The god of war
Territorial Army troops from 205 Battery based in Northfield Gardens, South Shields are going to be taking bibles into combat with them, kindly provided by the Gideons. The battle bibles are being issued to troops with the full support of their officers.
Captain James Foster, said:
“Our intent here at 205 battery is to present each soldier going on an operational tour with the new pocket-sized Gideon’s bible.”
Does that include Muslim, Hindu and atheist soldiers? Contrary to cliche, there are atheists in foxholes and troops of all denominations serving. It is worrying though, that rather than take a secular approach ensuring everyone is treated with equal respect, officers are using their rank to proselytize to troops about to go into a dangerous and stressful environment, and cheerily publicising it in the press too. You couldn’t get a better way of confirming the worries of religious colonialism felt by many Afghans, and feed the propaganda of insurgents who insist that coalition troops are fighting a religious war.
“I feel it’s a little book that can bring an awful lot of comfort.”
The Bible is also a book featuring God-sanctioned slavery, rape, incest, war, conquest and ethnic cleansing.
If you want to look for further suggestions that the British and American occupation of Afghanistan has a religious facet you need look no further than the biblical Gideon himself. The bible organisation’s Gideon didn’t mind a scrap, for territory and for his god. In the Bible, Gideon and his three hundred men were able to defeat enemies with faith in, and help from, God. The message is simple: obey orders like good soldiers and your god will deliver you victory.
And if you had any doubt, for good measure, Gideon’s name can translate as “Destroyer” or “Mighty warrior”. That’s mighty comforting.
But don’t just take it from me, David Hoskins on behalf of Gideon’s International said:
“We just hope they will give some comfort to those who receive them.”
There’s that comfort word again. I’m sure many Christian soldiers in war zones will find comfort in their holy book, however if I was on the front line, I would prefer the Gideons giving me extra body armour, or even better, campaign to bring the troops home. Instead though, they’d prefer to try to gain new Christian converts amongst soldiers in stressful conditions, all with the enthusiastic support of their officers.