Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: Is the Advance of God's Kingdom through Missions Being Confused with the Advance of American Hegemony through the Military?

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: Is the Advance of God's Kingdom through Missions Being Confused with the Advance of American Hegemony through the Military?

Article excerpt

For well over a decade, the evangelical church has paid close attention to an area called the "10/40 Window," a term coined by Argentinean evangelist Luis Bush. This area, demarcated by a giant rectangle between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, stretches from western Senegal to eastern China and contains the "core" of people who have had little or no exposure to the gospel. Close to 4 billion people inhabit the 10/40 Window, including 90 percent of the world's "poorest of the poor," according to Window International, an organization spearheading much of the 10/40 movement.

In focusing mission efforts on this swath of the globe, evangelicals have come to believe that two spiritual "forces" exist in the center of the 10/40 Window. Missions researcher George Otis Jr. refers to these powers as "the prince of Persia (Iran)" and the "spirit of Babylon (Iraq)." Otis and others believe that these strongholds must be "penetrated" by the gospel in order to be faithful to the commands of Jesus.

But this geographic and spiritual bull's eye has captured the imagination of more than just American evangelicals. It is also a region of utmost importance to current foreign policy-makers within the U.S. government, which has waged two wars during the last three and a half years in the heart of the 10/40 Window.

Many evangelical churches are not only launching bases from which missionaries are sent to the far reaches of the globe, but also wellsprings of support for George W. Bush's foreign policy. It is out of these same communities of Christians that an aggressive political vision has begun to ride shotgun with a pre-existing commitment to reach the nations with the gospel.

Are White House speeches--and, worse, many worshipers in American pews--confusing the advance of God's kingdom through missions with the advance of American hegemony through the military?

From the White House, President Bush has repeatedly adorned his foreign policy with strong evangelical overtones. Much of the administration's rhetoric surrounding these two wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) has imbued its policies with a sense of spiritual and moral urgency. As a result, wars conducted against nation-states threaten to link seamlessly with the spiritual battles missionaries have been engaged in for centuries.

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank influencing much of the Bush administration's foreign policy, reveals a strikingly similar map to that of the 10/40 Window. This map, however, carries with it a decidedly different agenda: a blueprint for empire. On its Web site, PNAC proposes a return to a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," claiming the need to "accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles."

According to many in the missions community, PNAC's map is fundamentally opposed to the one that evangelicals have traditionally placed in their sanctuaries and prayer closets. Yet it is largely from the evangelical community that a great deal of support is fueling this neoconservative vision--a vision that many others feel is harming the cause of missions and exacerbating the extremely volatile context in which many missionaries serve.

From the International Mission Board alone, the missionary-sending agency of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, more than 10,000 people are engaged in domestic and international mission, supported by a volunteer force of more than 25,000. In late 2003, the SBC not only sent missionaries to the field, but they also helped draft a letter to the president actually "urging Bush to attack Iraq," according to the Associated Press, claiming that "such an action is well within the bounds of the 'just war' tradition."

Why, if waging war in the 10/40 Window could severely disrupt mission activity, has U. …

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