With the Pentagon's blessings and assistance, apocalyptic evangelists are proselytizing US troops in Iraq.
Actor Stephen Baldwin is the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, and one scary looking dude. After reading about his latest "crusade", I'm pretty sure he may be the antichrist.
Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.
"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."
On the surface, OSU appears as a traditional entertainment troupe that brings cheer to American troops around the globe. Founded by champion kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU performs comedy, acrobatic stunts and strongman displays. Its roster of entertainers includes a former WNBA star, the Flying Wallendas, a ventriloquist, and former boxing champ Evander Holyfield. "We make no bones about the fact that we are speaking directly to the soldiers of the greatest fighting force of in the world," OSU proclaims. "No 'mamsie pamsie' stuff here!"
But behind OSU's anodyne promises of wholesome fun for military families, the organization promotes an apocalyptic brand of evangelical Christianity to active duty US soldiers serving in Muslim-dominated regions of the Middle East. Displayed prominently on the "What We Believe" section of OSU's website is a passage from the Book of Revelations (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15) that has become the bedrock of the Christian right's End Times theology: "The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
With the endorsement of the Defense Department, OSU is mailing "Freedom Packages" to soldiers serving in Iraq. These are not your grandfather's care packages, however. Besides pairs of white socks and boxes of baby wipes (included at the apparent suggestion of Iran-Contra felon Oliver North, according to OSU) OSU's care packages contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.
Producers of the Left Behind videogame were faced with a storm of controversy, but that has not deterred OSU from encouraging US troops to play virtual rounds of kill or convert after a hard day of house-to-house searches and counterinsurgency warfare against Iraqi insurgents
OSU has cultivated support from the Department of Defense for years. After a private October, 2005 meeting between OSU's Spinks and Defense Department officials, OSU was invited to perform inside the Pentagon. This week, Pentagon employees and active duty service members are expected to enjoy a breakfast with Spinks and Baldwin, followed by an OSU performance in which they will receive "spiritual encouragement via a Biblical message." The events will be held respectively in the Pentagon Executive Dining Room and the Pentagon Auditorium.
If you can stomach it, here is the whole story from AlterNet
I won't link Jonathan Spinks here (another scary looking dude). You can read his message that is linked in the story.
Here's a little snip for those of you who are still reading this post:
"No one needs a boost in morale more than our military troops that are stuck in Iraq away from their families and in harms way. At no greater time is our military acceptant of the principles of God and prayer, than when under extreme danger and concerned about their loved ones at home. No one can give lasting meaning to the heartache these troops are suffering than can Jesus Christ. Only our God can give back the sanity of our brave men and women, that risk coming home with mental issues because of what they have witnessed on the battle fields of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Fallujah. We believe our armed forces need this kind of boost mentally and spiritually, that offers far more than mere entertainment.
Our goal during these events is to give a deeper rest from the battlefield, comforting the hearts of the weary, and delivering an encouraging word from God to press on to victory."
I am sure by now, your jaw has completely dropped. Mine may now be forever locked in the open position.
My dear, dear, DEAR Bob Hope -- you must be rolling over in your grave.
crossposted at BigBrassBlog