This essay extends the literature on the militarization of everyday life to argue that contemporary military metaphors and practices have become a generative force animating the sphere of Christian prayer. The wars of the twentieth century and the corresponding process of militarization have affected almost every aspect of social life all around the globe, and prayer is no exception. In the United States, “the capillaries of militarization have fed and molded social institutions seemingly little connected to battle” (Lutz 2002 Lutz, Catherine. 2002. “Making War at Home in the United States: Militarization and the Current Crisis.” American Anthropologist, 104(3): 723–35.: 724). Of course the Bible is full of violent battles and scenes of war, and religious actors have drawn on these images in countless periods throughout history (Niditch 1995 Niditch, Susan. 1995. War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence. New York: Oxford University Press.: 4). Today’s Christian militarization is simply the latest iteration in a long partnership between Christian missions and military expeditions, tropes, values, and logics. Yet in the twentieth century the militarization of daily life in the United States reached new heights and has expanded into new sectors, including research, technology, border patrol, immigration, humanitarianism, education, leisure, aesthetics, and fashion. It is time to examine how militarism has come to be part of the prayer practices of millions of Christians, especially in the charismatic networks that are on the rise across the globe.
This means examining side by side two spheres that are rarely considered together. In popular opinion, prayer is considered personal, holy, moral, beneficent, submissive, and even sacrificial. Militarism, on the other hand, is about dominating through force, and it is collective, violent, and combative, a top-down affair of highly disciplined and aggressive troops and their weaponry, funded and controlled by nation-states. Yet my research shows that prayer has become increasingly militarized during the last several decades.