I have been in and around the evangelical church most of my life. It has shaped my worldview on many issues. I consider myself strongly Pro-life, in large part because of what I have experienced and come to understand in the churches I’ve attended.
But there is one issue I have been at odds with this segment of the population for a very long time – its love affair with the modern nation-state of Israel, and the distortions this has brought to Christian worldview.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no different than most Americans or Christians when it comes to the view that a safe haven for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland is an important goal for America to support.
It is the reasons we nurture that goal and the results that follow, that trouble me.
For the past 100 years, there has been a move among the superpowers of the world to create, then support, and to some extent, even sustain a nation-state for the Jewish people in the region of the fertile crescent. In America, this movement was first led by Woodrow Wilson, yet over time, it’s banner has been passed to what is now the “Neo-conservative” movement.
Essentially, the Neo-conservatives and evangelicals have one thing in common – they would do anything to keep Israel alive, strong and under the rule of conservative or Orthodox Jews. Though they share this common goal, their motives are quite different.
For the Neocon, Israel represents the gateway to the spread of the American ideal – American style democracy for the rest of the world. (It is also lead by many conservative Jews who are closely allied with non-Jewish politicians on the Right.) Oddly, their opponents, most notably Jimmy Carter, want to spread some sense of American democracy, “hegemony”, around the globe too (making it hard to understand how a faithful progressive would support this effort), but they take very different approaches to attaining this goal.
The Neocons believe in a truly top down style of leadership in democracy. While this is rather antithetical to the notion of democracy, they look at the American experiment and see that if it had not been for a group of men like Franklin, Jefferson and Adams, we would not have established the United States as we did. Therefore, the Neocons look for potential leaders in other countries and do their level best to help them light the fire within their own countries.
The establishment faction of the American Left believes in the approach of the “world community” coming together – the United Nations should essentially mediate the develop of new democracies – and we should help lead this effort. These two approaches, you might observe, are highly dependent on each other – which is interesting.
And the Neocon effort is also highly dependent on its cheering section – which is comprised of a sizeable segment of the evangelical right. Somehow, the mainstream media overlooks this group’s love affair with Israel and mistakenly lumps other evangelicals in with them. (To be sure, certain evangelical denominations like the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, are completely at odds with the Neocons on issues of foreign policy.) This is surprising given the media bent toward the left, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, and the close connections that exist between right wing foreign policy and Israel.
It is also surprising because the Neocon’s cheering section is highly discreet. Essentially it is made up of two segments of evangelicals – dispensationalists, who are largely Baptist, and charismatics, who are closely connected to the Assemblies of God denomination. And while the dispensationalists have been providing biblical interpretation and intellectual juice to the movement for well over 100 years, it is the charismatic faction that has brought numbers of people and extraordinary zeal to their cause.
Of course, you need to understand what this zeal is all about. Am I saying that Christians, are embracing the leadership of a nation governed by people who deny the Christian belief in the deity of Jesus Christ? Well, actually yes – I am. But why would they do this?
The answer lies in their devotion to a belief that Christ is going to return to the earth in the very near future, that he will return to Israel, destroy his enemies, and in some corners, actually restore the ancient temple and reinstate the system of animal sacrifice.
Now, I’m just going to be blunt here – this last idea bears no relation to any historical Christian belief and I think it is truly an inane interpretation of scripture.
Think about this with some clarity: why would the writers of scripture – who were intentional and instrumental in bringing an end to the system of sacrifice for the very reason that Christ’ own sacrifice was sufficient “once for all” – have written words that someday would become the very words used to help reinstate the system they intended to see terminated for all time?
Yet popular televangelists and preachers, like Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley, John Hagee all preach their own variations on this theme, and dozens of others, largely promoted through the medium of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, sound the constant battle cry for Americans, lead by Christians, to make the pathway clear for Christ’s imminent return in Israel. This, they tell us, will be accomplished first by “winning” the war in Iraq, then ridding Israel of the threat it faces from Iran, and any other nation who would dare step up and threaten the place “where Jesus walked”.
