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Violence and Militaristic Themes in Christian Media
Principalities and powers and The “full armor of God” (Eph. 6:10-18)
Killing children is a theme that comes up often in the OT, especially in the instance where God kills all the firstborn of Egypt as a result of Pharaoh's callousness that was instilled in him by Yahweh. That's right, folks, Yahweh “hardened Pharaoh's heart (Ex. 9:12)” and proceeded to judge him and kill a bunch of innocent kids and cripple the people's food supply (Ex. 13:15) because his will had been circumvented and his mind seized upon by a maniacal deity who just wanted an excuse to fuck with people and kill children. Asshole...
From innocent babies and youngsters to rebellious teenagers, if you had any kind of mental illness or personality disorder and you lived in the bronze age under the roof of one or more of this vile deity's clueless followers, you were not long for this world. This is mentality that motivates angry fathers to shoot their daughters' laptops because they've been insubordinate and motivates the likes of Michael and Debi Pearl to write books about how to effectively beat your kids. No, I am not kidding.
“"Training is the conditioning of the child's mind before the crisis arises; it is preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience," reads a passage from the book's first chapter.” That unquestioning obedience was in no small part responsible for Trump getting elected, voted for again by the same people, and making so many blindly comply with his charge to march on the capital and seize it. They weren't thinking about the consequences. They were “just following orders.” You know, like the Nazis.
I have to wonder how many of those people received upbringings from parents who dealt with any assertion of individuality or defiance in their kids by cutting a switch or worse. If some research body had the gumption to crunch the numbers, I would bet real money on that percentage being high.
Satan, on the other hand, has only 10 kills to his credit, all in the book of Job (Job's 7 sons and 3 daughters) which many believe to be allegory with the “historical books” being more widely held as literally true. At that point it looks like Satan's kill count is damn close to, if not “realistically” zero. It's also fair to mention that those kills only happened because God allowed them so that makes God an accessory at very least. So he shares part of the blame even for those 10.
So the final kill count in the Bible stands at:
“Christians have wrestled with divine violence in the Old Testament at least since the 2nd century CE, when Marcion led a movement to reject the Old Testament and the Old Testament God. The movement was substantial enough that key church leaders such as Irenaeus and Tertullian worked to suppress it. In the modern era interpreters have taken up the problem with new vigor and have treated it from fresh perspectives. Some attribute the Old Testament’s accounts of God destroying and killing to the brutality of the society that produced it, but they believe modern people are able to see the matter more clearly.” https://oxfordre.com/religion/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-154?mediaType=Article
Jesus had a violent streak too, which isn't surprising considering that he was rife with Yahweh midichlorians... er “genetics” (Mark 11:12-25)
In these verses we see Jesus going on an anger spree that begins with overturning the tables at the temple gates and then taking out his frustrations on a fig tree. Classy. And let's not forget that Jesus himself said, “34 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 10:34-39)
Let's also try to remember that the Prince of Peace also said this: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:26)
So, apparently I can't be a Christian unless I become a self-deprecating malcontent with no self image who champions hate over love, just a nothing who blindly follows and emulates these very love-centered christ-mandated attributes to myself and the people around me.
According to Edison Research, 74 percent of evangelical voters voted for Trump in the 2020 election and were none too happy to learn that they are, in fact, a minority. Their voice isn't as loud as they think, although, it's plenty loud enough. And there were plenty of crosses and Christian imagery present among the insurrectionists. There were plenty of signs with scripture verses... and although there isn't a whole hell of a lot of this being mentioned in the news, they also erected a gallows outside the capitol calling for the hanging of Mike Pence for refusing to attempt to stop the EC vote.
“And once again, for the third hymnal in a row, Presbyterians will not find “Onward Christian Soldiers” in the mix. Good riddance. This hymn, with its “hut-two-three-four” tune and its warring call for Christians to raise the battle flag, has long outlived its usefulness.”
“If the church loses this sense of absurdity and starts believing it really is some kind of army with sufficient strength to swat down our enemies and exert our will, then our worship becomes idolatry and our life demonic.”
Battle Hymn of the Republic
I'm In The Lord's Army
Blow the Trumpet in Zion
The Battle Belongs to The Lord
God's Got An Army
I Am A Servant of God
Romans 16:19 (Underneath Your Feet)
Let God Arise (Let His Enemies Be Scattered)
The Horse and the Rider
80s Christian Rock
Petra – multiple war and violence images
This Means War
He Came, He Saw, He Conquered
It Is Finished
All The King's Horses
Killing My Old Man
Storm Comin' (Petra)
War And Remembrance
The Allies – Militaristic band name, military imagery in album art, and let's not forget that this band was headed by frontman Bob Carlisle who, and I'm sorry to make you remember this, was responsible for the quasi-incestuous and pedophiliac anthem of Purity Culture: Butterfly Kisses (but that's another conversation). “"You know how much I love you, Daddy but if you don't mind I'm only gonna kiss you on the cheek this time..."
God's Got an Army (Lemme hear a war cry!)
The Champion – The matter of the atonement is settled with a 40-day-long boxing match
Righteous Invasion of Truth (R.I.O.T.)
