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Lebanon and the Christian Zionist Apocalypse
W hen Israel began bombing Lebanon this summer, participants of the Rapture Ready web message forum welcomed the conflagration as a sign of the apocalyptic End Times anticipated by some evangelical and fundamentalist Christians in the United States:
- “This is so exciting.”
- “I have been having rapture dreams and I can’t believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!”
- “Praise God! We are chosen to be in these times and also watch and spread the word. Something inside me is exploding to get out, and I don’t know what it is. It’s kind of like I want to do cartwheels around the neighborhood.”
- “Gosh! Things are happening at break neck speed it seems! Here we are making plans to move to the east coast and we might not even have to move after all. I say, come quickly Lord!”
- “Got that dancing feeling on the inside of me” (multiple exclamation points deleted).
“This is so exciting.”
“I have been having rapture dreams and I can’t believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!”
“Praise God! We are chosen to be in these times and also watch and spread the word. Something inside me is exploding to get out, and I don’t know what it is. It’s kind of like I want to do cartwheels around the neighborhood.”
“Gosh! Things are happening at break neck speed it seems! Here we are making plans to move to the east coast and we might not even have to move after all. I say, come quickly Lord!”
“Got that dancing feeling on the inside of me” (multiple exclamation points deleted).
This exchange was first posted on the Left Business Observer listserve and prompted a flurry of shocked comments as it spread across the Internet. Why are they celebrating? Why are so many conservative Christian evangelicals—a group historically not known for its love affair with Jews or Judaism— such unrestrained fans of the state of Israel and the hard-line and violent militaristic policies of the current Israeli government? Why are they helping raise tens of millions of dollars per year to send to Israel?
Something is happening to shape the political attitudes of what is an increasingly well-educated, upwardly mobile, suburbanite crowd of people who think President George W. Bush is a godsend…literally.
The last book of the Christian New Testament is “Revelation,” written by John of Patmos. It was originally thought to have been written by the same John who was a disciple of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Alas, no, not the same John.
John of Patmos was a hermit who lived in a cave on an island off the coast of what is now Turkey. He had visions and wrote them down. Standard stuff for prophets. The Catholic and Orthodox churches urge their followers to read “Revelation” as a metaphor, as do most “mainline” Protestant denominations such as the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Episcopalians.
I n a trend that started among Pro -testants in the late 1800s, called “premillennial dispensationalism,” many Christians in the U.S. began to read “Revelation” as a timetable and script for the End Times—a period that ushers in the Battle of Armageddon and a cataclysmic battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan for control of the planet.
How (you may ask) does this relate to contemporary politics in the Middle East? Armageddon refers to a valley near Mount Megiddo in Israel. More on this later.
Many contemporary Christian fundamentalists read the book of “Revelation” as a story about a conspiracy of government and religious leaders to trick faithful Christians into renouncing Jesus just before Satan launches a full-scale war. Satan’s chief agent in this plot is the Antichrist—portrayed as a global political figure attempting to build a one-world collectivist government. For years this was thought to be a plan of the communist Soviet Union working through the United Nations.
These days the UN is still considered to be part of the conspiracy, but global Islam is now the puppet master—which is handy because another part of this reading of “Revelation” is that Satan’s false prophet will spread a one-world religion in the End Times. There is a seven-year period of “Tribulations” in the End Times, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse making an appearance, along with seven trumpets, seven scrolls with seven seals, seven bowls, seven angels, and a scary beast with seven heads—ever wonder where “lucky seven” comes from?
If you believe in the Rapture, according to Tim LaHaye and others, as a true Christian you are swept up in the safety of a heavenly embrace of God while the Tribulations rage below with all sorts of torture, murder, and mayhem that make the Terminator films seem like Disney flicks. At some point (just when is a subject of debate) Jesus returns in his Second Coming to vanquish Satan and the forces of evil and establish God’s kingdom on earth for a millennium of true peace and prosperity. Maybe longer, maybe shorter, it depends on who you ask.
A nyway, the catch is that many Christian fundamentalists believe that for Jesus Christ to return, he has to land on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Jews have to have rebuilt the Temple of Solomon. Problem. Muslims call this place Haram al Sharif and it is currently the site of several important Islamic shrines and a mosque.
Christian Zionists support Israel for a variety of reasons, but to an alarming degree it involves this idea of Jews returning to Israel as prophesied in the Bible, controlling Jerusalem, smashing the Islamic holy places on the Temple Mount, rebuilding the Temple of Solomon, and triggering the return of Jesus. If you believe that the central tenet of your religion requires Jews to control the Holy Land in the Middle East, and you suspect Islam is the false global religion of the Antichrist, then this justifies support for hard-line policies by the governments of Israel and the United States.
As the End Times wrap up, God punishes the sinful and unbelievers with his “terrible swift sword,” while some 144,000 Jews convert to Christianity. The rest of the Jews, and everyone else not cleared by God, are cast into the sulphurous fires of Hell or maybe crushed like grapes (which is where we get the line about the grapes of wrath), with their blood flowing as a river down past Megiddo. Thus Armageddon. Harsh.
Many Christians do not buy into this precise scenario—but millions, perhaps tens of millions, take seriously the possibility that the End Times are near and that the battles raging in the Middle East might be part of the war between good and evil that's prophesied in the book of “Revelation.”
It’s easy to poke fun at this type of religious belief and this article admittedly has been glib. But if all you are doing is smirking, ponder the following. You are reading Z Magazine …proud, but small. Midnight Call , the periodical of choice for many apocalyptic Christians, is “published in 12 languages and read in over 144 countries.” They outnumber us and they have consistently out-organized us. They have far more influence over U.S. foreign and domestic policy than we do. If you want to learn more about how Christian Zionism works as an element of the Christian Right, visit www.publiceye.org/christian _right/zionism/coalition.
Chip Berlet is senior analyst at Political Research Associates (PRA) near Boston. The views are his own and not necessarily those of PRA.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
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MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
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VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.