“Adopt a refugee,” the church bulletin urges. This Protestant church is encouraging each of its members to donate money, clothing, and personal items to the ethnic Albanian of his choice. On a marquee in front of an ornate Catholic church outside O’Hare Airport are the words, “Father, protect the refugees, in Jesus’ name. Amen.” An ad in the Rockford Register Star announces an evangelical rock band’s “Concert for the Kosovar Refugees.” And church leaders—from local priests and pastors to heads of synods, traveling speakers, and televangelists—seem to agree with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair that Slobodan Milosevic is the latest incarnation of Hitler. American Christians, it seems, are “sending a message” of their own to the people of Serbia.

It is a message not readily understood by Serbian Orthodox immigrants to America. “Don’t they know the KLA is an Islamic terrorist group?” they ask. “Don’t they realize that the Serbs are their Christian brothers and sisters?” Persecuted Christians from around the world are also puzzled. “Where was the outrage concerning Rwanda?” “Why are American Christians indifferent to the hostility faced by their brothers and sisters in China and India?”

American believers who back NATO are not self-consciously “social-gospel” liberals. Many are members of the Christian right. Indefatigable in their opposition to abortion and homosexuality, they continue to press for federally—now imperialistically—imposed morality, abstracted from any historical context, and derived largely from popular sentiment.

What the Serbian-Americans may not know is that American Christians have engaged in bizarre, anti-scriptural “moral” crusades for nearly 200 years. Beginning in the mid-17th century with the “Great Awakening,” colonial Americans (particularly in New England) began to identify less with their churches’ confessions (Savoy, Westminster, London, or the 39 Articles) and more with the spirit of revival. Parish life began to centralize around tent meetings, conversion experiences, and “excitements.” An ecumenical homogenization was born.

Despite their reputations as radically austere Puritans, both Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards engaged in this ecumenism, testifying to their hopes that a Protestant coalition of Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Anglicans would fulfill the “city on a hill” vision of the first generation of Puritan immigrants, culminating in the millennial reign of Christ through His American church. This vision led many to support the wars against the French and the Indians, and then the American Revolution.

The push toward ecumenism produced an increasingly feminized coalition of evangelicals. Women, warned an angry Charles Chauncy, are more likely to swoon in the wake of the revival “excitements.” The “Second Great Awakening” of the 1820’s, led by lawyer Charles “I’ve-been-retained-by-Jesus- Christ” Finney, played upon sentiment by employing “new measures” like the “anxious bench” where revival audience members fraught with guilt could come and get right with Cod. Finney, who deplored the idea of the imputed righteousness of Christ, instead thundered against slavery and alcohol. Thousands of women and men came forward at the end of each meeting, determined to fight society’s ills and save the Great Christian America.

Thus began a seemingly uninterrupted chain of social battles fought by evangelical coalitions led mostly by women. Often the sentiment behind these battles contradicted the direct teaching of Scripture. Though St. Paul said, “Slaves, obey your masters,” and ordered Onesimus to return to Philemon, these early evangelicals crusaded as Abolitionists and elected President Lincoln, who brutalized the South and destroyed states’ rights. Though the biblical world is a world of patriarchy—stemming from the doctrine of the Holy Trinity—they campaigned for women’s suffrage, helping to destroy the solidarity of the family. Though the Psalmist praised wine as a gift from God that “gladdens the heart of man,” and our Lord Himself mandated its use, they crusaded for Prohibition, resulting in the advent of organized crime. Now, with the Pill in one hand, they hold up signs with the other that say, “Abortion Kills Children.”

“Adopt a refugee” campaigns in churches across America are not about loving one’s enemy. They are a cathartic response to 24-hour-a-day CNN broadcasts of people huddled in tents in Albania and Macedonia. They carry with them the sentiments of Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, molded by two centuries of American evangelicalism. Articles reminding us that ethnic Albanians are responsible for the heroin trade in Europe and for teenage prostitution in Italy and have engaged in terrorist acts against the Serbian police simply cannot trump the sentiments that arise when evangelicals view footage of crying children.

We do not see footage of dead Serbian children or their crying mothers, and so the Serbs become a mere afterthought—collateral damage, a necessary evil, like the ravaging of Atlanta and Columbia in the mid-1860’s. Nonetheless, the fact remains that 10,000 hours of Christiane Amanpour and Geraldo Rivera could not diminish the resolve nor confuse the loyalties of a people with an identity established not by cause or sentiment, but by the Nicene Creed. Save for a small remnant, that type of American Christian has long since perished from the earth.