Some Christians may have trouble accepting the idea that militant Christians even exist, especially given how popular the belief is that Christianity is a religion of peace and love. The truth is, though, that Christianity is not inherently any more peaceful or loving than other religions — and Christians are more than capable of becoming militant in the interest of pursuing their religious agenda. To deny this is to deny reality.
Jeff Sharlet writes in Rolling Stone about BattleCry, the largest youth crusade group in America:
"When you enlist in the military, there's a code of honor," [Ron] Luce preaches, "same as being a follower of Christ." His Christian code requires a "wartime mentality": a "survival orientation" and a readiness to face "real enemies." The queers and communists, feminists and Muslims, to be sure, but also the entire American cultural apparatus of marketing and merchandising, the "techno-terrorists" of mass media, doing to the morality of a generation what Osama bin Laden did to the Twin Towers. "Just as the events of September 11th, 2001, permanently changed our perspective on the world," Luce writes, "so we ought to be awakened to the alarming influence of today's culture terrorists. They are wealthy, they are smart, and they are real." ...
"The devil hates us," he exhorts, "and we gotta be ready to fight and not be these passive little lukewarm, namby-pamby, kum-ba-yah, thumb-sucking babies that call themselves Christians. Jesus? He got mad!" Luce considers most evangelicals too soft, too ready to pass off as piety their preference for a bland suburban lifestyle. He hates what he sees as the weakness of "accepting" Christ, of "trusting" the Lord. "I want an attacking church!" he shouts, his normally smooth tones raw and desperate and alarming. He isn't just looking for followers -- he wants "stalkers" who'll bring a criminal passion to their pursuit of godliness.
If a Muslim imam gave a speech similar to what's described above, I suspect that we'd be hearing it all over conservative Christian media — Christians would be complaining loud and long about the threat of Muslim extremists and terrorists. Luce says that Christians ought to be awakened to the influence of "culture terrorists," but the rest of society needs to be awakened to the influence of extremists like Ron Luce. If someone like Luce isn't an extremist and a militant, then how can those labels be applied to atheist critics of religion and theism?
Just in case you want to excuse the above statements and simple metaphors to get listeners passionate about Christianity in their lives, consider:
"This is a real war," Luce preaches. When he talks like that, he growls. "This is not a metaphor!" In Cleveland, he intercuts his sermons with videos of suicide bombers and marching Christian teens. One of the most popular, "Casualties of War," features an elegiac beat by a Christian rapper named KJ-52 laid over flickering pictures of kids holding signs declaring the collapse of Christendom...
Ron Luce regards the conflict between his brand of Christianity and secular culture as very real. He also believes that there is a conflict between his brand of Christianity and everyone else who considers themselves a Christian. Luce believes that he is leading a movement of "hard core" fundamentalism that will — he hopes — radically reshape the future of America and Christianity:
[H]e also knows that from their numbers, he's growing a new hard core for American fundamentalism. Luce recruits the politically powerless -- kids too young to vote. "That makes 'em want to fight," he tells me backstage after one of his events. "They get so livid. They're mad. They've been very cleverly marketed to. Kids started finding out that we cannot just stand back and let these people do this to us." ...[his shows are not] meant to save souls -- most of the kids say they accepted Jesus when they were four or five -- but to radicalize them. ...
Luce selected more than 6,000 for his Honor Academy, some of whom become political operatives, media activists and militant preachers who then funnel fresh kids into the Academy. It's a vertically integrated movement, a machine that produces "leaders for the army," a command cadre that can count on the masses Luce conditions as its infantry.
Ron Luce believes that soon America will only be 4% Christian — at least, as he defines what it means to be a "Christian." For him, self-professed Christians who don't meet his definition seem to be just as much of a threat as secular, irreligious atheists like me. He himself, however, is the danger to America: to secular democracy, to civil society, and to domestic tranquility. Both atheists and Christians, not to mention adherents of other religions, have good reasons to worried about Ron Luce's brand of Christianity — a brand that is undeniably militant in character. You can't use such militant language, all the while denying that you mean it in a metaphorical way, and not end up with some violence at some point.
When Christians start to whine and complain about "militant" atheists, be sure to point them to Ron Luce and ask them whether his movement qualifies as militant or not. If so, demand that they explain how and why any atheists are militant in any analogous manner — and why they treat atheists as more of a threat than Luce. If they deny that Luce's movement can be described as militant, then perhaps you should just turn and walk away because I doubt you're dealing with a person with whom any sort of reasonable, productive conversation is possible.