Friday, 14 May 2010
The Christian Jihadist
Taking up the Cross in Evangelical Christianity:
The Perspective of a Christian Jihadist
I am in Toronto, Canada for a three day conference arranged by the Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group. The aim is to create a common framework for extended conversation between Evangelical Christian and Muslim scholars and religious leaders. The ultimate goal is to commit ourselves to a dialogue that will build a deep and lasting trust that will remain despite any obstacles that may arise.
The video game taking Christian America by storm is entitled ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’. Controversially, it encourages players to kill anyone who resists conversion to Christianity. As Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle it out for domination of the electronic game world, the games’ creator anticipates a ready market among those who have already bought 63 million copies of the ‘Left Behind’ novels.
The game is set in New York City, a rather unusual venue for the Battle of Armageddon you might think since New York doesn’t actually get a mention in the Bible. It is, however, the location of the United Nations headquarters and that is the clue. Never popular among conservative evangelicals, in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the bad guys are the Global Community Peacekeepers, who are on a search and destroy mission in Manhattan. Their target is the remnant of newly converted Bible-believers, left behind when Christians were apparently raptured secretly to heaven. These new believers, left on earth, form a Christian army called the Tribulation Force.
Under the heading ‘Turn or Burn?’ a review by Focus on the Family suggests this might be: “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.”
In an interview with Tim LaHaye, the author, Focus on the Family asked whether Christians will really be expected to militarize in the future? “He told Plugged In Online that this fictionalized depiction in the books, movies and now video games is a representation “of the self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation.”
What a relief. It’s all right to kill then if it is out of self preservation. Players pray for their adversaries “and try to do good spiritual things for them” but at a certain point, it becomes acceptable to kill them. A rather more sceptical review from a Jewish perspective, by Jews on First, observes that,
“The goals of the game are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life — “fighting hellfire with hellfire”. And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.”
Sadly, we would not be here if we were merely debating the merits of a children’s video game. The theological presuppositions behind the Left Behind video and books are known as Christian Zionism. The Christian Zionist movement has somewhere between 30 and 100 million supporters in the USA alone. It is undoubtedly therefore a significant part of the Israel Lobby helping to shape American attitudes and policies in the Middle East.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Following the tragedy of 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, multi-bestselling author and Christian journalist Anne Coulter, wrote,
“We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an “international coalition.” We don’t need a study on “terrorism.” … We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. 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.”
More recently, at the July 19th, 2006, inaugural event for Christians United for Israel, in Washington DC, after recorded greetings from the then President, George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US, Pastor John Hagee, 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.” John Hagee is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio (a church of 19,000 members). His views are carried in America on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks which combined are heard or seen weekly in 99 million homes.
Many Christians in the US as well as Europe repudiate Christian Zionism as a gross distortion of Christianity and grave insult to the teachings of Jesus the Christ. The Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism was formed monitor and challenge this destructive movement. Resources can be accessed at, www.Christianzionism.org.
I have written two books on the movement, Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? and Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church.
Most recently Porter Speakman has produced a new film challenging Christian Zionism called With God on our Side which is available at this conference. How can we best challenge this misuse or abuse of Christianity in sacralising a belligerent foreign policy that is bringing Muslims, Jews and Christians into conflict?
What follows is not a critique of Islamic Jihad. We are grateful to Dr Afsaruddin for her very illuminating paper on “The True Meaning of Jihad in Islam”. Nor will this be a defence of pacifism or of the Just War Theory. For that I recommend J. Daryl Charles, Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition.
My title is “Taking up the Cross in Evangelical Christianity”. I have subtitled it, “The Perspective of a Christian Jihadist”. I want to give a simple, personal reading of the teaching of Jesus the Christ and his Apostles on the Christian jihad. I want to show how the Scriptures refute the misuse of the Bible to justify an apocalyptic or colonialist agenda in the Middle East. I have five headings.
1. The Nature of Christian Jihad
2. The Extent of Christian Jihad
3. The Strategy of Christian Jihad
4. The Weapons of Christian Jihad
5. The Purpose of Christian Jihad
Read the rest of this entry »