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Jul 20 2005

Religious beliefs and public policy – 2

In the previous post I discussed the problems that can arise when religious beliefs start influencing public policy. But because issues of the environment and global warming are so long term, it is possible, in the short term, to ignore the inherent contradictions that can arise. But this luxury is not available when it comes to issues of war and peace.

For example, take the turmoil in the Middle East. Whatever one’s political views, one would hope that in general all would tend to agree that long-term peace is a good thing and that policies that increase the risk of violence and instability are bad things. So one would think that if one was convinced that a certain policy might lead to greater risk of war in the Middle East, then that policy should be avoided.

But in the topsy-turvy world of rapture-based politics such assumptions do not hold. Take for example, the so-called “Road Map” for Middle East peace, a strategic plan that has been proposed by the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia and is seen as providing hope for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Dominionists (or dispensationalists) are not thrilled by it. As Barbara Rossing says in her book The Rapture Exposed (p. 46):

The influence of dispensationalism can be seen also in fundamentalist Christians’ opposition to the U.S.-backed “Road Map” for peace in Israel and Palestine. “The Bible is my Road Map,” declares an Internet petition circulated by [Pat] Robertson, [Jerry] Falwell, and LaHaye in opposition to a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace and peace plans in the Middle East are a bad thing, in the view of fundamentalist Christians, because they delay the countdown to Christ’s return. Israel must not compromise by giving back any occupied territory to the Palestinians. New Israel settlements and a rebuilt third temple are God’s will for Israel, no matter how violent the consequences.

The dispensationalist version of the biblical story requires tribulation and war in the Middle East, not peace plans. That is the most terrifying aspect of the distorted theology. Such blessing of violence is the very reason why we cannot afford to give in to the dispensationalist version of the biblical storyline – because real people’s lives are at stake.

You cannot persuade Dominionists that hard-line Israeli policies should be rejected because they will lead to instability and chaos and bloodshed, because they see this as an argument in their favor. It is as a good thing because it is a sign of the second coming. Similarly, policies that might lead to increased upheaval in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and so on are welcomed as fulfillments of their version of Biblical prophecy of the end-times.

It is somewhat bizarre that people who hold such views on what public policies should be adopted seem to have access to the media and influential policy makers in the government. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and a whole host of Dominionist people like to emphasize the fact that they have strong influence and access to the levers of government.

What should be the response to this? The next posting will examine the options.

POST SCRIPT

Well, it had to come, the inevitable link between capitalism and end-times theology. Mark Wilson’s blog reports on a new series of video games based on the rapture to be released soon.

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