By JP Briggs II, Ph.D., and Thomas D. Williams
t r u t h o u t
Friday 29 June 2007
"Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."- Former US President Thomas Jefferson
President George W. Bush has become dangerously steeped in ideas of Armageddon, the Apocalypse, an imminent war with Satanic forces in the Middle East, and an urgency to construct an American theocracy to fulfill God's end-of-days plan, according to close observers.
Historians and investigative journalists following the "end-time Christian" movement have grown alarmed at the impact it may be having on Bush's Middle East policies, including the current war in Iraq, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the strife in Lebanon and the administration's repeated attempts to find a cause for war against Iran.
Many people are aware that Bush is "the most aggressively religious president in American History," as eminent historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described him, (Schlesinger, "War and the Presidency," 143) but most remain without a clue to what this actually means.
One piece of evidence is Bush's funneling billions of dollars to "faith-based" organizations. Faith offices making grants are now so widespread inside government agencies that federal watchdog officials have serious difficulties accounting for how much money has actually been spent. (Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming" 121). Marvin Olasky, a devotee of end-time theology, designed Bush's faith-based welfare concept. See also Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming," 110.
Further evidence is the Bush administration's transformation of the military. Until complaints forced its removal, a religious recruitment video made by a group called the Christian Embassy appeared on the Department of Defense web site. The video included interviews made inside the Pentagon with seven high-ranking military officers, congressmen, other federal officials and even the Christian Ethiopian ambassador to the US about their personal relationship with Christ. Army Lt. General William "Jerry" Boykin made headlines in 2003 when he said he believed America was engaged in a holy war as a "Christian nation" battling Satan. Adversaries can be defeated, he said, "only if we come against them in the name of Jesus." Despite his highly publicized rhetoric, Boykin remains Bush's deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
Beneath Bush's benign-sounding words, "faith" and "Christian," lies the deeper reality of the authoritarian, doomsday religious beliefs of the ministers and spiritual counselors that surround him, say experts. Officially he has been at pains to show an openness traditionally expected of an American president. Typical is his assertion in a speech at a National Prayer Breakfast found on the White House website: "There's another part of our heritage we are showing in Iraq, and that is the great American tradition of religious tolerance. The Iraqi people are mostly Muslims, and we respect the faith they practice." However, experts point out the particular brand of Christianity that permeates Bush's environment is anything but tolerant. For example, Bush's own personal minister, Franklin Graham, has called Islam "evil and very wicked." He has said, "Let's use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be, and destroy the enemy."
Respected journalist Bill Moyers says that for the religious figures around Bush "a war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared, but welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption." Scholars calculate that the group, which religion author Lynne Bundesen has dubbed "end-time Christians," has up to 40 million followers. Though not all may fully subscribe to the doomsday theology, they are inundated with it in books, megachurches, and on Christian broadcasting stations that reach millions upon millions of the faithful and are almost entirely dominated by end-time preachers. The messages come from "dispensationalists," who believe that true believers are close to the time of being "raptured," or drawn up into heaven by God, in the days before the final battles. They also emanate from various stripes of "dominionists" pushing to erect an American theocracy for the end-of-the-world wars against the anti-Christ. Read "Who Are The End-Time Christians?"
Crosshairs Iran - an Illustration
A potent example of the influence of end-time Christians in the White House developed in early May 2007 when the president invited dominionist James Dobson and 12 or 13 other "family value" ministers for a special meeting. They were called in to discuss the "disturbing threats Iraq, Iran and international terrorism posed to US, Israel and other democracies around the world. Dobson is best known as the founder of Focus on the Family, an end-time lobby. Dobson opposes homosexual rights and abortion, and advocates the "submission of women." He has backed candidates who call for the execution of abortion providers, and works to establish an American theocracy. Dobson was careful not to quote the president in his radio address. He declined a Truthout interview request about his influential relationship with Bush, including what his radio broadcast said involved many meetings in the past with the president. Dobson told his listeners that Bush "appeared upbeat and determined and convinced that his mission is to protect this great nation from those who have threatened us." He said Bush wanted "to let history be his judge for the way he has dealt with this crisis in the Middle East.... He laid out the challenge before us."
