According to the article in the May 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine entitled Jesus Killed Mohammad by Jeff Sharlet, Lt. Col Gary Hensley is documented as giving sermons telling soldiers to go out and convert the Afghan people indirect opposition to US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Order 1-A. CENTCOM General Order 1-A prohibits proselytizing civilians among other things.
According to the Harper’s article:
“Then as if addressing 33 million Muslim Afghans and their belief that Muhammad was a prophet as Jesus before him, he shouts, “There is no one else to come! There is no new religion. Jesus is it!” Amen, says the crowd. “If he ain’t it, let’s all go home!””
There were rumors about even more explicit pushes for the soldiers to go out and try to convert Muslims. Here is the video shot by Brian Hughes of Lt. Col Hensley.
The violations of CENTCOM General Order 1-A are pretty explicit in the video. (from the article by Jeremy Scahill referenced by MRFF)
“The special forces guys – they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down,” he says.
“Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.”
I keep picturing the movie The Most Dangerous Game, but in this version, the hunted man is a Muslim and the hunters with their dogs are the chaplain and his cult followers.
[T]he chaplains appear to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One.
“Do we know what it means to proselytise?” Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, says to the gathering.
“It is General Order Number One,” an unidentified soldier replies.
But Watt says “you can’t proselytise but you can give gifts.”
This makes it very clear the chaplain and his followers know they are deliberately disobeying orders. They are simply rationalizing why they are doing so.
Reuters News says the Bibles were confiscated and destroyed after Qatar-based Al Jazeer television showed soldiers at a Bible class on a base with a stack of Bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages. The U.S. military forbids its members on active duty — including those based in places like Afghanistan — from trying to convert people to another religion.
Reuters quotes Maj. Jennifer Willis at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, who said “I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera’s clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed.”
Somehow, I don’t really believe this happened as reported unless the bibles have been hanging around for awhile. The video was shot last year, not recently. And of course the Army is denying that any Bibles were distributed. The following is the Army’s story according to Reuters:
A U.S. military spokeswoman, Major Jennifer Willis, said the comments from the sermon were taken out of context and chaplains were told to make clear to soldiers they could not proselytize while serving.
Willis said the bibles had been mailed to a soldier by a church in the United States and were never distributed. Officials said the incident occurred in May 2008.
“That specific case involved a soldier who brought in a donation of translated bibles that were sent to his personal address by his home church. He showed them to the group and the chaplain explained that he cannot distribute them,” she said.
A U.S. defense official in Washington described the soldier as a sergeant who was an evangelical Christian. He presented the bibles to a class attended by officers and chaplains.
Chaplains quickly alerted the chain of command, which ordered the bibles confiscated before they could be distributed, said the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Somehow, I just can’t believe the Army’s version of events in this story. According to Chris Rodda at Talk2Action, this would certainly not be the first time the Army has covered up proselytizing by soldiers.
Then, there were the Christian reality TV show missionaries who were allowed to be embedded with U.S. troops as journalists while proselytizing Afghans — well, the military has lost all records of that.
We also have videos, like the one below of a chaplain admitting that Swahili language Bibles are being sent in to Iraq to evangelize the Ugandan workers employed by the U.S. military, newsletters from a plethora of evangelical ministries boasting of the number of Arabic Bibles and other materials they’ve been able to get into Iraq and Afghanistan with the help of our military, photos of these evangelizing materials, and many other videos, photos, and statements from military personnel verifying that what is shown in the Al Jazeera video cannot be explained away as an isolated, out of context incident.
They can’t even leave alone the hired contractors supporting them. And it seems this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Here’s another of the many examples from MRFF’s stockpile of General Order 1-A violations. The January 2009 newsletter of Worldwide Military Baptist Missions (WMBM) included these images of the English-Arabic proselytizing materials that they’ve been sending to our troops.
This was the caption:
“In 2008, we shipped over 226,000 gospel tracts, 21,000 Bibles, New Testaments and gospels of John (to include English-Arabic ones!) and 404 ‘discipleship kits’ to service members & churches for use in war zones, on ships and near military bases around the world.”
As for the military’s claim that the Al Jazeera video was taken out of context, well, Al Jazeera has released the raw footage to prove that it wasn’t.
I think these numbers give lie to the Army’s story that this is an isolated incident. I don’t see these huge numbers of books and religious tracts going to just a few soldiers. I mean we’re talking about 21,000 bibles and 226,000 religious tracts being sent to soldiers for distribution. Yeah, just a few “free gifts” for a couple of friends. I’m sure their fellow non-evangelical soldiers appreciate the warm feelings engendered in the locals after receiving their “free gifts”. And I’m sure the locals are more than willing to exchange a few “free gifts” of their own.