One of the creepiest aspects of contemporary American politics is the unholy alliance between the Christian right and Israel. It’s uncomfortable because the religious right’s affinity for Israel is tied to a rather disturbing fever dream: Israel’s destruction. Many evangelicals are utterly convinced that every addition to the sum of suffering in the Middle East is but a sign of the end times, of Christ’s return.
They’re convinced because they interpret foreign affairs through the prism of Bronze Age biblical prophesy. Without getting bogged down in the colorful details of Christian eschatology, the story runs something like this: In order for Jesus to return and establish his Kingdom, the state of Israel must first be conquered by an invading army (preferably Persian or Arab) – because God says so. The unfortunate part (if you’re Jewish, at least) is that before Christ descends from the clouds, a holocaust of sorts must occur, resulting in the deaths of 2/3 of Israel’s people. For certain Christians, then, Israel must exist as a state (which is why they defend it so passionately), but it must also suffer immensely so that Christians can escape physical death in the form of the Rapture.
This is the rather sordid truth behind the Christian right’s love affair with Israel. In a recent interview on the radio program “Understanding the Times,” Michele Bachmann articulated the raw insanity of this position with perfect clarity. Bachmann called the nuclear agreement with Iran “the most important national security event of my lifetime.” Not for geopolitical reasons, of course, but because it fulfills God’s prophesy: “All the nations of the world signed an agreement that slams the door against Israel.” Even better, she continued, the agreement prepares the way for Israel’s ruination “with the United States leading that charge.” Which apparently is also part of God’s plan, according to Bachmann's interviewer, Jan Markell, who expanded on Bachmann's observation with the following (per Right-Wing Watch):
“There are consequences to doing things like this against God’s covenant land, there are horrible consequences,” Markell said. “Then you throw in some other things such as the Supreme Court decision back in late June and a lot of other things. Judgment isn’t just coming; judgment is already here.”
The prophesy to which Bachmann and Markell refer, as Scott Eric Kaufman noted earlier this month, is Zechariah 12:3, which refers to “all the nations of the earth” gathering against the state of Israel.
It’s probably not worth unpacking any more of this lunacy. The broader point is that people like Bachmann (and many other Republicans) really believe this stuff. Indeed, there’s a significant subset of the GOP that advocates for Israel on purely theocratic grounds: They yearn for the apocalypse. These people fancy themselves patriots, but they’re gleefully subordinating American Foreign Policy to religious dogma in order to hasten the End Times.
Said Bachmann during the same radio interview: “The prophets longed to live in this day that you and I are privileged to live in." While the former Minnesota congresswoman is uncommonly honest about her beliefs, she is certainly not alone. It’s no accident that prominent Republicans are eager to champion Israel’s interests over our own: Their religious base demands it.
This madness is a political problem. At minimum, a state’s foreign policy is guided by the pursuit of self-interest. It’s true that Israel and America are allies (as they should be), but only so long as our interests align. The religious right doesn’t see the world in these terms, because they’re not interested in living peacefully on this planet. They’re drunk on otherworldly fantasies and, unfortunately, they also vote. Which is why Republicans consistently side with Netanyahu over Obama whenever there’s a legitimate conflict of interests: The base isn’t concerned with worldly things like peace and security and diplomacy – only prophesy. To the extent that people in office are animated by beliefs like this, our foreign policy will be misguided at best, suicidal at worst.
Michele Bachmann is Exhibit A in the case for purging religion from politics. Anyone using the bible as a basis for contemporary foreign policy can’t be trusted with that kind of authority. Individuals are free to believe whatever they want, but the people with a grip on the levers of power aren’t – they have a worldly responsibility that requires a connection to terrestrial reality.
If you’re “encouraged” by the apocalypse, as Michele Bachmann is, you’re unqualified.