The meeting with Bush, said Dobson, inspired an entire week of his radio discussions on radical Islam's impact on America. He said the "general tenor and tone" of his session with the president emphasized "how we are living in very perilous times, and the future generations of Americans depends upon how we rise to that challenge today." He continued: "Iran has promised to blow Israel off the face of the earth, and they have made no bones about that.... They fully intend to wage war with us. They will do it when they have the nuclear and biological weapons to do it."
On the same program, Dobson pointedly discussed the president and the Iranian "threat" with bestselling author and dispensationalist Joel Rosenberg. Rosenberg is an end-time "prophecy expert" who claims he makes frequent visits to the White House to help them "understand what will happen next in the Middle East." He informed Dobson's listeners that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - the latest in a long line of end-time anti-Christ candidates that recently included Saddam Hussein - is "telling people inside Iran that he believes that the end of the world is just two or three years away." Dobson, referring to Ahmadinejad, said: "We didn't take Hitler very seriously either. I just see the parallel. The president, it seems to me, does understand this."
From the beginning of his presidency, Bush's own messianic statements have been downplayed or dismissed by the mainstream press - uncertain of how seriously to take them and shy of offending the religious feeling of their Christian audience.
In "American Theocracy," historian Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist, explores the question of Bush's professed sense of "divine mission." "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job," the president told a gathering in 2004. Phillips concludes that "the president of the United States may for some years have wandered into what we could describe as a period of personal theocracy, and he may have shaped US policy in the Middle East around a personal and radical interpretation of the Bible." (Phillips, "American Theocracy," XLII)
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey told the BBC World Service in 2002 that he believed the president subscribed to end-time prophecies when "the whole world goes through a difficult time during those days of Tribulation."
Stephen Zunes, Middle East editor of the Foreign Policy in Focus project, observes that "Iraq has become the new Babylon" for Bush. In biblical Revelation, Babylon is the "great whore" representing human sin and corruption that will be destroyed to allow Jerusalem's rise and Jesus's return.
In an unscripted moment talking to the troops in April 2007 - as Iraq descended into chaos and the Democrats pressed him to pull the troops out - Bush seemed to offer a view of biblical Babylon and prophetic Tribulations. He said of Iraq: "It makes me realize the nature of the enemy that we face, which hardens my resolve to protect the American people. The people who do that are not people - you know, it's not a civil war; it is pure evil. And I believe we have an obligation to protect ourselves from that evil."
Paul S. Boyer, professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of "When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture," said in a lengthy telephone interview: "That sounds very much like Bush, kind of inarticulate, but also the workings of his mind are pretty clear. In his first speech after 9/11, he said he would rid the world of evil, which was an extreme evangelical sense of defining the war on terror."
Norton Mezvinsky, a distinguished CSU professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, has also extensively researched the Christian end-time movement and is writing a book on the subject. In an interview in his office, he agreed the president's statement fits with his 9/11 pronouncements. "You knew Bush was saying, he just got the message from God; he finally realized why he was president of the United States." Mezvinsky says, "There's no question that he is and has been influenced by the end-time ideas.... So there is a danger. To what extent? We don't know. The extent that we know is pretty bad."
A spokeswoman for the White House did not respond to nine requests by email and telephone for the president's answers to a series of questions about that influence. But when Phillips's "American Theocracy" came out in March 2006, a questioner at a Bush speech referred to the historian's book and asked whether the president believed in the Apocalypse. The Washington Post reported that Bush stammered and laughed nervously as he responded: "The answer is - I haven't really thought of it that way.... The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow." Phillips writes in the new introduction to his book that Bush then went on with his answer for "four and a half minutes without ever mentioning the Apocalypse, Armageddon, the end-times, or the Book of Revelation." (Phillips, "American Theocracy," XL).
The Israel Connection
One of the most influential end-time Christian ministers with entre to the president is John Hagee. Recently, Hagee updated his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," to highlight a coming war with Iran. It promises: "There will soon be a nuclear blast in the Middle East that will transform the road to Armageddon into a racetrack. America and Israel will either take down Iran or Iran will become nuclear and attempt to take down America and Israel." Hagee claims Iran is producing nuclear "suitcase bombs." In 2006, Hagee assembled a large number of end-time Christian groups into an umbrella organization, Christians United for Israel. When CUFI met for the first time in Washington, Israel had just invaded Lebanon. The British Telegraph newspaper reported that Hagee's "claim of political clout is no idle boast. The president sent a message of support praising him for 'spreading the hope of God's Love and the universal gift of freedom.'"
