I learned in Sunday School, as all Christian children do, that the way we are to survive the great spiritual war of daily life is to “put on the full armor of God.” Paul gives this instruction in his letter to Ephesus. The armor, he writes, includes the “belt of truth,” “breastplate of righteousness,” “the shield of faith” and “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
This is about as militant a passage as the song we used to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” We’re not actually marching off to war, and if we were the battle would require different tools. The shield of faith only goes so far in hand-to-hand combat.
But this passage, along with a few other choice verses from the Bible’s New Testament, found there way onto Pentagon cover sheets around the time the United States led an invasion on Iraq. The cover sheets’ existence were recently revealed in a GQ profile of former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, titled “And He Shall Be Judged.”
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” [The quote appears over an image of a tank at sunrise]
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” [The quote appears over an image of a soldier in Baghdad]
“It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” [The quote appears over an image of Saddam Hussein]
“Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, The nation that keeps faith.” [The quote appears over an image of tanks entering an Iraqi city]
Obviously, these passages were stripped of context and re-appropriated for political purposes. But just how bad was it? Well, Manya Brachear relates a sobering comparison:
some Jewish and Christian leaders say that the biblical passages were misused—just as moderate Muslims say Al Qaeda twisted the Koran to justify the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
She goes on in her article, a follow-up on the GQ story for the Chicago Tribune and LA Times, to quote a few of those religious leaders and to question “Whether Rumsfeld acted out of authentic religious motivation or, as some critics have suggested, to sell a war to an evangelical president.”