‘They Feel Like We Have An Agenda’: Religion And The Invisible Children Campaign

By Arturo R. García

As the debate continues regarding Invisible Children’s campaign calling for the capture and arrest of Joseph Kony, the matter of faith has been making its way to the forefront, on both sides.

Religion, of course, has been at the center of Kony’s mission with his terrorist group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, as detailed by sources including U.S. military reports and by J. Carter Johnson in Christianity Today six years ago:

Kony, 41, envisions an Acholiland ruled by a warped interpretation of the Ten Commandments. He uses passages from the Pentateuch to justify mutilation and murder. He promotes a demonic spirituality crafted from an eclectic mix of Christianity, Islam, and African witchcraft.

Any resemblance to these religions is superficial: While the army observes rituals such as praying the rosary and bowing toward Mecca, there is no prescribed theology in the conventional sense. Kony’s beliefs are a haphazard mix from the Bible and the Qur’an, tailored around his wishful thinking, personal desires, and practical needs of the moment. Jesus is the Son of God. But instead of saving the world from sin through his sacrificial love on the Cross, he is a source of power employed for killing those who oppose Kony. The Holy Spirit is not the Divine Comforter, but one who directs Kony’s tactical military decisions.

Despite dabbling in the Bible and the Qur’an, Kony’s real spiritual obsession is witchcraft. He burns toy military vehicles and figurines to predict the course of battles from their burn patterns. He uses reptiles in magic rituals to sicken those who anger him or to detect traitors in his midst. He claims to receive military direction from spirits of dead men from different countries, including Americans. He teaches that an impending apocalypse will usher in “The Silent World,” where only primitive weapons, such as machetes and clubs, will bring victory.

But while Kony’s self-aggrandizing beliefs have been on record, if not the public eye, for years–earning him a dubious endorsement from Rush Limbaugh, as it turns out–the religious leanings of some of Invisible Children’s chosen allies started coming to light last week.

A story by Alternet’s Bruce Wilson revealed that the group’s co-founder, Jason Russell, gave a speech last November at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University likening his organization to the school’s evangelical Christian students (emphasis his):

A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children – because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, “You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God.” And it freaks them out.

Some of the people who appear in the group’s “Stop Kony” video campaign against Kony also share evangelical ties. Among the celebrity allies listed are NFL quarterback and anti-abortion spokesman Tim Tebow as well as megachurch pastor Rick Warren.

The video also depicts Invisible Children members meeting with Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who was serving in the House of Representatives at the time.

Inhofe, who has gained the most notoriety for his attempts to refute scientific evidence of global warming, has also proposed the United States use the Bible as the framework for policy involving Israel; he has also blamed the 9/11 attacks on a lack of support for Israel.

For his part, Brownback has has introduced legislation requiring companies to disclose their use of conflict materials taken from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also been praised as a “Champion of Darfur” by the Genocide Intervention Network for his efforts to resolve tensions in that region.

However, Brownback’s record when it comes to certain U.S. citizens have been decidedly less generous: he has actively opposed abortion rights and LGBT rights while supporting the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

Brownback and Inhofe are also allegedly members of an evangelical group credited with fueling anti-gay legislation in Uganda. According to a book by journalist Jeff Sharlet, the two men are part of The Family, which has been linked with support for a proposed Ugandan bill making homosexuality punishable by death. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who has previously said gay relationships were against God’s will, is reportedly considering the implications of passing the law.

David Bagati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament, told The New York Times that conversations with members of The Family, also known as The Fellowship, provided the impetus for him to submit the bill:

Mr. Bahati said the idea for the bill first sprang from a conversation with members of The Fellowship in 2008, because it was “too late” in America to propose such legislation. Now, he said, he feels abandoned.

“In Africa we value friendship,” Mr. Bahati said. “But the West is different.”

Richard Carver, who said he served as president of The Fellowship until August 2011, said members of his group were actively involved in Uganda, including one with close ties to lawmakers. But Mr. Carver said the group never took an official position on the proposed legislation.

“This is a very large group,” said Mr. Carver, adding that “individuals can speak for themselves.”

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this, I read it at Jezebel yesterday and I’m glad Racialicious is also spreading the news. It’s horriffic. They are awful, awful people.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    Wow, this is some disturbing information. Teju Cole really hits it on the nail when he spoke about the dubious mentality of being sentimental when it comes to Africa and pretending to care about human rights and social issues. But, I’m glad this is all coming out now.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    Wow, this is some disturbing information. Teju Cole really hits it on the nail when he spoke about the dubious mentality of being sentimental when it comes to Africa and pretending to care about human rights and social issues. But, I’m glad this is all coming out now.

  • Kat

    American evangelicals have been wreaking havoc in Uganda for quite some time now… All the abstinence only nonsense under PEPFAR… which usually was sold as “it worked in Uganda”. NO! Hell no! It didn’t. What worked in Uganda was a “no grazing” campaign. But that obviously didn’t sound good to Evangelicals. And then Bush’s great friend Museveni also misappropriated some funding.

  • Kat

    American evangelicals have been wreaking havoc in Uganda for quite some time now… All the abstinence only nonsense under PEPFAR… which usually was sold as “it worked in Uganda”. NO! Hell no! It didn’t. What worked in Uganda was a “no grazing” campaign. But that obviously didn’t sound good to Evangelicals. And then Bush’s great friend Museveni also misappropriated some funding.