During the invasion period, www.raptureready.com, the website for those anticipating ascension into heaven before the final battles, excitement mushroomed. Responders thought the war in Lebanon signaled the start of the Tribulations. "This is so exciting," one commenter offered. "I have been having rapture dreams and I can't believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!" said another.
Meanwhile, other websites noted the curious echo of prophecy from a statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that clearly grated on foreign diplomats' nerves: "What we're seeing here are the birth pangs of a new Middle East," she said, even as she refused to call for a cease fire to end the killing and destruction going on in Lebanon. The echo was a core prophetic verse in Matthew: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs." Was it a coincidence of language from a woman who has described herself as born again and evangelical? Rice denied any such reference.
Though they give different, sometimes changing "literal" versions of how close the Apocalypse is, end-timers all agree that the establishment of Israeli hegemony over the biblical lands and the rebuilding of the ancient Jewish temple are preconditions for Christ's return. From this belief derives the unwavering support of end-time Christians for Israel. Both dominionists and dispensationalists call themselves "Christian Zionists." End-time Christians (or Christian Zionists) have become Israel's main tourist revenue, shepherding groups to the holy land to see the sites of Armageddon and the Second Coming.
Mezvinsky has extensive contacts within the Israeli government and various conservative Israeli groups, and he is emphatic on one point: although a succession of Israeli prime ministers has courted the American end-timers (the Christian Zionists) and declared them Israel's "greatest friends," the Israelis don't accept the end-time theology one wit. They are also aware that it is anti-Semitic. (For one thing, they interpret the Bible as claiming that only 144,000 converted Jews will be allowed to survive the Apocalypse.) However, Mezvinsky says, the Israelis also know that the end-time Christian Zionists are a lobby that can deliver US support for Israeli hard-line positions on arms, West Bank settlements, negotiations with the Arabs, and Iran.
Neocons and End-Timers
Historians Mezvinsky and Boyer stress that the power of blood-drenched, Satan-versus-God Christian prophecy has merged with another major factor shaping the Bush administration's Mideast policy and the current focus of hostility toward Iran. As president, George W. Bush represents a perfect storm that has blown neoconservative ideology together with the end-time movement. Before 9/11, the neocons envisioned an American global empire supported by newly created democracies friendly to American interests in oil, markets and ideas. But they thought only a Pearl Harbor-type event like 9/11would make mobilizing the country for it possible. The key to this plan was the Middle East. Phillips says that designs on Middle East oil reserves, particularly in Iraq and Iran, were part of the neocon strategy. Notes Boyer, the neocons and end-timers "come at the subject of the Mideast war from different perspectives, but they end up agreeing."
In Bush's speeches, a careful coding of words and phrases also brings the neocon and end-time perspectives together. The president makes "liberty" and "democracy," for example, synonymous with "divine wishes." Read sidebar, "Hidden Behind Coded Language."
But Mezvinksy cautions that many neocon strategists probably think the end-time Christian Zionists "are nuts, but, boy, we can utilize them." Indeed, the thinly concealed disdain some neocons have expressed for the prophetic Christians has fed into the media habit of underestimating end-time influence on the assumption that only identifiable political ideas can shape policy.
Meanwhile, the influence of end-time Christians has burrowed deeply into the American Israel Political Action Committee, AIPAC, the powerful Israeli lobby. At the last AIPAC meeting with a long list of speakers that included Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, "Hagee got the loudest applause of anybody," according to Mezvinsky.
Mezvinsky reports he is increasingly hearing Israelis say that "we want the United States focusing on Iran. Those are people who would like the United States to attack Iran. They realize that, given the involvement in Iraq, there's not the wherewithal to go after Iran." Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called Iran an "existential threat" to Israel.
This spring, AIPAC, with the help of its end-time supporters, succeeded in removing language from a military appropriations bill that would have required Bush to get Congressional approval before using military force against Iran. So again, Iran policy provides the example - here for how end-time religion, the politics of Israel and neocon strategies converge. And how end-time thinking entangles George W. Bush.
