The Evangelical Factor

The Evangelical Crackup is a recent, very lengthy op-ed piece from the New York Times that looks at the relationship between the Republican Paprty and the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian community in the US. It is written by David D. Kirkpatrick, who has followed the political activism of evangelicals since the 2000 elections. In a large part, it was the political activism of evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Terry Fox that mustered financial and organization support for the Bush campaign in 2000.

As I have said in earlier articles in this series, the ability to provide money and bodies for a candidate, especially for a successful one, guarantees the provider of that money and manpower a great deal of influence on policy making. I think that the influence of the evangelicals on the present administration’s policies is self-evident on such things as the Terri Schiavo case and in Bush’s choices for the Supreme Court and other federal court judgeships.

But there is one area of policy that their influence is less obvious but more insidious: the war on terrorism, especially the Islamic fundamentalists.This is going to sound a little crazy…well, maybe more than a little. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the strong apocalyptic streak that is an earmark of Christian fundamentalism has, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps consciously, influenced Bush’s attitude toward the Middle East.

First. let’s look at this apocalyptic tradition in general and then we’ll look at why I think it has had an effect on Bush’s foreign policy.

The scriptural roots of Christian apocalypticism is the Book of Revelations. Revelations deals with the signs and events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ. One of the major events presented in Revelations is a final battle between the forces of Good against the forces of Evil. This is the Battle of Armageddon. Popular tradition, especially among evangelicals, is that the Battle of Armageddon will be fought in the Middle East, somewhere in what was ancient Assyria/Mesopotamia – present day Iraq and Iran.

So, if Bush is being influenced by evangelical apocalypticism, he has the location right.\

The signs leading up to Armageddon, according to Revelations, include all kinds of natural disasters – floods, storms, and such. Now, there have been some unusal weather events worldwide since Bush become President. No, I am not blaming Bush for Katrina or the tsunami in Indonesia, but I am saying he may be interpreting these events as signs of the end times.

That also might explain Bush’s anti-environmentalist stand. Strong environmental protection polices are designed, in the long run, to alleviate the man-made conditions that cause these freakish weather conditions. Maybe Bush sees the hand of divine justice here, and he wants no interference with what God is doing.

Another sign, according to Revelations, of the end times is “war and rumors of war”which, I imagine, would include civil unrest – demonstrations, military coups and such. We certainly have had plenty of wars lately – Afghanistan, Irag – and rumors of war – Iran and North Korea. Then there are the demonstrations by and repression of the Buddhist monks in Myammar, and now the latest “;sign” is the situation in Pakistan.

What I find interesting about these signs is that Bush has been reluctant to interfere in any situation not located in the Middle East. Is that because he, again, sees the hand of God behind these events? It will be interesting to see what he does vis-a-vis the situation in Pakistan. The reinforcement of the military dictatorship does go against Bush’s policy of shoving American-style “democracy” down everyone’s throats, whether they want it or are ready for it would lead us to expect him to do something forceful, but we will see.

To close this post, I want to offer two quotes from two separate, very prestigous sources to substantiate my claim that Bush is an fervent evangelical who sees himself as an agent of God”s purpose and that he sees the USA as the New Israel – the successors of the ancient Isrealites and therefore, God’s chosen.

Much of this documentary was shot in Midland, Texas, tracing the younger Bush”s journey from AA-style “self-help Methodist” to born-again evangelical. Brought up in an observant but not devout Episcopalian WASP family, Bush converted to Methodism when he married Laura Welch in 1977 at age 31. But it wasn”t until shortly after his 40th birthday in 1986 that Bush had an epiphany. His oil business ventures had ended badly, and his heavy drinking was threatening his marriage. So Bush began attending a community Bible study group with 120 Midland men and was soon one of its most fervent members. Before long, he was working on his father”s 1988 presidential campaign (where he was assigned to consult with leaders from the religious right) and turning an eye toward the governorship of Texas.
From a review of a Frontline documentary”The Jesus Factor” by Slate.com

Isn’t it strange that bankruptcy and booze cause religious epiphanies?

The Bush presidency is the most overtly religious in living memory, probably in all of American history. The President has stated his belief that he has been called by God and acts as if Americans are God’s new chosen people, successors to the ancient Israelites.
Bush and the Ten Commandments by Brooke Allen & Patrick Doyle The Nation

Maybe I’m not so crazy after all????

I recommend you read both the articles cited above. Very informative stuff!

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