Jericho: The Shout of Victory
Morgan Cryer – “Fuel on the Fire” - “Underneath Your Feet”
Steve Taylor – violent images in songs like “Jenny” “Lifeboat” and “Over My Dead Body”
The Yellow and Black Attack – missiles aimed at the earth with the finger of God ordering the attack
Soldiers Under Command - Military imagery in the album art
To Hell With the Devil – Album art was so controversial the record was eventually re-released with a plain black cover
God Damn Evil
Barren Cross - “Killers of the Unborn” “Imaginary Music” and “Dying Day” all come quickly to mind, even if the last was a much-too-late protest against the Vietnam War.
Lots of Christian metal in the 80s had violent and apocalyptic themes. They had names like Vengeance Rising and Stryken and Sacred Warrior and Holy Soldier, Bloodgood (ok it was an actual band member's name but still...), Mortification, The Crucified, Heaven's Force, Recon, Warlord, Rosanna's Raiders, and so much more!
Saint – Violent lyrics and end-times hysteria. Album titles like Warriors of the Son, Too Late for Living, Time's End, In the Battle, and Crime Scene Earth
Why is all this oldie-moldy Christian rock from 30+ years ago even relevant to a discussion of events in 2020? Did you get a good look at the ages of a lot of the insurrectionists? Many were our age and even older and they grew up with this stuff blaring after youth group meetings. I was the one responsible for blaring a lot of it. Got a lot of my friends into a lot of this music. Just one more charge on my rap sheet.
And while we're on the subject of music-centered violence, what about the nutters that convinced me and a lot of other people to smash and BURN their secular records and tapes back in the 80s? Gary Greenwald made an event of it as part of his “Rock a Bye-Bye Baby” seminars on Satan in rock music. When we were teenagers we were taught to embrace the adrenaline rush of “destroying our enemy.” Think about it. It's not baseless alarmism. What we learn when we're young follows us into adulthood. Hell, even the bible agrees with that (Pv. 22:6).
And while we're on the subject of the 80s I just want to mention one other piece of pulp christian trash print media: a little book called Dead Air by Bob Larson. Cashing in on the Satanic Panic, this collection of 379 two-sided, single-ply sheets of toilet paper with words on them came out in 1991 on the heels of a very lucrative career in chicanery that floated him through the bulk of the 1980s.
“It was labeled "Christian Porn" by Christianity Today, and contained gorey [sic] and graphic details that Bob got from many of his callers who allegedly were involved in Satanic crimes. Then someone went and squealed on Bob -- He apparently was not the author of the book, and allegedly payed a ghost writer, who later revolted against Bob. From then on, Bob allegedly received tons of death threats, and spent more time hocking books and begging for cash than he did talking and taking calls.”
Let's talk about PureFlix – The Christian movie streaming service that carries a price tag that's more than Disney+ with a fraction of the content ($10.99/mo or $99/yr), the site describes its content offerings as, “Positive entertainment that changes lives, inspires hearts, and lifts the spirit.”
Physical and sexual violence against women, particularly young girls
I saw enough shots of gun violence and victimization of women just in the trailers of some of these movies to figure out that the site description is complete and utter bullshit. But Christians don't see it that way. They kinda like watching women being objectified and they love their guns. “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Sure, because you've got your glock in the holster, your .357 cocked and ready, and your AK-47 slung over your shoulder all loaded for bear. You're good. And there's a lot of content about human trafficking on this site. Stuff that makes Dead Air read like a bedtime story. Let's look at some of the synopses of these Christian movies you can watch right now but should never, ever, ever want to:
Caged No More
“Inspired by real events, CAGED NO MORE is the story of Aggie Prejean, a godmother on a desperate search to find her two goddaughters, Skye and Elle, who have been kidnapped by their sinister father. As the details behind the girls' disappearance begin to unravel, it's discovered he has taken them overseas to be sold into slavery to settle his drug debt...”
Sons of Thunder – The Pureflix answer to Sons of Anarchy loaded with violent themes cushioned with a token gospel message
Beckman – From the addled mind of David A.R. White
“A contract killer becomes the reverend of an LA church until a cult leader and his minions kidnap his daughter. Blinded by vengeance, he cuts a bloody path across the city. The only thing that can stop him is his newfound faith.” This one also features a female character who likes to reminisce about her promiscuous past in ways that do nothing to advance the plot line. It's just nice to listen to a woman talk about the guys she's fucked. Whatever happened to “if thy right hand offend thee...”?
More “true story” sex-trafficking and rape culture gratuitousness. From Pureflix: “A dramatic story of relentless faith and courage set against the criminal world of human trafficking.” From IMDB: “A homeschooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her.” Is it how many guys she's fucked? Seems like a running theme...
“In the last days before Armaggeddon [sic], three men must made [sic] one eternal choice: receive the mark of the devil or stand for Christ. This movie will make you think about your own life choices.” Perfect! I choose not to give two hours of my life that I will never get back to watching this dumpster fire of a movie. We have GAM for that (see episode 97 of their show).
