The American Tract Society has developed a closer relationship with the Pentagon, and according to the Religion News Service, has plans to supply its chaplains’ office with hundreds of thousands of evangelistic pamphlets in the next year.
“My general goal is to get as many tracts in circulation as I can,” Dan Southern, president of the Dallas-based society, told RNS. “Wherever I have the opportunity, I take advantage of it. It could be any place. This happens to be an opportunity that the Lord has given us.”
The American Tract Society was invited by a Pentagon chaplain to send tracts to fill racks in several locations, including just outside a memorial for Sept. 11 victims who died when a plane crashed into the building. Pentagon officials say the relationship with the society is just one way the military works to meet the religious needs of its people.
Pentagon Chaplain (Col.) Ralph Benson contacted the society, founded in 1825, about providing evangelistic materials to supplement literature already displayed from Jewish, Muslim and other Christian sources. Tracts and booklets are displayed in large racks, such as one outside a prayer room on a third-floor corridor, as well as smaller racks in areas where “chaplain liaisons” conduct studies of the Bible, Torah and Koran, he said.
Southern spoke at a Pentagon prayer breakfast last October, adding his name to a list of visiting religious dignitaries that includes evangelist Franklin Graham, evangelical author Rick Warren, rabbis, imams and a representative of the Hindu faith.
“I know you live in an environment that’s very structured and there are rules that you have to follow, but there are opportunities in your life where you can articulate the gospel,” Southern told 50 people gathered in the Pentagon’s executive dining room for the prayer breakfast, which was hosted by the Christian Embassy, a Washington-based evangelical organization.
He told Religion News Service that his ministry is raising $25,000 to supply the Pentagon with about 250,000 tracts annually. The pamphlets feature inspirational messages with a variety of themes, ranging from former pro football player Reggie White to the late President Ronald Reagan to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Although the tract society plans a year-round effort, Benson said one particular tract packet has received lots of attention. The packet featured a voter registration application, a “God Bless America” flag and a message that reads “The Choice is Yours.”
“All it did was encourage people (about) the importance of voting and making a decision to vote,” said Benson, a colonel in the U.S. Army. “It had absolutely nothing political in it whatsoever.”
The tract discussed the importance of voting but turns to an evangelistic message that ends with an encouragement for readers to say “I have voted for Jesus as my Savior today.”
He said hundreds of people – out of a total of some 25,000 civilian and active-duty employees in the building – registered to vote as a result of the packets and he has seen some Pentagon employees with the small American flags.
“Some of the people...taking them were our cleaning personnel,” he said. “They’d have them on their carts.”