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Invisible Children "Kony 2012" Leader Suggests It's About Jesus and Evangelizing

Is one of the biggest viral video in history Christian fundamentalist propaganda? Invisible Children's founder lays out his agenda at Liberty University.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Sean Dreilinger

 

"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." --- Jason Russell,  speaking at Liberty University, November 7, 2011

Is Invisible Children a nonprofit devoted to human needs, or is it a ministry devoted to bringing souls to Jesus ? Judging by a talk co-founder Jason Russell gave last November at Liberty University, it would seem to be a bit of both.

A few days ago, Russell's  Invisible Children nonprofit began to  blitz the Internet with posts on social media promoting the nonprofit's new  KONY 2012 video, which by now has received over 36 million hits. The media campaign has already provoked a  backlash of well informed criticism, from academics and other with expertise concerning Joseph Kony and the LRA, and the conflict in Northern Uganda and the surrounding region (see links and material, below transcript).

Foreign Affairs  charges Invisible Children with misrepresenting the facts, and Foreign Affairs guest contributor Michael Wilkerson notes the  deceptive nature of the KONY 2012 video, narrated by Jason Russell, which mentions only in passing that Joseph Kony is no longer in Northern Uganda (his LRA hasn't operated there for years).  

Another common objection of critics has been that Invisible Children's approach is simplistic and neglects the fact that the Ugandan government (whose armed forces now hunting for Joseph Kony are  accused of rape and looting) has itself been accused of crimes against humanity that at least rival but may exceed those of Joseph Kony and his LRA (see appended story resource links).

Some, such as Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair author Michael Deibert,  warn that Invisible Children's effort, which endorses increased US military involvement in the region, may actually make things worse.

The evangelical magazine  Christianity Today has covered the growing controversy over the Invisible Children publicity campaign, and Invisible Children has issued a  response to the gathering criticism.    

So far few have noticed the decidedly evangelical ties of Invisible Children. But that's not surprising: Judging from the organization's website and promotional material, Invisible Children would seem to be non-religious, purely devoted to the health and well-being of children in Northern Uganda and the surrounding region, to "ending genocide", and to capturing Joseph Kony.

On its face, the effort appears secular, and evangelizing is not mentioned as an objective.

But in a November 7, 2011 appearance at Liberty University, as part of Liberty's Fall Convocation speaker series, Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell hinted that Invisible Children was also an evangelizing effort, and during his talk Russell coached Liberty University students on what could be characterized as extremely low-key, or stealth, evangelism.

Joining Russell onstage during his November 7 Liberty University appearance was Alex Harris, credited with playing a key role in driving Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential bid. At 20:20 into the 39 minute discussion, Harris received a question from the Liberty University student audience - "What is the greatest challenge to the millennial generation, in impacting the world for Christ ?"

Jason Russell fielded the following question from the audience which was, as characterized by Johnnie Moore, Liberty University Vice President of Teaching Projects,"How do you motivate hypocritical, apathetic Christians to, kind of, `get in the fight'? "

What was "the fight"? The message was ambiguous. Earlier in the discussion, Jason Russell had stated his goal of "ending genocide" and capturing Joseph Kony, but that goal seemed framed within the larger project of evangelizing the nations. During the discussion, as a backdrop, hung a blue curtain that proclaimed, "Liberty University: 40 Years of Training Champions For Christ".