It’s Armageddon Time
Religion and Politics do not make good bedfellows. They never have. Why is it that we can recognize the danger posed by fundamentalist extremists in other religions but not our home grown religious extremists. I’m talking about the problem with many Conservative Christians in our own country.
Let’s take a look at the relationship between the Christian Right and our present administration. During the 2000 presidential campaign George Bush stated, “I feel that God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it; … I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.” During one debate, Bush stated that: “Christ” was his favorite” philosopher.” He went on to inform the American public that Christ had “changed my heart…When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as Savior, it changes the heart and changes your life.” It also apparently gives one the ability to look into the hearts of others. As he would so often claim, he could look into the heart of a person and know that he is “a good man.” I recall he said this after he had his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, “ I looked into his heart. He is a good man.” One can only wonder if he has looked into the hearts of Rove, the architect of the smear campaign against McCain during the 2000 campaign, or Dick Chaney, the Halliburton mogul; or Rice, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, the vultures of war? Perhaps it isn’t easy to see what isn’t there.
After September 11th Bush addressed the country and speaking in theological language, he referred to the “axis of evil,” stating that “Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war,… and we know that God is not neutral between them.” He told the world that “you are either for us or against us.” The world is, according to Bush, black or white, good or evil, friend or foe; this is absolutist language, the language that conservatives, both religious and political, understand. They knew he was their man. Simple, straight-forward, not introspective; confident, judgmental, self assured and he never makes a mistake, as he recently assured the press. Nothing is ever relative, it is never gray. Just like in the old westerns, good guys wear the white hats and the bad guys wear the black hats. This he can really relate to, as he likes to pretend on the weekends, at his ranch in Crawford Texas, that he is a cowboy. Ever notice how he swaggers when he’s dressed up in his cowboy gear, boots and all. Bang, bang, what a guy. Sure makes me feel safe, how about you?
In an article he wrote in March of 2003 for the Washington Post, Fritz Ritsch asked, “When did the president become theologian in chief?” Well, remember Fritz, he was ”appointed” President by the Supreme Court and apparently “anointed” by God. Or so he believes, and so do many fundamentalist Christians. According to Ritsch, Bush also used the words from a hymn, “There’s Power in the Blood,” in his State of the Union speech. He (Bush) referred to the “power, wonder-working power, of the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people”. The original words to this hymn, according to Ritsch, refer to the “wonder-working power” of “the precious blood of the lamb”, the lamb referring to Jesus Christ. Fundamentalist Christians would have understood exactly what Bush was referring to, as he was talking to them. He knew who his base was and he was talking their language. It was our job, as Americans, to fight evil, and he, being able to look into the hearts of others, knew who the evil ones were and it was his duty to lead us in that fight. So, for the next several months we heard; 9/11 and Sadaam; 9/11 and Iraq; 9/11 and Hussein ‘and so on and so forth. Iraq being, of course, one of the three “axes of evil.” It was al Quaeda that was responsible for the horror of September 11th, most of the terrorists on those planes were citizens of Saudi Arabia! We are still in Iraq, Osama bin Laden is still running around in the mountains of Afganistan attached to a kidney dialysis machine and we can’t find him (until October), but we have Hussein. Are we safer? Just the other day a civilian was beheaded in Iraq, was it just last month that Spain experienced a terrorist attack that killed hundreds? And where are those pesky WMD’s anyway?
Many Christians, especially the Fundamentalist branch, see this war, not as a war against terrorists, they see it as a war against the infidels, good against evil; Christians against Muslims, whose God is Allah, a “different” God. For Conservative Christians this is a religious war.
The conflict in Iraq isn’t the only conflict that has grabbed the attention of Religious Conservatives, as they are also very interested in the on-going conflict between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel. Why is that?
Fundamentalist Christians see biblical prophesy being played out in this part of the world. This conflict fits in with their doomsday philosophy; Armageddon, the end of the world. They subscribe to a world view, or philosophy known as premillennialism. First, let me make it clear that not all Conservative Christians are Fundamentalists, however, most, if not all Fundamentalists consider themselves to be Conservative Christians. This particular philosophy is usually associated with the Fundamentalist branch of Christianity.
