Friday, 7 November 2008

Weird and Wacky Theology 3: Armageddon out of here

John Hagee wrote to me again today. He writes most days. Today he wrote to remind me, “As Christians we have a Biblical obligation to defend Israel and the Jewish people in their time of need. Israel’s time of need is now. There is a new Hitler in the Middle East –President Ahmadinejad of Iran — who has threatened to wipe out Israel and America and is rapidly acquiring the nuclear technology to make good on his threat. Tragically, 2008 has been a year of steady progress for President Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ambitions.”

In case I missed it, John’s email contained not one but two requests for money - highlighted between the paragraphs so I would not miss them, like I’m doing here, except you don’t need to send me any money.

Then John went on to warn me, “As Iran gets steadily closer to obtaining nuclear weapons, we get that much closer to the possibility of a second Holocaust. The risk that Israel and her six million Jews might be “wiped off the map” is too great for us to sit silently by as the world does nothing. As 2008 ends and 2009 begins, we must redouble our efforts to stop Iran. In particular, we must combine fervent prayer with urgent action.”

How John, how?

“In addition to prayer, we must also act to make sure that our fellow citizens and our government recognize the urgency of this threat. Christians United for Israel is determined to focus intensely on the issue of Iran in 2009. We plan to educate Christians across America about the threat of a nuclear Iran. We intend to help our members speak out in their communities and churches to raise awareness on this issue. We plan to communicate the urgency of this issue to our leaders in Washington and demand that they act with greater resolve to stop this threat to America and Israel.”

I knew prayer wouldn’t be enough. If that was all John was asking for I certainly wouldn’t have written this piece, and you wouldn’t be bothering to read it either, but you are and that’s because you know by now that John has other ideas of how to ’stop Iran’ and being the pastor of an 18,000 member church he doesn’t need to beat around the bush.

At the July 19th, 2006 Washington DC inaugural event for Christians United for Israel, after recorded greeting from George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US, John stated :”The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”

Well that’s everything isn’t it? The whole caboodle as we say in O’l Blighty. Now I don’t want to see anyone ‘wiped off the face of the earth’ least of all my Jewish friends, but bombing Iran back to the stone age won’t win us any friends in the Middle East, John. Trust me, I’ve asked them.

Your friend Ann Coulter suggested something similar after the tragedy of 9/11. She said, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”

We tried it a thousand years ago. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. John, I’m struggling a bit with your theology. I’ve read the Bible a few times over the years but I just can’t find that verse you must have in mind that says this is our ‘biblical obligation.’ I thought our ‘biblical obligation’ was to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). Paul said our ‘obligation’ is to tell them about the love of God found in Jesus (Romans 1:14; John 3:16-17). Maybe I’m just reading the wrong translation.

Grace Halsell put her finger on it when she wrote: “Convinced that a nuclear Armageddon is an inevitable event within the divine scheme of things, many evangelical dispensationalists have committed themselves to a course for Israel that, by their own admission, will lead directly to a holocaust indescribably more savage and widespread than any vision of carnage that could have generated in Adolf Hitler’s criminal mind.”

She is right isn’t she? Such a fatalistic view of the future, with its prewritten script, is inherently suspicious and pessimistic about anything international, ecumenical, or involving the European Community or United Nations. Efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East are spurned as counterfeit and a satanic ploy to beguile Israel. Such paranoia might be deemed a sick joke were it not so pervasive and influential, it seems, in shaping US foreign policy with its perpetual war against the ‘Axis of Evil’. Its greatest danger is surely that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Maybe to call it ‘weird and wacky’ is a little understated.

For further examples of wacky theology see: