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Opinion | The Trucker Convoy and The Problem of Being God’s Army

The concept of a “God’s Army” is a compelling and often contentious theme that has surfaced repeatedly in various historical, cultural, and political contexts. At its core, this concept involves groups or movements that claim divine sanction for their actions, asserting that their endeavors are not just ideologically or politically motivated, but are also endorsed, or even commanded, by a higher spiritual authority.

In a report by Vice, one supporter recently wrote: “Once willing to die defending this country, now willing to die protecting my family from what this country has become,”. Another wrote, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Trucker Convoy & God’s ArmyPhoto byPhoto:

“God’s Army” at the U.S. Southern Border

A group calling themselves “God’s Army” organized the “Take Our Border Back” convoy, intending to send a message to the Biden administration about border security. This group, starting from Norfolk, Virginia, planned to hold rallies in Texas, Arizona, and California. They claimed to stand against “globalists” and the perceived threat of illegal immigration.

The formation of the “God’s Army” convoy can be traced back to escalating tensions and legal battles over border enforcement policies in the United States, particularly in Texas. A critical turning point was the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Biden Administration, not the state of Texas, holds jurisdiction over border enforcement. This decision sparked intense reactions, particularly among far-right groups and individuals who viewed it as a federal overreach and a threat to state sovereignty.

The group’s rhetoric includes strong religious overtones, with organizers describing their mission as a “biblical, monumental moment” and a stand against “dark forces of evil.”

Leaders Make Biblical Calls to Supporters

The Broader Context of “God’s Armies”

The phenomenon of groups labeling themselves as a “God’s Army” is not isolated. Across various global contexts, groups have claimed divine guidance or support for their causes, often leading to controversial or extreme actions. These groups range from political and social movements to more militant organizations. The common thread is the invocation of a higher power as justification for their actions, which can lead to a range of issues, from social divisiveness to outright violence.

Challenges and Implications

When groups claim divine sanction, it raises significant moral and ethical questions. It can lead to a dangerous precedent where any action, no matter how extreme, is justified under the guise of divine will.

The emergence of groups like “God’s Army,” which claim divine sanction for their actions, presents a series of complex moral and ethical dilemmas.

These challenges are not only relevant to the members of such groups but also have broader implications for society as a whole.

1. Justification of Actions

One of the primary moral dilemmas is the justification of actions that might otherwise be considered unethical or harmful. When a group believes its mission is divinely ordained, it can lead to the rationalization of extreme behaviors, including violence or the suppression of opposing views. This raises the question of where the line should be drawn between religious freedom and the potential harm caused by actions justified in the name of a higher power.

2. Absolute Morality vs. Pluralistic Ethics

“God’s Army” movements often operate on the premise of an absolute moral framework, purportedly based on divine command. This stance can clash with the pluralistic ethical systems that form the basis of many modern societies, where moral relativism and the coexistence of diverse value systems are the norms. The conflict between absolute and relative moralities poses significant challenges in terms of governance, law, and social harmony.

3. The Challenge of Tolerance

Tolerance is a fundamental value in many societies, but the presence of groups claiming divine backing for often intolerant ideologies tests the limits of this tolerance. Societies must grapple with how to accommodate deeply held religious beliefs while also protecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens, including those who may be adversely affected by the actions of these groups.

4. Impact on Vulnerable Populations

“God’s Army” movements can disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, including minorities, women, and children. The imposition of a particular group’s religious beliefs and practices can lead to the marginalization or persecution of those who do not conform. This raises ethical concerns about the protection of minority rights and the prevention of discrimination.

5. The Use of Religious Rhetoric in Political Contexts

The use of religious rhetoric to further political or social agendas presents a moral dilemma. It often involves manipulating religious sentiments for non-religious ends, which can be seen as a form of exploitation. This manipulation can lead to the erosion of genuine religious values and increase cynicism towards religious institutions.

6. Responsibility and Accountability

Groups claiming divine guidance often eschew traditional forms of accountability, believing that their ultimate responsibility is to a higher power rather than earthly authorities or laws. This lack of accountability can lead to abuses of power and the neglect of the ethical implications of their actions on the wider community.

Historical Examples

Throughout history, various groups have claimed divine guidance or support for their causes, often shaping significant historical events and cultural landscapes. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Crusades (1096–1291): The Crusades were a series of religious wars in the Middle Ages, sanctioned by the Latin Church. Crusaders believed they were fighting on behalf of God to reclaim holy lands from Muslim control.
  2. Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864): Led by Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ, this massive rebellion in China was against the ruling Qing dynasty. It was motivated by a unique interpretation of Christianity.
  3. Islamic State (ISIS) (2014–present): ISIS is a militant group that emerged out of the chaos of the Iraq War and the Syrian Civil War. They claim to be restoring an Islamic Caliphate and justify their brutal tactics through their interpretation of Islam.
  4. Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) (1987–present): A cult-like rebel group in Uganda, led by Joseph Kony, who claims to be a spokesperson of God. The LRA is notorious for its brutal tactics, including the use of child soldiers.
  5. Branch Davidians (1955–1993): A religious sect led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas, known for its tragic end in 1993. Koresh claimed to be a prophet and had a significant number of followers who believed in his divine guidance.
  6. Heaven’s Gate (1974–1997): A religious cult in the United States led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. The group believed in extraterrestrial guidance and famously ended in a mass suicide in 1997.
  7. Shiv Sena (1966–present): An Indian right-wing political party known for its Hindu nationalist ideology. The party often invokes religious themes and claims to be protecting Hindu traditions and values.
  8. Army of God (1980s–present): A Christian terrorist organization in the United States, known for its anti-abortion violence. Members believe they are fighting against the sin of abortion in accordance with God’s will.
  9. Aum Shinrikyo (1984–present): A Japanese doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack. Led by Shoko Asahara, the group combined elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, and Asahara claimed divine powers.
  10. Kach and Kahane Chai (1971–present): Jewish extremist groups founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane. They advocate for Jewish supremacy in Israel and have been involved in various violent incidents, claiming divine sanction for their actions.

The concept of a “God’s Army” presents complex challenges. While freedom of belief and expression is fundamental, the implications of actions taken under the banner of divine authority are profound. It is crucial for societies to engage in open, critical discussions about the role of religion in public life and the limits of invoking divine sanction for political or social causes. As history has shown, unchecked, these movements can lead to significant societal upheaval and conflict.

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