At about the same period that Bush was meeting with Dobson and Dobson was touting a war with Iran, Vice President Dick Cheney, the consummate neocon (no sign on his horizon of end-time religious views), stood on the deck of an American aircraft carrier just off Iran's coast. He warned that the United States was prepared to use its naval power to keep Tehran from disrupting oil routes or "gaining nuclear weapons." But, a Cheney spokesperson cited his remarks on the aircraft carrier, as mentioned word-for-word on the White House Internet site, to suggest there is no warning to use naval power against Iran. The Kuwait Times reported that Cheney had visited the region to forge an alliance among the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt "in support of a possible US strike against Iran over its controversial nuclear program, according to Jordanian politicians and academics." Cheney was apparently unsuccessful, the newspaper said.
When asked about his foreign policy position on Iran, a Cheney spokesperson cited a statement from Cheney: "We hope that we can solve the problem diplomatically. The president has indicated he wants to do everything he can to resolve it diplomatically. That's why we've been working with the EU (European Union) and going through the United Nations with sanctions. But the president has also made it clear that we haven't taken any options off the table." The Cheney aide's references to Cheney statements made no mention about "a strike on Iran."
For probably different reasons, the fascination of Bush and Cheney for war with Iran has been longstanding. Reports say Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's original war plans for Iraq included moving on to Iran within 90 days of securing Baghdad. The plans were later dropped, but they suited both necon adventure for oil and democratization and the violent Christian prophecy that sees defeat of Babylon as a vital step on the path to the return of Christ. (Dubose and Bernstein, Vice 182) Through it all, nuclear bombs convey the awe of an Apocalypse.
In the spring of 2006, Pulitzer prize journalist Seymour Hersh reported Bush had ordered his generals to begin planning for an air assault on Iran's nuclear facilities using "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons. When generals tried to remove the nuclear option from the plans, they were "shouted down," Hersh wrote. Said a former senior intelligence official, "Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning." There were also reports the administration was trying to convince the Israelis to do the bombing.
Then in late February this year, new word came on Bush's Iran war planning. The London Times reported: "Some of America's most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defense and intelligence sources. Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learned that up to five (US) generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack. 'There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,' a source with close ties to British intelligence said. 'There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.'"
In May 2007, the Inter Press Service reported that Admiral William J. Fallon, who was slated to become the Central Command chief on March 16, had sent a message to the Defense Department in mid-February, opposing any further US naval buildup in the Persian Gulf. The news article said Fallon squelched an administration effort to send a third carrier strike group to the Gulf. That would have brought the US naval presence up to the same level as during the US air campaign against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the report said. It continued: "A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran 'will not happen on my watch.' Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, 'You know what choices I have. I'm a professional.' Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."
Of course, no one knows if the administration will eventually attack Iran. But experts believe that end-time ideas are playing a part in Bush's thinking about a widening war in the region.
Bundesen's sources within the religious community and in the military around the president tell her that end-timers are "crawling all over the White House and Camp David." These are men who purvey what Hedges calls a "theology of despair" that "feeds dark fantasies of revenge and empowerment." Bundesen says she is not being cynical when she observes that end-time ministers like the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye and James Dobson have used their dark theology to increase their followers, pump up their power and fill their coffers. And it's clear that Bush, in turn, has used end-time Christian leaders and their ideas for political and moral support. So isn't it just about politics?
No. Experts say that whether anybody even believes the violently apocalyptical scenarios shouldn't obscure the stark fact that Bush's policies have emerged in an atmosphere saturated with these dark ideas. Journalist Ron Suskind reported in 2004 that the administration prided itself on not being "reality-based," and the end-time vision may be one way to understand what that pride is about.
JP Briggs II, Ph.D. is a Distinguished CSU professor at Western Connecticut State University, specializing in creative process. A former reporter for the Hartford Courant and coordinator of the journalism program at WCSU, he is currently senior editor of the intellectual journal "The Connecticut Review." His books include "Fire in the Crucible" (St. Martins Press); "Fractals, the Patterns of Chaos" (Simon and Schuster), and "Trickster Tales" (Fine Tooth Press), among others. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who Are the End-Time Christians?