Premillennialism refers to the apocalyptic vision many Christians hold of the Last Days, the final war between God and Satan which will end our world as we know it. It is known as the battle of Armageddon. Premillennialism was a theory put forward by a gentleman named John Nelson Darby ( 1800-1882). Darby believed the bible to be literally true, the inerrant word of God. According to Darby, historic time in the bible can be divided up into what he refers to as “dispensations.” During each of these dispensations, of which there are seven, humans have been given laws set forth by God under which they are to lead their lives, and in each instance they have failed. Because of their pre-disposition towards wicked behavior, God has been forced to punish his creatures in some way. The Fall, the Flood and the crucifixion of Christ are all seen as “dispensations”. We are now in the sixth dispensation which is considered the ‘penultimate” dispensation.
According to this worldview, the Antichrist (the False Redeemer) will return before the end as predicted by St .Paul in II Thessalonians 2: 3-8. This Antichrist will deceive the world, he will be quite charismatic and many will be fooled by him. To be even more devious he may appear as a “peacemaker.” So, most Fundamentalists who subscribe to this theology are highly suspect of anyone who preaches peace. War is inevitable and must come to pass before Christ will appear. Here is where it gets tricky, although this trickster, the Antichrist, will make noises about being a peacemaker, he will eventually wage war and Christians will find themselves being persecuted. Notice how often they claim they are being persecuted in our country right now. No matter how hard they try to shove their beliefs down our throats we resist, therefore they are being persecuted, hence the prophesy is correct. .
Christ will come to the rescue and a great battle will ensue between Christ and Satan on the plain of Armageddon outside of Jerusalem; at this time the seventh dispensation will begin. I kid you not, there are Christians buying up real estate near Armageddon so they will have a front row seat for the big day. Here’s the good part, the faithful, those who have been saved in Christ, or” born again,” will be taken up into heaven, referred to as the Rapture. The rest of us the unsaved Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews will be left to suffer through the rough times. Ever wonder why Christians are so obsessed with “saving” people. The more the merrier, and it’s for our own good after all.
Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have written a series of books referred to as the “Left Behind” series. These novels depict the Last Days and have been immensely popular, selling millions of copies. In this series the Rapture is graphically described, pilots of airplanes will suddenly be raptured up leaving the plane without a pilot ( the co-pilot too, presumably) to crash and burn taking all the unsaved with it. Husbands will wake up to a bodiless nightgown, because their wife was one of the “saved,” perhaps the children will be gone too, except the teenagers of course. Cars will become driverless careening down the road killing other sinners and Buddhists or Jews, whatever. This is not a story to them, this is literally what they believe. This belief informs their worldview and their political decisions.
The Jews have a special role to play in this End of Days drama. First it was necessary for them to inhabit the land of Israel again- this would be a sign that the end days were upon us. This happened in 1948 with the Balfour Declaration. Other events such as the six-day war in 1967, the Gulf War in 1991 and the Sept.11 attacks have all fed the fires of their prophetic doomsday expectations. The most important sign, however, is the rebuilding of the Temple. The site for this new Temple is already occupied, unfortunately, by one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Temple Mount, the location of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Which means, well, you get the picture. Both Christians and Jews believe this re-building of the Temple must happen before the Messiah returns. The difference lies is the aftermath; in the Christian version, two thirds of the Jews will not be “saved” and will perish, the rest will “accept” Jesus as the Messiah or burn in hell with the rest of the “unsaved.” The security around this Mosque remains very tight as there are many fundamentalists, both Jewish and Christian who would like to help the prophesy come true in a timely manner. There is an interesting book of fiction written by Robert Stone called “The Damascus Gate.” The story takes place in Israel and examines the many competing interests, political, historical, and religious that have a stake in the future of that land. Here we have Jews, Christians and Muslims all claiming this speck of land as theirs. Many religious fanatics flock there every year creating a dangerous powder keg just waiting to go off. The city is full of crazies just dying for the end to come, there is even a name for this psychosis -- it’s called the “Jerusalem Syndrome.” It’s not a joke, these people are serious, and capable of doing what they believe to be God’s will, even blowing up the Mosque to get things going. Stone’s book is a good read and informs the reader about the seriousness of this belief in the End Times.
