Monday, October 10, 2005

[209.1] CHALLENGING THE ARMAGEDDON MENTALITY

Not as in, "yikes! Armageddon outta here fast!" (sorry), but as in the quasi-eschatological fallout from the recently recycled bomber Bush God-shod revelations. The White House press team has spent the last 48 hours in denial mode, but the substantial circumstantial evidence doesn't look too good. Meanwhile, the first-rate Catholic journalist Paul Vallely, who writes for The Independent and The Tabet, among others, has published a typically acute piece (reproduced in Arab News, interestingly enough), which is required reading alongside Stephen Sizer's excellent Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon? (IVP). The latter is a book which shows that the one-size-fits-all media caricature of evangelicals won't do. Meanwhile here's the denoument of Vallely's analysis:

Leaked minutes reveal that George W. Bush’s White House has been holding secret meetings with Christian fundamentalists who believe that the Second Coming of Christ can happen only after Israel’s re-emergence as a nation, which is why support for Israel is at the very top of the Christian right’s agenda.

They also believe that the great Jewish Temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt for a third time before the Messiah can return. That will mean knocking down the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s holiest shrine after Makkah and Madinah. So conflict with Muslims is both necessary and desirable. One of the leaders of these End-time Christians claims he is given telephone briefings by the White House at least once a week.

This is not a fringe activity. There are estimated to be as many as eight million pre-millennial Christian fundamentalists in America for whom Armageddon is always just around the corner. The White House can deny all it likes that Bush said the words at the center of the current controversy. But there can be no doubt that the president’s religious thinking has shaped the world we now find ourselves in.

Nor is there any doubt how dangerous it is. It allows him to dwell happily with insufficient real knowledge about those he has branded as the enemy. It creates in him a delusional sense that he and his nation have been chosen by God for special responsibilities and special favors — fostering the perilous perception that his norms are absolute norms, his form of government automatically superior to all others, and his spiritual tradition the only really true religion.

And, most dangerously, it allows him to classify “the other” as evil. Demonizing our opponents is the psychological equivalent of declaring war. We cut off the possibility of dialogue.

In the process we absolve ourselves of any obligation to treat them as human beings. And we let ourselves off the hook of having to ask what part our own actions may, even in a small way, have contributed to the problem. There is plenty about that in the Bible.

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2 comments:

RecusantRector said...

I have been reading about this recently in Gershom Gorenberg's excellent book End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, available from Amazon. Gorenberg has a very interesting perspective, in that as an Israeli Jew he is close enough to gain access to and the trust of the various Christian and Jewish Messianic groups, and yet the journalistic credentials to be amused by the conjunction of contradictory belief-systems. Recommended!

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