Prominent Groups and Individuals
"God requireth not a uniformity of religion to be enacted or enforced in any civil state; which uniformity sooner or later is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants and of hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls." - Roger Williams, originator of either the first or second Baptist church established in America.
There are two major brands of end-time Christians: The "dispensationalists" hold that true believers will be "raptured" into heaven just before a cataclysmic war fought between "left behind" believers and the forces of the anti-Christ. "Dominionist" end-timers hold that the US as a Christian nation will play a special role representing God in the final battles, and dominionists work toward the construction (or "reconstruction") of an American theocracy to fulfill God's end-time plan. The two brands cross over and blend. Collectively they call themselves Christian Zionists to affirm their support of Israel's control over the holy lands (particularly the West Bank, Gaza and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) because that control is a key prophetic "sign" for the Second Coming of Christ. The commonly used media terms "religious right" and "evangelical" obscure the powerful influence of the apocalyptical and theocratic end-time ideas and blur the fact that not all evangelicals or members of the religious right are end-time Christians. Estimates of the number of the end-timers range from 20 to 40 million. The catalogue below is far from complete.
AIPAC - American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This powerful Jewish lobby is heavily supported by Christian Zionists eager to encourage the Israeli government's control over the holy lands. Middle East experts say AIPAC has accepted the Christian Zionists' support and tried to ignore their apocalyptical ideas because the movement provides Israel with money and influence on US government policy in the Middle East.
The Apostolic Congress - A group affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church developed connections with President Ronald Reagan. Apostolic minister Robert G. Upton claims to be "in constant contact with the White House" under George W. Bush and briefed "at least once a week." Emails obtained by the Village Voice revealed that in 2004, National Security Agency Director Elliott Abrams reassured Apostolic leaders that the Israelis' withdrawal from Gaza did not mean that they were really turning biblical lands over to the Palestinians.
Kenneth Blackwell - An avowed theocrat, lost his 2006 race for governor of Ohio. As Ohio's secretary of state, Blackwell banned reporters from polling places and fostered, then ignored, scores of voting irregularities in the 2004 election. After the election he sought to impose voting regulations that allowed his office to disqualify tens of thousands of would-be voters.
Gen. William Boykin - Declared the US a "Christian nation" battling Satan. Boykin was defended by the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, and has remained in his position.
Christian Embassy - Journalist Chris Hedges describes the group as dedicated to building a "Christian America" and says it has "burrowed deep inside the Pentagon. It hosts weekly Bible sessions with senior officers, by its own count some 40 generals, and weekly prayer breakfasts each Wednesday from 7 to 7:50 a.m., in the executive dining room."
Creation Museum - Petersburg, Kentucky. This $25 million project dedicated to biblical "creation science" features models of Adam and Eve swimming in a river as dinosaurs roam the banks, a scale model of Noah's ark, a dramatic giant screen production of the six days of creation, and a walk through a depraved inner-city alley that depicts "the horrors of a culture that had made man's opinion [and not the Bible's words] the final authority in life."
Paul and Jan Crouch - Televangelist owners of Trinity Broadcasting Network. Paul Crouch has said on his broadcast, "God, we proclaim death to anything or anyone that will lift a hand against this network and this ministry that belongs to You, God."
John Darby - Nineteenth century British churchman who formulated a series of signs for the end of days. Historian Paul Boyer writes that Darby's signs were "wars, natural disasters, rampant immorality, the rise of a world political and economic order, and the return of the Jews to the land promised by Abraham." The 1948 founding of the state of Israel was a key sign in Darby's system and set up the end-time expectation that the last era, or dispensation, had arrived. Darby's scenario was popularized in 1909 by the Scofield Reference Bible, which annotated and explained the biblical passages that contained Darby's apocalyptic signs.
James Dobson - A licensed psychologist, author of numerous books on childrearing and chairman of Focus on the Family. Dobson's program is broadcast on over 7,000 stations worldwide. He is currently one of the most influential figures in the Dominionist movement.