Supporters of the Christian Coalition lobby the halls of Congress to make it clear that they see the conflict in the Middle East as a struggle between Jews and Muslims, and they expect Bush to see it that way also. In a Sixty Minutes interview Rev. Jerry Falwell stated that it is his belief that, “…the Bible Belt in America is Israel’s safety belt … there are 70 million of us, and if there’s one thing that brings us together quickly it’s whenever we begin to detect our government becoming a little anti-Israel.” He went on to say that there is nothing, “that would bring the wrath of the Christian public in this country down on the government like abandoning or opposing Israel in a critical matter” The Christian public is, according to Falwell, President Bush’s core constituency. He goes on to say that “I really believe…Ariel Sharon can trust George Bush to do the right thing all the time.” The right thing according to whom? Do we really want biblical literalists to be deciding foreign policy? War is what they want.
The Religious Right believes that God gave Israelites that land which historically belongs to them, every inch of it. What of the Palestinians who inhabit that land? They are, according to Conservative Christians, in the way and must be removed in order for the prophesy to be fulfilled, no matter what. They are Arabs and they worship the “wrong” God. They are doomed to burn in hell anyway, unless they convert. Jews are part of the story but it’s really only about the “saved” Christians in the end.
Many Fundamentalists believe that when Prime Minister Rabin signed the Oslo Peace accords to trade land for peace it was going against the will of God and that was why he was assassinated. Beware the peace-maker. They like the warlord Sharon who started this latest conflict by taking a stroll around the Temple Mount. He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew how offensive it was to Muslims to desecrate their holy place in such a way. Sharon, the Jew, played the tough cowboy and our Christian Conservatives like the tough cowboy image, and they love the ” bring ‘em on” style of our very own cowboy Bush and his vultures of war. They even like Tony Blair now that he seems to have been possessed by a war demon. If it all goes to hell in the Middle East it will just prove that they were right all along. We “bleeding heart liberals” are nothing but a bunch of peaceniks standing in God’s way.
Yes, we hear that all the time, Ann Coulter proclaims that Liberals “hate America.” If we do not support the war in Iraq, political conservatives, claim we are “unpatriotic.” If we do not support Israel implicitly we are not Christians, nor do we support democracy. Black or white, never shades of gray. There are good guys and bad guys, it’s all so simple. No it isn’t. Peace and reconciliation are not easy, it is very difficult, but it is the high road we must take. It is time now for all people of faith to stand up for peace, join hands and speak as loudly as our war obsessed brethren do. People of “Reason” are actually the majority, we have just been too polite in the aftermath of 9/11, We did not want to cause division in this country, we wanted to be united and we were, with our own citizens and the rest of the world that mourned with us. Now the gulf that divides us is greater than it has been for generations, both in our own country and in the rest of the world. Our present administration appears to be out of control, as we have seen during the last week with the Iraqi prison abuse scandal. It’s time to take our country back and it’s time for Christians who follow the prince of peace, not the war God, to take Jesus back and redefine the terms of what being a Christian is all about.
“The family of man is bound up in the sacred. We cannot allow it to die without strangling our blood ties to a deeper reality; that we all come from one place that we are on a journey toward a greater good, that our every act is being weighed from a cosmic perspective.” Deepak Chopra from “ How to Know God.”
Sandi Magathan Droubay lives in Pensacola Florida with her
family. Pensacola is known as one of the most conservative cities in the U.S
and home to Scarborough Country. “Since I’ve lived here we’ve had one school
board member jailed, four out of five county commissioners brought up on
criminal charges, several abortion clinic bombings, two abortion doctors
killed, and 51 stellar members of the community arrested in a huge cocaine
bust. The beaches, however, are beautiful.” Ms. Magathan has an M.A. in
Religious studies. She can be reached at:
Droubay2@cox.net. This article first
appeared in OpEd News.com.