An advertisement for a trip in May 2022 to Israel and the West Bank

It was happening more than six years ago, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

Newly declassified documents reveal that a series of top secret briefings prepared for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials featured photographs of military scenes overwritten with Bible verses. I don’t know who gets credit for first outing the sadly misguided covers, which could have been featured on an annual Crusader calendar, but you can see a slide show of sample sorriness at the GQ Web site. Robert Parham, over at EthicsDaily.com, has posted a critique that puts the covers in context.

St. Paul once advised believers to “put on the whole armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:3). Can you imagine what the old apostle would say if he knew his words had been sloganized to highlight a fierce tank silhouetted by the sunrise?

The Book of Proverbs advises those who worship God to “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3). Somebody at the Pentagon thought that verse perfectly illustrated a soldier with his machine gun.

1 Peter 2:15 declares, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” On April 3, 2003, that verse appeared over a cover picture of Saddam Hussein speaking into a microphone. The message is clear: “It is God’s will for the U.S. to silence Saddam.”

The dedicated men and women who risk their lives in service to their country should not be turned into Crusaders, and the Bible should not be sliced and diced in service to an ill-conceived war.

With America’s defense officials turning Jesus into a jihadist, is it any wonder that fans of Islamist militancy have found our criticism to be hypocritical?

 

Tony Cartledge is associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School and contributing editor to Baptists Today, where he blogs.

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