The Federalist Society - According to Theocracy Watch, a project of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy at Cornell University, "The Federalist Society formed 20 years ago in reaction to the powers the Supreme Court was granting the federal government. It is hostile to civil rights, environmental protections, worker safety laws, a separation between church and state and more. Former president of the Christian Coalition Donald Hodel is a board member. Twenty four of President Bush's top cabinet members and most of his court nominations are members of the Federalist Society. The list includes John Ashcroft, former attorney general; Spencer Abraham, secretary of energy; Gail Norton, secretary of the interior, and Theodore Olson, solicitor general. Other notable members are Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Orrin Hatch, Kenneth Starr."
Jerry Falwell - The recently deceased founder of the Moral Majority believed that a biblical prophecy came true when Israel gained military control of Jerusalem during the Six Day war in 1967. "When that event took place a clock began to tick that signaled the downfall of the great Gentile powers, the last and greatest of which is the United States," he wrote in his 1990 book, "The New Millenium." Wikipedia notes that "the Anti-Defamation League and its leader Abraham Foxman have expressed strong support for Falwell's staunch pro-Israel stand - despite repeatedly condemning what they perceive as intolerance and anti-Semitism in Falwell's public statements."
Franklin Graham - President George W. Bush's personal minister, has called Islam "evil and very wicked." He has said, "Let's use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be, and destroy the enemy."
John Hagee - Major figure pushing for bellicose Middle East policy through his Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Author of a best-selling book calling for war with Iran. He sympathized with the assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzah Rabin on the grounds that it was "an abomination against God" for Rabin to contemplate the transfer of land in the West Bank to the Palestinians.
Benny Hinn - Televangelist and healer, who says that Adam was a superhero who could fly to the moon. Claims one day the dead will be raised by watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network from inside their coffins. Lashes out at critics: "Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I'd blow your head off." (Hedges, "American Facists," 172-3)
Dr. James Kennedy - Runs training courses in how to make converts. Hedges has described the techniques as a sophisticated form of mind control. "The goal is not simply conversion but also eventual recruitment into a political movement to create a Christian nation," Hedges wrote in "American Fascists." (59) Kennedy's Center for Christian Statesmanship evangelizes on Capitol Hill. He has worked closely with Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart and Tim LaHaye.
Tim LaHaye - End-times guru, co-author of the wildly popular "Left Behind" series of books describing the rapture of true believers into heaven and a seven-year period of chaos known as the Tribulation for those left behind. Over 60 million copies in print. In video games made from the books, nonbelievers are executed by God-fearing teenagers on the streets of New York City. A recent guest on Glenn Beck's CNN Headline News show, LaHaye excited the Mormon talk host into declaring himself a believer in imminent biblical Apocalypse and the urgent necessity for war with Iran.
Sun Myung Moon - South Korean leader of the Unification Church. Calls for an "autocratic theocracy to rule the world." A long-time patron of the Bush family, especially Bush senior. In 1995, Moon financed the bail-out of Falwell's Liberty University. Moon owns The Washington Times, which claims editorial independence but regularly uses end-time Christian leaders and politicians as key sources. Washington Times reporters often appear as experts on mainstream TV news shows. Moon calls himself humanity's savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.
Rod Parsley - Historian Norton Mezvinsky considers Parsley a rising star in the end-time movement because of his crossover appeal to the African-American community. Parsley describes Allah as a demon spirit and says that Christian American has been mandated to defeat all demons to usher in the reign of Christ.
Erick Prince and the Blackwater Security Army - Prince is CEO of Blackwater, a huge "security firm" with facilities across the US and contracts in the hundreds of millions from the State Department, the Pentagon and domestic agencies. Prince is associated with an evangelical group engaged in the Christian/Muslim conflict in the Sudan, according to author Jeremy Scahill in "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." Scahill says that Prince, a former Navy Seal converted to a fundamentalist Catholicism, has connections to James Dobson and that "the Prince family was deeply involved in the secretive Council for National Policy" founded by Tim LaHaye. Hedges thinks Blackwater may become the SS of an intended Christian Fascism and that "we may be further down this road than we care to admit."
Ronald Reagan - A half a dozen times during his presidency, Reagan indicated his conviction that the world would end very soon in a fiery Armageddon.
