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I’m In the Lord’s Army

the lords army

Several years ago, I caught up on back episodes of the TV show Tyrant. One episode featured a Muslim cleric telling a group of schoolchildren that they were soldiers in “God’s Army.” These children were later killed in a government attack on a terrorist training camp. This same cleric forgot to tell these children that they would be used as pawns in the war against America and the government of the fictional country, Abuddin. Killed in an attack on the terrorist camp, the dead bodies of these children were filmed so they could be used in anti-government propaganda videos. A horrific scene to be sure, one that is played out time and again in the Middle East.

As I listened to the Muslim cleric tell the children that they were soldiers in God’s Army, my thought turned to the Evangelical junior church staple song, I’m in the Lord’s Army. Everyone now:

I may never march in the infantry,

Ride in the cavalry,

Shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy,

But I’m in the Lord’s army!

Yes Sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army!

Yes sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army!

Yes sir!

I may never march in the infantry,

Ride in the cavalry,

Shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy,

But I’m in the Lord’s army!

Yes sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army!

Yes sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army!

Yes sir!

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Harmless kid’s song? Sure, but consider for a moment how much time and money Evangelicals spend indoctrinating their children. (Please see Do Fundamentalist Christians Indoctrinate Their Children?) Throw in Christian nationalism, American exceptionalism, Bible literalism, and “Second Amendment remedies” — why, it is easy to see that, in the future, some Evangelical churches will become training camps for youthful recruits for The Lord’s Army. Preposterous? Perhaps, but consider how easily fascist Donald Trump (and Ron DeSantis) turned countless Evangelicals into supporters of policies that could plunge the United States into civil war.

In 2016, armed Christians took over a government building, believing that God wanted them to take a stand against tyranny and attacks on personal and religious freedom. In 2021, armed, militarized Christians took over the Capitol and tried to overthrow the government. So-called Patriot Pastors are now defiantly breaking federal and state laws, believing that freedom of religion is under attack by liberals, secularists, humanists, and atheists. Calling for more “Christian” laws, scores of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons now believe that the Separation of Church and State is a myth. Many of the domestic terrorist attacks over the past thirty-five years have been committed by Christians who have turned to violence to right perceived wrongs. White power groups such as the KKK — once thought to be buried beneath the rubble of the race riots of the 1960s — are drawing new soldiers to their war against multiculturalism and non-whites. These groups are almost always Christian.

Given the right circumstances and motivations, I can envision Evangelical churches, pastors, and parents encouraging children to be soldiers in the Christian God’s Army. One need only watch how Westboro Baptist Church uses children to promote bigotry and hatred. Is it really a stretch to think that rabid Christians could turn to violence to advance their agendas? And even if you think I am out of my mind to believe that such things are possible, consider the fact that millions of American children are taught that there is no greater privilege than to give one’s life for Jesus. Be it in a life devoted to servitude or being martyred, these children are taught, “only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last” – Only One Life by C.T. Studd. (Please see The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss, A Book Review) Martyrdom is very much a part of the many Christian sects. What better way to prove one’s faith than to die for it?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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7 Comments

    • Avatar
      missimontana

      Wow. After reading all these comments, I’m glad I was raised in a church where the pastor refused to allow politics in church, and who insisted we pray for world peace. Yes, even for Communists 😁

  1. Avatar
    Matilda

    Mea culpa, when leading kids’evangelism, I leapt about at the front many times as I taught the children the actions to this song. We did stop using it in latter years, as with ‘Deep and Wide’ and ‘There is a fountain filled with blood,’ when it dawned on us it was blood lust pure and simple.
    Re: raising soldiers in a holy war, I used to read x-tian adoption blogs, many by USA parents who’d had a hotline message from on high to rush abroad to rescue thousands of heathen babies. Some admitted they did this cos god specifically told them to raise x-tian warriors for the battle against islam which was coming one day.

  2. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Interesting that this article came out when it did- I saw two books I’d like to read, one is ” Christian against Christian ” and ” Blood on The Altar,” by Tom Horn. It’s basically about how liberal believers are at loggerheads with the ultraconservative, Dominion types. While looking for other books,those popped up. Separation of church and state is the only thing keeping us safe from Sharia laws and other crackpot creeds !! The right- wingnuts don’t get THAT part !

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I was a child in the 70s and 80s, and I definitely got the “soldier for Christ” training. I remember as a young teen, during Reagan’s first term where jingoism and anti-Communist and Cold War rhetoric were at their height, in youth group we played a game called “Christians and Communists”. It was played outdoors in the dark on church grounds. Each kid was assigned to a team, but we had no idea who was on our team. Communists were supposed to identify and capture Christians. Christians were supposed to not get captured before making it to honeymoon base. Communists were allowed ro lie about their status, but Christians were required to remain truthful. It was a fun game, but I see how it was problematic.

    Around the same time period, 1982 or 83, the church youth group put on a musical that was army-themed. We were all soldiers for Christ, wearing our camo costumes and crawling across the stage as the smoke machine created a battlefield aura, along with martial music and flickering lighting to simulate war.

    In retrospect, that’s some fucked up shit to be teaching young teens. Onward Christian soldiers and all that shit. We were supposed to feel honored to potentially die for Christ. (Secretly, I was terrified and figured I would lie about being a Christian if I had to).

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    I grew up Roman Catholic. I never heard of camps like the one OC describes until I became an Evangelical Christian.

    The draft and Vietnam War were in full force. (In an earlier guest post, I mentioned that, as an altar boy, I served at the funeral of a classmate’s brother who died in ‘Nam.) So was the Cold War. Many of my peers had fathers, uncles or other relatives who fought in World War II or Korea. So there was an unspoken, unwritten expectation that those of us who were being raised as male would go to fight the “Godless Communists” if called upon. (Volunteering for the battle was encouraged.)

    I think Communist countries were among the few, if not the only, ones who waged war without a supposed deistic or divine rationale. Pretty much every other nation has sent their troops into battle with the belief that God (or whatever deity ) was on their side.

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Bruce Gerencser