Revelation Road 2
The Black Rider – Revelation Road
So far, a trilogy that is destined to get the Douglas Adams trilogy treatment. This series morphs more and more into a Mad Max motif as it progresses.
Part 1: “Amidst foreboding lighting and tremors, a traveling salesman with a dark past must fight demons, both his own and a murderous biker gang, in his quest to complete his last sale and go home.” LOL... wut??? Sounds like, “From Dusk 'Till Dawn” without the intellectual edge. David A.R. Why not try to be Quentin Tarantino?
Part 2: “With the Rapture now history, traveling salesman Josh becomes a warrior on the road in his plan to return home, but God guides others to help make Josh part of His plan.” Come on Dave, admit it: you read The Stand, didn't you? Actually, no. You probably don't have the intellectual prowess. You watched the miniseries. That's what you did.
Part 3: “The Rapture has come and gone. In it's wake, a wasteland filled with desperate bandits. Josh McManus, a drifter with a knack for fighting, must find the mysterious "Shepherd" - a dangerous mission that will put his faith to the test.” Looks like we also like The Walking Dead. Instead of the Governor, we have The Shepherd, also set in a dystopian future with a vigilante Willy Loman as Rick.
(All descriptions taken from the Internet Movie Database – IMDB.com except where noted)
The underlying message here is that you can portray all the gratuitous violence you want in a movie as long as the gospel remains the common thread.
Jesus Camp – with its messaging about killing witches and “this means war!!!” and violent object lessons for children
“And let me say this about Harry Potter. Warlocks are enemies of God! And I don't care what kind of hero they are, they're an enemy of God, and had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!” - Becky Fishwife... er... Fischer
“Excuse me, but we have the truth... Take these prophecies and do what the apostle Paul said and make war with them. This means war! This means war! This means war!" - ibid
I don't think it's at all ambiguous where the violent tendencies that permeate evangelical thought come from. You read the bible and you learn that it's ok to rape a woman if you have enough money to pay off... her father. You read that it's ok to bludgeon a rebellious teenager. You see Yahweh exacting all kinds of atrocities and doing it for no other reason than to stroke his own narcissistic ego. Then you have Jesus talking about pitting children against parents, husbands against wives, and brothers against brothers. You see him kill a tree for not bearing fruit. Well fuck, Yeshua, you made it. Fix it, don't kill it.
But that's never God's MO, is it? There's nothing in the entire bible that even suggests that God has any interest in fixing the perceived problems inherent in humanity. If there's a problem, it's going to be solved through violence. That theme runs rampant through the OT and after 26 books worth of love and daisies in the NT (with a few nods to God's murderous side along the way), we get a 22-chapter plunge back into the depths of biblical violence fueled by the “humble king” himself, coming back with the sword he promised to bring, smiting his enemies, and throwing anyone who didn't want to follow him or love him back into a place where they will burn FOREVER. When these are the models of how people should be dealing with their problems and what passes for “godly” intervention, it isn't at all surprising how easy it was to rouse the rabble who stormed our nation's capitol last week all on their own.
Now let's infuse the music we want you to listen to with instance after instance after instance of violent themes and messaging. Let's produce christian novels that even other evangelicals regard as “christian porn” or worse, toss it up on goodreads.com and talk it up 30 years later because there's still a warehouse full of this shit and maybe we can make a few extra bucks off of it. Let's create a christian movie site and load it for bear with violent content and call it “positive entertainment that changes lives, inspires hearts, and lifts the spirit.” I wonder how many of the unwashed warriors who committed insurrection last week had visions of Beckman running through their heads...
I'm a firm believer in the concept of “know thine enemy.” And as I've said many times before, the enemy isn't the people. It's the system that motivates them to romanticize violence as a way of emulating their god, robs them of any real sense of right and wrong, strips them of empathy and compassion, and instills them with a level of paranoia that makes them believe that the normal process of a presidential election is fraught with conspiracy and corruption.
I'm not making excuses for them. I think we all have choices to make and those who chose to commit insurrection should be held accountable for their actions. But instead of JUST locking them up, let's try and remember where a lot of the motivation for what they did came from. And for many, it started long before they ever heard the name Donald Trump. It starts with “I'm In The Lord's Army” being sung in Sunday School and learning about the killing of the firstborn of Egypt as something positive. It progresses to putting a record on a turntable and hearing Petra sing about “Killing My Old Man” and it's rounded out by watching young girls being victimized and David A.R. White going off on “righteous” killing sprees that are supposed to be viewed as “positive entertainment.”
As I said last week, I'm not terribly hopeful about this, but maybe – just maybe – if the rest of us keep shining a light on some of the prominent places where things like what we saw last week actually originate, it'll get through to a few. And maybe we can embolden those few to speak out and convince more. And maybe, if that happens, it'll become harder for the evangelical machine to keep hiding its real agenda in plain sight. But if not, that's fine. There are plenty of us out here already who are paying attention and have no problem continuing to expose this religion and the thoughts and behaviors it propagates for the cesspool that it is. But let's do our best. Let's do what we must to keep the truth on the table and let's all keep working together to help those who have ears to hear get and stay unbound.