Onward Christian Soldiers

"First we get the military, then we get the nation"

As he speaks, the screens show images of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, praying, being baptized in foxholes, and evangelizing. A marine's helmet scrawled with the 23rd Psalm fills the screen. "It is encouraging to see these indicators of faith in the foxhole," says Dees. "But the reality is, too many of our troops are prisoners of war still. Prisoners of war to the master of deceit, these troops do not yet know liberty in Jesus Christ."

The screens yield to a photo of a dead young soldier from Brooklyn Center whose mother is in the audience. Underneath his face are the words "In memory of Sgt. First Class Mickey E. Zaun," which generates another standing ovation.

Another soldier is now onscreen, speaking by video from an undisclosed location. He is the chaplain Lt. Carey Cash, author of A Table in the Presence: The Dramatic Account of How a U.S. Marine Battalion Experienced God's Presence Amidst the Chaos of the War in Iraq ($19.99, W. Publishing Group). He is young and eager, flush with a military crew cut and ruddy cheeks. If Dees is the grandfather of the movement, Cash is the next generation.

Grace Church in Eden Prairie: An intimate house of worship
Michael Dvorak
Grace Church in Eden Prairie: An intimate house of worship

He reiterates all of Dees's talking points and tells his captive Grace Church audience--which includes napping adults, reverent adults, wish-I-was-onstage adults, and bored kids who look at their parents quizzically--"First we get the military, then we get the nation."

Dees wraps up the day's festivities with "God bless Grace Church, God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America," which is followed by a toothy, histrionic blonde who sings an efficient medley of patriotic songs. A few parishioners sing along with their hands over their hearts. Some get up and leave, keen to beat the crowd to the coffee shop and bookstore, and to the parking lot, too.

"America, that's us," finishes Parker. "Around the world, sometimes people hate us. But they hate us for all the right reasons. It's fabulous to be Americans. God has blessed us."

Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or jwalsh@citypages.com.

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