Evangelical Christian missionaries embedded with American combat troops in Afghanistan
by Mikey Weinstein
Missionaries shown distributing New Testament in Arabic to Afghani civilians
“Travel the Road”, a popular Christian reality TV series produced by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), follows the travels of Will Decker and Tim Scott, two “extreme” missionaries, as they circle the world fulfilling their mission—“Preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and encourage the church to be active in the Great Commission.”
Season 2 of this series ended with three episodes filmed in Afghanistan—Journey to the Line: Afghanistan: Part 1, Terrors of the Night: Afghanistan: Part 2, and Fog of War: Afghanistan: Part 3. For these episodes, the missionaries were completely embedded and, thus, actually permitted to stay on U.S. military bases, travel with a public affairs unit, and accompany and film troops on patrols, all for the purpose of evangelizing Afghanis and producing a television show promoting the Christian religion. The number of DoD Public Affairs regulations violated in the military’s participation and assistance in producing a religious program alone is staggering, not to mention other violations (including constitutional) documented in the content of the program, which include the outrageous violation of the United States Central Command’s General Order 1-A, which absolutely prohibits any proselytization whatsoever in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. In complete disregard of this bedrock standing order, the U.S. Army facilitated these evangelizing Christian missionaries in their distribution of New Testaments in the Arabic native language (“Darri” dialect) to the Afghani people.
The clips in this video are all from the program’s third Afghanistan episode, with the e xception of the second clip, which is from the first episode. The chaplain in that clip, who expresses his delight about being able to talk to the Afghani people about Christianity and the possibility of a “revival” in their country, is Capt. Brad Hanna of the Oklahoma National Guard. After returning from Afghanistan, Capt. Hanna was made a full-time support chaplain for the Oklahoma National Guard. Also facilitating the numerous constitutional, regulation, and general order violations perpetrated in the making of these episodes was SSgt. Sheldon Hoyt, who was in Afghanistan at the time with Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment. SSgt. Hoyt, who is frequently mentioned by the evangelizing Christian missionaries throughout the “Travel the Road” episodes, appears to have been more involved with their crusade than just being assigned by the Army to assist them, being a regular participant on the “Travel the Road” internet message board that they hosted for several years.
A short clip of the video is available here on the Military Religious Freedom Foundation web-site.
A longer segment of Travel the Road’s third Afghanistan episode can be viewed on YouTube.
MRFF also has a clip from another video “God’s Soldiers”.
On September 10, 2008, the Discovery Channel’s Military Channel aired a two-hour program titled “God’s Soldier.” Filmed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) McHenry in Hawijah, Iraq, the program’s credits say it was “Produced with the full co-operation of the 2-27 Infantry Battalion “Wolfhounds.’”
The co-producer of “God’s Soldier” was Jerusalem Productions, a British production company whose “primary aim is to increase understanding and knowledge of the Christian religion and to promote Christian values, via the broadcast media, to as wide an audience as possible.” In its attempt to get non-Christians to watch Christian programming, the company “focuses on those programmes which are broadcast outside designated religious slots and which appeal to an audience which does not necessarily have an active Christian commitment.”
The Military Channel’s description of the program was highly deceptive and inaccurate: “Follow a group of U.S. Army Chaplains from different faiths on a tour of duty in Iraq as they comfort wounded and dying soldiers, reassure panicked and depressed soldiers, as well debriefing those soldiers that return from their tours of duty.”
There was no “group” of Chaplains or representation of different faiths. The entire two-hour program was about one Christian chaplain, Capt. Charles Popov. This was Christian programming marketed to a mainstream audience with the help of the U.S. military.
Bible verse text captions that appearing between segments of the program included “I did not come to bring peace, but the sword” and “Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may stand your ground.”
As the narrator of “God’s Soldier” introduces Chaplain Popov at the beginning of the program, Popov is standing on on top of what appears to be a building or vehicle, yelling out to the base, “Hey this is God. Come to Bible study tonight at 1900. Purpose Driven Life. You only have 25,000 days in your life, and probably half of it’s gone.”
The next shot of Popov shows him looking out over the base towards the chapel, which, in violation of Army chapel regulations for chapels, has a permanent cross on its door. Later scenes reveal that this cross is actually a large cross shaped window covering about a third of the height of the door.
Popov blessing a group of soldiers about to go out on a patrol: “I pray that you would give them the ability to exterminate the enemy and to accomplish the task that they’re been sent forth by God and country to do. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.”
This is immediately followed by Popov saying to more soldiers: “Every soldier should know Romans 13, that the government is set up by God, and the magistrate, or the one who wields the sword—you have not swords but 50 cals and [unintelligible] like that—does not yield it in vain because the magistrate has been called, as you, to execute wrath upon those who do evil.”
If this “execute wrath upon those who do evil” mantra sounds familiar to the regular readers of our newsletter, it should. This is the same ideology pushed by Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry.
It is also promoted by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren, who stated in a recent interview with Sean Hannity that “the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped…. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers.”
The Purpose Driven Life, as noted in MRFF’s recent exposure of the use of creationism as a means of preventing military suicides, is second only to the Bible itself as the most widely promoted religious book to our military. Clearly, as the first quote above shows, Capt. Popov is one of the many chaplains using this book.
According to the “God’s Soldier” program, “Chaplain (CPT) Charles Popov is currently studying at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina’s US Army Chaplain School in the Army C-4 class, which is preparing him for a Brigade Chaplain supervisory position and the rank of Major.”
Visit the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s web-site at http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/about.html