Just Above Sunset
April 25, 2004 - The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You
The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You - Be afraid, be very afraid...
I don’t get religion. I’m just your basic born-and-raised-a-Congregationalist, married once to a lapsed
Baptist, then to an odd woman who dragged me off to a High Episcopal church kind of guy - and now an atheist. Probably always was. No, certain I always was. I don’t get it.
In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.
Ah, I see. They simply want good things to happen. Jesus returns. And I hear he was a good guy - full of love and peace and understanding and all that.
What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (i.e. those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.
Yep, some folks win, some
The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.
Let’s get this straight. Texas Christians traveling to Jerusalem to blow up mosques, to make sure Jesus will return as predicted? Well, that doesn’t seem harmless, unless you believe in the greater good, in
Jesus returning. Then it might be okay, one supposes. And Texas Christians are sponsoring Jewish settlements in the middle of Palestinian lands? What, just to tick them off? No, again, this is for the greater
good. This is part of what must happen if Jesus is to return, so one does it. But it does seem odd. The idea, of course,
is to bring about the final battle that clears everything up. It seems that is
a desirable goal. Heck, everyone believes “closure” is important.
And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking".
This does seem to be, as
Monbiot suggests, a major political constituency - representing much of the current president's core vote - in the most powerful
nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war.
The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85% of the US electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15% of the electorate, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter, it's a personal one: if the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don't get to sit at the right hand of God. Bush, in other words, stands to lose fewer votes by encouraging Israeli aggression than he stands to lose by restraining it. He would be mad to listen to these people. He would also be mad not to.
I don’t like the math. But I have not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal redeemer. So I don’t get it, and I guess I can’t get it. My problem. And for all the times I’ve been to Texas, I don’t like the place.
But Bush has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He gets it - and if not as wrapped up in apocalyptic thought as these folks are, perhaps, he knows these folks do vote. And they want a new world war, a last war, “a war to end all wars,” even if Woodrow Wilson had something else in mind when he used those particular words.
Well, we’re working on this final war, reading events one way, or, to be a bit more optimistic, Bush is just humoring these people to win some critical votes. I wonder which it is. And I really don’t know.
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