This was the letter that opened the event. Its author was George W. Bush. Yes, the president of the United States sent a letter of support, greeting, prayer and encouragement to the BattleCry event held at Wachovia Spectrum Stadium in Philadelphia on May 12. Immediately afterward, a preacher took the microphone and led the crowd in prayer. Among other things, he asked the attendees to Thank God for giving us George Bush.
On his cue, about 17,000 youths from upward of 2,000 churches across America and Canada directed their thanks heavenward in unison.
Throughout the three and a half hours of BattleCrys first session, I thought of only one analogy that fit the experience: This must have been what it felt like to watch the Hitler Youth, filled with self-righteous pride, proclaim the supremacy of their beliefs and their willingness to shed blood for them.
A man of imposing size sat down next to me and my friends and asked us if we were planning any disturbances.
And lest you think this is idle paranoia, BattleCry founder Ron Luce told the crowds the next morning (May 13) that he plans to launch a blitzkrieg in the communities, schools, malls, etc. against those who dont share his theocratic vision of society.
But back to the first rally, on May 12. Shortly after we sat down, Tom, a man of imposing size who appeared to be a BattleCry security staffer, sat down next to me and my friends and asked us if we were planning any disturbances. I dont know how BattleCry & Co. knew I was here; they apparently had recognized me from my appearance on The OReilly Factor (video link) in March. I told Tom that we werent planning any disturbances and that, no, I wouldnt like to meet with BattleCry founder Ron Luce after the rally, nor did I want to give him my phone number. Seemingly satisfied, he ambled off. But later on, as I rose to go to the bathroom, I caught sight of another BattleCry security-type following me. It was very unsettling, to say the least.
(While in the bathroom, I saw something equally unsettling--a preteen girl wearing a shirt being sported by many attendees that night: Jesus on the cross, robes waving, and emblazoned across the front the words Dressed to Kill.)
After my bathroom break, Tom, my helpful minder, was replaced by an eerily cheerful young woman who was also obviously one of the BattleCry personnel. She claimed to be simply making sure that my friends and I were happy. She would stop by several times over the course of the concert. I wonder if all attendees got that kind of VIP treatment.
But on to the show.
The first rock band that performed, Delirious, got the crowd festive and up on their feet with lyrics that were projected on large screens so that everyone could join in: Were an army of God and were ready to die.... Lets paint this big ol town red.... We see nothing but the blood of Jesus....
Luce would have us believe that everything went off track when the Bible-toting people of my grandparents generation were replaced by the pew-sitters of the Baby Boom generation. These are the people who, according to Luce, just wanted to passively benefit from the love, joy and peace message of Christianity without actively surrendering their wills and their selves completely upon Christs altar and working in His name.
Yeah, if only people would stop practicing love, joy and peace. Wouldnt that make the world a better place....