Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iran = Armageddon?

Fascinating post on AlterNet ( from Sarah Posner. There is a slice of evangelical Christianity that insists on seeing the world through the lens of the Book of Revelation, and believing that we are living in the End Times and about to see the Second Coming.

This is really nothing new. Even the first Christians some 2000 years ago thought that they would see Christ return before they passed on. The success of Tim LeHay's "Left Behind" series of novels is just one example of the fascination people have with the thought that current events are playing out Biblical prophecy.

Unfortunately, it also leads to guys like Rev. John Hagee, who believe (or at least sell books claiming) that a coming conflict with Iran is the trigger for the Great Tribulation, Armageddon, and ultimately the establishment of the Second Jerusalem where God will rule over the Earth.

This puts a "Christian" minister in the otherwise-peculiar position of fanning the flames for a war that would kill millions of people. Much like the Inquisitors who burned "witches" believing that they were protecting their eternal souls, Rev. Hagee is proposing to give God a little nudge in the right direction to hurry this Armageddon thing up and get to the Millenial Reign of the Risen Christ.

As if God needed the help. As if the Bible didn't say about the Second Coming that "[n]o one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36, NAS). Or that "[f]or you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:2, NAS).

Saying that we're living in the End Times certainly makes life exciting and interesting. And it obviously sells a lot of books and makes some preachers a lot of money. But getting people all whipped up about it, even to the point of advocating a horrific war, is a real perversion of the message of Jesus. Perhaps Rev. Hagee should be reminded of this admonishment from Isaiah:

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil." (Isaiah 5:20, NAS)

Christian Zionists are dancing the hora in San Antonio. Armageddon appears to be at hand.

As George W. Bush sets his sights on Iran, even Republicans are wondering how to constitutionally contain the trigger-happy king. But for an influential group of Christian fundamentalists -- White House allies that garner not only feel-good meetings with the President's liaisons to the "faith-based" community but also serious discussions with Bush's national security staff -- an attack on Iran is just what God ordered.

Biblical literalists, convened together through San Antonio megapastor John Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI), are now seeing the fruits of their yearlong campaign to convince the Bush administration to attack Iran.

Hagee came to Washington last summer on the warpath, and many Republicans -- and even a few Democrats -- welcomed him as an alleged supporter of Israel. More than 3,500 CUFI members fanned out across the Capitol to meet with their congressional delegations. Televangelist power brokers, like rising star Rod Parsley of Ohio, who serve as directors of CUFI, now proudly display photographs of their meetings with senators, brows furrowed over the seriousness of the task at hand. But probably Hagee's most important meeting was smaller and not public, at the White House with deputy national security adviser and Iran Contra player Elliott Abrams.

Did the two men talk dispensationalism or diplomacy? That the president's top national security advisor on Middle East policy met with the popular author of a best-selling book that claims that God requires a war with Iran demonstrates just how intensely politics trumps policy (and human lives) for this unhinged administration. Emboldened, Hagee returned to San Antonio fretting that "most Americans are simply not aware that the battle for Western Civilization is engaged" and "don't want to believe that Iran would use nuclear weapons against mighty America. They will!" As the bloody fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged last August, Hagee organized a grassroots lobbying campaign to blitz the White House switchboard with callers opposed to a cease-fire. Members were urged to call the White House to "congratulate" Bush on using the term "Islamofascists" and on his "moral clarity."

Armed with blood-red rhetoric and the hubris of the politically connected, Hagee filled his 5,000-seat church for a weekend-long event culminating in his Night to Honor Israel in October. To an eager audience preparing for the end times, analogies to Hitler and denouncement of "appeasement" were flying. Anti-Muslim rhetoric was at a fevered pitch. All of it was dressed up as love and benevolence for God's chosen people. But what masqueraded as Biblically mandated generosity toward the Jews was nothing more than a political rally for a war not just against Iran, but against Islam, and for the dominance of Christianity (Hagee's brand, of course).

By the end of the year, Hagee was warning his followers that Iran was "reloading for the next war," claiming that he had "reason to believe that Iran will face a military preemptive strike from Israel to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," and denouncing the Iraq Study Group as "anti-Israel." Although he had spent nearly a year claiming that Iran intended to destroy Israel, Hagee, in rejecting the ISG's recommendation to diplomatically engage Iran, fumed, "America's problems with Iran have nothing to do with Israel. Iran's president has said he intends to use nuclear weapons against the United States of America. My father's generation would have considered this statement a declaration of war and bombed Iran by this time."

Bush knows Hagee's minions are locked and loaded for a war to end not only all wars, but the world. He might have already signed a secret executive order authorizing military action against Iran. But last week Bush nonetheless lamely tried to bring the rest of the country on board with his tried (but by no means true) device of uttering the words "Iran," "nuclear weapons" and "9/11" in the same breath.

His saber rattling won't work for the majority of Americans outraged by his conduct of the Iraq war and opposed to its escalation. But for his listeners gearing up for the end times -- a segment of American evangelicals increasingly united around this issue -- Bush fired up the grandiose rhetoric of a final showdown: "The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time."

1 comment:

Barnabas41 said...

A New Perspective for Religion-Based Foreign Policy: Former Talk Show Host Challenges Evangelicals’ Politics in New Book

REDLANDS, Calif. – With religious turmoil in the Middle East at the top of international news and religious disputes prominent, religion is at the forefront of discussion in the nation. Author Joe Ortiz presents a study of the Bible based on etymology and disproves many of the principles previously believed by Christians in his book, The End Times Passover: Etymological Challenges to Millenarian Doctrines (now available through AuthorHouse).

Many Christians are anticipating the end of the world, never more than now with the outbreak of Holy Wars and religious terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world. They are also anticipating the Rapture, or the return of Jesus Christ to Earth to rescue the righteous before Armageddon.

By deciphering etymological clues in the Bible, Ortiz reveals proof that Christians cannot count on the Rapture for their salvation. He also argues against a number of recognized Christian principles, including the idea that the Promised Land is located in the Middle East, the belief that human souls go directly to heaven or hell after death and the promise that God’s only children are ethnic Jews.

These truths are particularly important now, as America intervenes in the Holy Wars taking place in the Middle East. “Right wing evangelicals who promote the ‘Left Behind’ doctrine such as Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, Hal Lindsey and others arguably believe that the state of Israel is key to Bible prophecy,’ Ortiz says. “The proponents of this erroneous doctrine have unwittingly been pounding the theological hammers on U.S. foreign policy for over a century, only to drive a bigger wedge between Jews and Arabs who want peace in the Middle East.”

Ortiz argues that Christians should act as peacemakers instead of supporting a military solution to a centuries-old feud. “It took over 20 years of research and writing to provide conclusive answers to the premillennial, dispensational debate,” Ortiz says. “When those preachers and teachers of Bible prophecy read this book, they will soon realize they are promoting a militant and destructive doctrine instead of a genuine gospel of peace.”

A former talk show host, Ortiz was the first Mexican-American in the United States to host a talk show on an English-speaking commercial radio station. He has more than 30 years of experience in social services and communications, most recently as the director of public relations and fund raising for Catholic Charities of San Bernardino/Riverside, Calif., and also managed the organization’s homeless family shelter in Palm Springs, Calif.

His media experience includes more than 20 years reporting and hosting programs on TV and radio, as well as writing for a syndicated publisher in California.

He currently owns his own public relations consulting company, Joe Ortiz and Associates. His first book, Saved? What Do You Mean Saved? was published in 1983.

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