Ralph Reed - Christian Coalition political mastermind determined to create an American theocracy. Reed told a Virginia newspaper that his political strategy for getting Dominionists elected was, "I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night." (Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming" 14)
Pat Robertson - Founder of the Christian Coalition, 1988 Republican presidential candidate, televangelist and founder of Christian Broadcasting Network seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. His show, The 700 Club, immensely popular. Despite strong Christian Zionist positions, Robertson's book "The New World Order" propagated theories about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, and his statements are regarded by leading Jewish intellectuals as anti-Semitic. Called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and described the war in Iraq as "a righteous cause out of the Bible." Has said there will be a nuclear attack on the US in 2007.
Joel C. Rosenberg - One-time adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and columnist for the prominent conservative magazine, National Review. Latest best-selling book, "Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your World," promotes the idea that end-time prophecy is rapidly being fulfilled.
R.J. Rushdoony - His book, "The Institutes of Biblical Law," written in 1973, set the tone for the current surge of the end-time movement. Calls for the creation of a violently repressive Christian state. Argues the American Christians have taken over the role of God's chosen people from the Jews.
Kenneth Starr - Special prosecutor who investigated President Bill Clinton. Member of a dispensationalist church in McLean, Virginia. (Halsell, "Forcing God's Hand," 104)
Southern Baptist Convention - Historian Kevin Phillips describes the SBC as "preeminent in the South, an eight-hundred ton dinosaur in the parlor of American Protestantism, and over the last century the fastest-growing major church in the United States." ("American Theocracy," 149) Dominated in recent years by end-times Christians such as Jerry Falwell. In 2000, former President Jimmy Carter, a third-generation Southern Baptist, and the first president to call himself a born-again and evangelical, severed his ties with the SBC, saying that its "increasingly rigid" dogmas violated the "basic premises of my Christian faith."
Trinity Broadcasting Network - Beamed to 75 countries. Stations in El Salvador, Spain, Kenya and the Middle East. Watched by five million households in the US and millions more overseas. TBN is one of six national television networks controlled by Dominionists, reaching tens of millions of homes. Dominionists also control almost all of the 2,000 religious radio stations in the US. In recent years, sex scandals have plagued TBN owner Paul Crouch and other committed dominionist end-time televangelists such as Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggart, though their influence and appeal continue.
Universities With End-Time Leanings
Liberty University - Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded by Jerry Falwell. Ken Ham, a leader in the creationist movement and developer of the Creation Museum is a graduate.
Regent University - Virginia Beach, Virginia. Founded by Pat Robertson. A graduate of Regent's law school, Monica Goodling, came to prominence in 2007 over the US attorney firings. She became the only Department of Justice employee in history to exercise Fifth Amendment rights with respect to official conduct and remain an employee. She later resigned. Regent's website claims 150 graduates of the law school have found jobs in the Bush administration. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft is a Regent professor.
Patrick Henry University - Accepts almost exclusively Christian evangelical home-schooled students, of which there are an estimated 1-2 million. The university's founder, Michael Ferris, is a protëgë of "Left Behind" author Tim LaHaye. According to Salon journalist Michelle Goldberg, though the university only began operating in 2000, by 2004 it had provided seven percent of the White House interns, and interns for 22 conservative congressmen. A Patrick Henry graduate works on Karl Rove's staff.
US Congress members - A number of members of Congress, recent and current, have been explicit about their end-time views. High-profile end-time politicians include: former House Majority Leader Tom Delay; former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey; former Senate Majority leader Tom Frist; current Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell; former House Speaker Dennis Hastert; current Republican presidential candidate Senator Sam Brownback. Before the last elections, 186 members of the House of Representatives had earned an 80 to 100 percent approval rating from end-time Christian groups, including Robertson's Christian Coalition.
Perspectives of Three Christian Journalists
The recent surge of the end-time movement began in the 1980s, its fantastic growth made possible by the internet and cable TV, according to Lynne Bundesen, author of three books about the Bible and a book on prayer. She has written about end-time Christian influence since the Reagan years. In phone interviews, she vividly remembered joining a Christian tour to Israel in 1985 that had an affiliation with Pat Robertson. She went to report on the experience for her syndicated newspaper column. On the trip, she discovered how distant her own sense of spirituality was from the movement. The last stop on the tour was the valley of Megiddo, also known as Armageddon. "The leader said any day now this valley will be filled with blood, and the women said hallelujah, and they all began to cry with joy. With joy. I recall to this day standing on that hill overlooking that valley, feeling very alone in the midst of a group. We've all had that feeling. It's like, Oh, my heavens."
