities, BattleCry tells its share of bald-faced lies. For one, it claims that ?a society fortified by Biblical principals and a strong moral code ... is the heritage our forefathers fought and died to secure for us.? But the word “God” never appears in the Constitution. After three and a half months of debate about what should go into the document that would govern the land, the framers drafted a secular constitution.
BattleCry also claims America has been ?set aside for God?s purposes -? a country established for good and fruitfully blessed so that we might take God?s message to the ends of the earth.? It is revealing that for all its talk about the value of life and the evils of violent imagery, BattleCry never speaks against the real violence and loss of life being inflicted by U.S. troops in Iraq.
Still, there is one thing that BattleCry gets right: This country is in the midst of a deep moral crisis. We are indeed living through times when business-as-usual is unconscionable.
As the Bush regime wages unjust wars and conducts torture in our names, as it leaves New Orleans to rot and drags us closer each day to a theocracy in which abortion and birth control are banned, science is pulled under and gays are persecuted, it is no wonder that young people are searching for meaning and morality. However, the truth is that youth will not find the morality they need in a stadium listening to Ron Luce preach about religious war and intolerance. And they won?t find it while buying BattleCry?s keepsake dog tags.
These young people need to be challenged to look around themselves and think for themselves.
I am confident that if they do, many of them may find that the truly moral way to live is to throw their tremendous energies and dreams of a better world into stopping this madness and driving out the Bush regime.
This generation ?- and its counterparts around the world -? will have to live with the consequences of this culture war, one way or another.
Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution newspaper and sits on the advisory board of The World Can?t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime.
Protesters allied with the anti-Bush organization The World Can’t Wait attempt to drown out a March 26 rally by the anti-gay Christian evangelical group BattleCry. The rally occurred on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall, where homosexual couples had been married.