Sometimes it is necessary to dig deeper behind the news story to really understand what is going on. I truly believe that is what is happening with the escalation of our conflict with Iran and to be honest, it is even more terrifying than it initially appears.
The missing backstory to this warmongering is the belief by many evangelical Christians that a war with Iran (Israel’s archenemy) will trigger the great war of Armageddon, which will subsequently bring about the end of the world.
This administration’s canceling of the nuclear arms treaty with Iran, the moving of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and now the killing of top Iranian officials to provoke war are all being driven by the agenda of a certain group of American evangelical Christians who are its most dedicated and ardent supporters. They believe this will start The Great War of Armageddon.
In the aftermath of the Christianity Today article calling into account his moral turpitude, President Trump needed to shore up his base. He also needed a distraction from his impeachment, especially since every day more news stories come out pointing to the fact that everyone around him saw the illegality of withholding aid from Ukraine and that the action to withhold the aid was clearly being directed by Trump.
Assassinating Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was precisely the distraction Trump needed. Make no mistake, Soleimani was a reprehensible man and an enemy of our country. But I believe the reason Trump acted now was to change the subject and shore up his evangelical supporters. It is the act of a desperate autocrat determined to stay in power by taking an action that will thrill a core group of supporters..
I claim to be an evangelical (my tagline for my blog is “a radical evangelical Lutheran mystic”), which focuses on a personal relationship with Christ. However, there is a different strain of evangelical, the ones the media often refer to as encompassing all evangelical Christians, who are often defined by their political activism and specific theological worldview.
These are many of the religious leaders who are supporting this administration in spite of the utter lack of any apparent Fruit of the Spirit being manifested and an utter lack of character or decency, to say nothing of the fact that Trump claims never to have sought forgiveness from God.
One of the core convictions of this strain of evangelicalism is that there will be a rapture. The rapture is a belief that evangelical Christians will be taken to heaven prior to the great war of Armeggedon.
This is based on an interpretation of the last book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation. It is also the theme of the “Left Behind” series as well as a number of other books focused on “The End Times.” Because of their belief that they will be raptured, these evangelicals believe they will be saved them from all the suffering that will come as a consequence of actions like a massive war that consumes the Middle East, the war of Armageddon.
I have an entirely different view of what the Book of Revelation means, one that could encompass many blogs and has been the subject of several sermon series I have done. For the sake of brevity, suffice it to say that I believe that it is a book of hope that reminds us that God is present in times of suffering, for every time and place, and in the end, God wins. It isn’t a road map or puzzle as to how the world ends that we are supposed to figure out.
One of the reasons that I am such a proponent of the separation between church and state is that I don’t want the state defining my practice of religion or interpretation of Scripture. And I certainly don’t want state policies to be defined by religious views and theological interpretations with which I vehemently disagree.
This same group of evangelical Christians who support this administration often decry Sharia Law whenever a Muslim is elected to office because they are fearful that Islamic principles will define their public policy.
What is happening now with the current surge to war with Iran is no different, except it is a strain of an interpretation of Christian theology defining public policy. The consequences are dire and I am afraid that we will all be left behind to deal with its consequences.