Sen. Inhofe's "Jesus Thing"

In December, the Oklahoman reported that Sen. James Inhofe had regularly been making trips to Africa, using taxpayer money, in order to spread the gospel of Christ

In the past decade, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Tulsa has made at least 20 trips to Africa as part of a mission that he frequently describes in religious terms.

Inhofe’s African trips have cost taxpayers more than $187,000 since 1999, according to a review of expenses Inhofe and staff members have submitted through the Armed Services Committee.

Inhofe insists that his trips have either been paid for personally or stemmed directly from his work in Congress on humanitarian, national security and economic matters. But Inhofe’s own words make it sound as if these trips are more about using his office and standing as a US Senator in order to evangelize:

Some of the trips have been taken on military planes that cost thousands of dollars an hour to operate. The military does not disclose the cost of flying members of Congress to their destinations.

The trips — which Inhofe has referred to publicly as "a Jesus thing” — have spanned the continent, though the senator has spent most of his time in a few countries, including Uganda and Ethiopia.

In an interview with an Assemblies of God publication in 2002, Inhofe said, "I’ve adopted 12 countries all the way from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, and Gabon in West Africa as far east as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. I’m planning to meet with nine presidents in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. My focus will be to meet in the spirit of Jesus.”

Inhofe said he wasn’t trying to push a specific religious agenda in Africa and that he considered Jesus "a common denominator” in his meetings with African leaders of different faiths … I’m guilty of two things. I’m a Jesus guy, and I have a heart for Africa.”

In fact, in this video posted today by Faith and Action’s Rob Schenck, it sounds an awful like Inhofe is using these trips for exactly that purpose, as he relates how, before his first trip to Africa, he found out that his daughter was also going to be there doing missionary work and told her that “if you go with me, it’s free.”  He also explains that the trips are part of the “politics of Jesus” whereby Christians are instructed to take the name of Jesus to the kings. Being a US Senator, Inhofe says, means Africans think he is important and so he can always get in to see the kings, where he can tell them that he has come “in the spirit of Jesus.”  Inhofe even holds up a copy of the Oklahoman featuring the above-mentioned article to defend himself, saying the article is an example of “persecution” and insisting that he is doing this work as a private citizen before trumpeting the fact that, through his work, he has managed to bring entire African villages to Jesus:

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