A Guy Called Satan

By Matt Bivens

Oct 17, 2003

I've a vague recollection of Comedy Central's "Daily Show" reporting that the outcome of war in Iraq would hinge upon which God was more powerful -- the Muslim or the Christian. (Never mind that the Koran says they're the same god.) The punch line was something about the real threat being India -- because Vishnu has eight arms and might be able to take Jesus in one-on-one combat.

These days reality out-parodies parody. Enter the man who Donald Rumsfeld this summer put in charge of finding

Osama bin Laden: an evangelical Christian and the former commander of the Army Special Forces, Lt. General William G. Boykin.

Daily Outrage readers may remember Boykin from April, when he was hosting a live-fire Christian retreat for Southern Baptist clergy. (Every priest should have a working knowledge of how to use a knife and night-vision goggles to clear a room.) Instead of being called on the carpet, Boykin was promoted. He's now a deputy undersecretary of defense tasked with hunting down "high-value terrorist targets", like bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Boykin has been making the rounds of churches in America with a slide show in which he throws up pictures of Saddam or Osama and then says, "The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He's called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan."

It's possible this is why we can't find Osama or Saddam. We keep looking for this other guy.

As to the terrorists, "They're after us because we're a Christian nation."

Boykin has also been telling churches about meeting a Muslim fighter in Somalia who had bragged on television that Allah would protect him from the American military. "Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol," Boykin says. After the Somali was captured, Boykin says he told the man, "Mr. Otto, you underestimated our God."

Ah, but has General Boykin underestimated Vishnu? Late Friday he was offering apologies for offending anyone and insisting he was "neither a zealot nor an extremist."

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NBC reports Boykin also tells audiences God engineered the mess in Florida so as to overrule the will of the American people, and to install George Bush as president instead of Al Gore: "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."

Thy will be done.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld offers his "freedom is untidy" argument in explaining why he sees no reason to worry his generals are saying Bush was divinely appointed. Church-state watchdogs are, of course, horrified.

"Boykin literally believes that the United States government is engaged in a Holy War. That's totally unacceptable for someone in a top government post," says the Reverend Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "A man who sees the conduct of US foreign policy as some sort of Christian religious crusade should not be making policy."

Absolutely right. So what's President Bush's excuse?

Seriously: Isn't it time some enterprising White House reporter asked the President if he thinks his presidency is divine? (And also whether, as a born-again Christian, he believes Muslims are doomed to burn in hell?)

USA Today back in April offered up a much-discussed profile of George Bush that at the time was noted for breaking the big story the President "gave up sweets just before the war began." (So he's doing his part.) But it also noted, "Interviews with a dozen friends, advisers and top aides describe a man who feels he is being tested." As in, by the Lord: "Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day." Even the former Palestinian prime minister says Bush told him and others in the Middle East: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam."

Are we attacking other nations because the President is hearing voices in his head?

And did God really need to give Bush a heads-up about the need to smite al Qaeda? 'Cause if those collapsing World Trade Centers weren't enough of a hint, one suspects George Bush would have wandered obliviously past that talking burning bush in the desert ...

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Finally, a cool-headed look at our President and the goddies, courtesy of the BBC, which reports: "Those close to Mr. Bush say that [on Sept. 11, 2001] ... he became convinced that God was calling him to engage the forces of evil in battle. ...

"This concept of placing America in God's camp sticks in the throat of a lot of American clergy.

" 'It is by no means certain that we are as pure as the driven snow or that our international policy is so pure,' says Fritz Ritsch, Presbyterian minister in Bethesda, Maryland. The Reverend Ritsch says it also makes their job as clerics harder by giving Christians in America an easy way out. They do not need to examine their souls because their president has told them they are on the side of good. ...

"In fact, nearly all the mainline churches in America oppose this war, including Mr. Bush's own church, the United Methodists. Mr. Bush is certainly not the first president to invoke God in time of war, but his approach is markedly different from his predecessors. During America's Civil War, Abraham Lincoln did not claim that God was on his side. In fact, in his famous second inaugural address, he said the war was a curse on both armies: 'He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came.' "