To be sure, it is not just the televangelists and TBN who have actualized this movement. There are literally hundreds of church pastors, “prophets”, “apostles” and “prayer warriors” busily pilfering the pockets of simple grandmothers, and naïve young men who are sincerely and eagerly awaiting Christ’s return, so much so that they allow themselves to be spoon fed “another gospel” than the gospel of salvation through the cross. I know, there are people in my family who have been lead down this path.
Now I have never been one to think of the walk of faith as a mere acknowledgement of one’s salvation. Rather I believe we all have important roles to play because of who we are. My point is that we are foolish to work against the precepts of our own faith, and that is what millions of Christians are being taught they should do.
And this zeal behind the dispensational/charismatic support for the modern state of Israel has become the tool of some very, very bad foreign policy. Foreign policy that even serves to hinder Christianity as it exists around the world.
Most famously, it is worthy of note that the foreign policy of Bush-Cheney-Rice pursues war in Iraq, and somewhat in Afghanistan, and has virtually ignored the genocide in Darfur that is largely perpetrated by radical Muslims against Christians.
And this foreign policy has been wholeheartedly supported by the fanatical segment of evangelical Christians. What are they thinking?
It will not be easy for anyone to step into these circles and turn their followers back to a sensible view of biblical interpretation and Christian faith. I know, I’ve tried. Anyone who does will be met with catcalls, accusations of infidelity to Christ, and sometimes, demon possession.
If you question their positions in any way, you are quickly turned out of dialogue, discussion and any possibility of being heard by these folks. They don’t want to hear it. All they want is a new temple – 2,000 years of Christianity be damned!
Getting the new temple means, establishing a government – that would be Orthodox or at least, conservative Jews – who will see the task through. That means that protection of the state of Israel from anyone who would threaten its most conservative policies becomes an American policy imperative – and applies to anyone who might threaten the state of Israel.
An interesting dynamic that is emerging in this puzzle is the role of China. China now has more evangelical Christians living within its own borders than does the United States. China is also fast becoming one of the foremost allies of Israel– quite interesting indeed. How this will play out is not yet foreseeable – but be sure that the prophets and apostles of the off-the-charts religious right will be pontificating loudly to their own constituencies about whether China is part of “Anti-Christ”, or to be seen as an ally in propping up Israel for Christ’s return.
Regardless, my purpose in making this post, is to try to reach out to the media on the secular left and motivate them to call out the religious right on a matter of substance.
Personally, I have long believed that standing for a “culture of life” as Roman Catholics and other Christians have been doing for a generation, is a noble thing. For just as long, the media has unfortunately pilloried the Right over this stand.
Yet, it would be logical, fair and sound for the media to challenge and raise doubt about the Christian Right on the moral inconsistency and, really, hypocrisy, of preaching about a culture of life while advocating war in Iraq, and remaining shamefully quiet about the genocide in Darfur. Who are these people who would propound such ill teachings? Call them out – name their names – show what they are doing for what it is – misleading their own flock, and perpetrating unending violence in the Middle East.
When that finally happens, perhaps real change can be gained in American foreign policy. Until then, I doubt it will matter who is President, or in Congress. The zealous supporters of Israel won’t give up their swords easily. They will be back!
Filed under: 2008 Presidential race, Congress, foreign policy, Israel, Political Forum, Politics | Tagged: animal sacrifice, another gospel, anti-christ, antichrist, Balfour Declaration, Baptist, biblical, charismatic, China, Christian, church, Condaleeza Rice, Darfur, democracy, Dick Cheney, dispensational, dispensationalist, Episcopalian, evangelical, foreign policy, George Bush, hegemony, intervention, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jerusalem, Jesus Christ, Jimmy Carter, John Hagee, Mount of Olives, Muslim, neo-conservative, neocon, neoconservative, orthodox jew, Osama bin Laden, Pat Robertson, prayer warriors, Presbyterian, pro life, progressives, radical Islam, restoration of the temple, Rod Parsley, Roman Catholic, second coming, second temple, Sudan, the cross, Trinity Broadcasting Network, United Nations, war, Woodrow Wilson, worldview, zealot | Leave a comment »