In the 1990s, Bundesen managed a major network of religious web sites that put her in touch with many end-time groups. "I've never heard any one of these ministers quote the beatitudes or any of the healing statements of Jesus. Nor to love thy neighbor as thyself. Their belief is violent and drenched in blood. Jesus Christ as a five-star general." She views the theology as focused on selected biblical passages, on gaining and wielding power and control, and not on forgiveness or tolerance. She proposed "end-time Christians" as a name that more aptly captures the religious orientation of the movement than the names Christian Zionists, dominionists, or dispensationalists. "With this group you get extra credit for bringing on the slaughter of millions. This is the end-time Christian mission, and both President Reagan and President Bush have been part of it."
Bundesen referred to the late Grace Halsell, a distinguished journalist and Green Honors Chair Professor of Journalism at Texas Christian University, who made the point with the title and thesis of her last book, published in 1999, "Forcing God's Hand." The end-time Christians are not content to wait for the apocalypse to happen, Halsell argued; they want to bring it on. Bundesen thinks that individually most followers are at least ambivalent about wishing for the imminent end of everything and that the apocalyptical belief has appeal to many for social and psychological reasons. "Ours is a numbing society. I think if you get numb and there isn't any way out, this is a way out - based on the most important thing that ever happened: the birth of Jesus Christ."
In his book, "American Fascists," Pulitzer prize war correspondent and former Harvard seminarian Chris Hedges gives a bleaker assessment from his own sense of the Christ's message: "Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school." (202)
In late 2004, Bill Moyers - journalist, former Lyndon Johnson White House press spokesman and Baptist minister - told a Harvard audience: "I'm not making this up - I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious, and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation where four angels 'which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man.'" He more recently observed that "even though some critics believe the influence of the religious right is waning as Bush's popularity sinks, many prospective candidates for his job are pledging their allegiance to ... his powerful base" - those same end-time Christians.
Hidden Behind Coded Language
Scholars say the president presents himself as a "born-again Christian" and the public assumes it knows what that means. However, a recent dustup over James Dobson's assertion that former senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson isn't a Christian illustrates the problems with language in the realm of end-time philosophy. Dobson's spokesman explained, "We use that word - Christian - to refer to people who are evangelical Christians." But there was an additional layer. Some evangelicals are beginning to rebel against the presumption by end-timers such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson that they represent all who call themselves "evangelical." For Dobson, the terms "Christian" and "evangelical" appear to be coded to mean a dominionist end-time Christian. George W. Bush may be using this coding as well.
David S. Domke, associate professor of communication at the University of Washington and author of "God Willing? Political Fundamentalism in the White House," has pointed out how Bush and his speechwriters have regularly employed coded language. This coding communicates to the faithful the president's secret agreement about the construction of an American theocracy and what scholars call an historical "exceptionalism" that ordains the US with a special mission in God's plans. When Bush says, "I believe freedom is not America's gift to the world. It is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman," it requires close attention to penetrate the double think of the message. When the linkages between the Almighty and freedom involve a US mission to democratize the Middle East, then the patriotic ideals pushed by the neocons have merged with the exceptionalism idea of the American theocrats to justify war. (see also Phillips, American Theocracy 206)
Bush's adoption of Martin Olasky's phrase "compassionate conservatism" became a code for channeling federal monies to religious groups that could make conversions and build a theocracy in the US.
There are obvious reasons for Bush to use coded language that avoids specific references to a belief in the type of radical prophetic Christianity shared by his many spiritual advisors and allies. A presidential belief in these highly charged ideas would raise uncomfortable questions about his policies on global warming, helping the poor, healthcare, the role of the UN, debt and deficit, the potential widening of war in the Middle East, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bush's facility with religious coded language may have helped in his close - and to many surprising - relationship with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Critics say Blair seriously damaged his own political legacy with his apparently unquestioning support of Bush's Mideast policies. Though it has not been reported on this side of the Atlantic, Blair is considered by many of his own countrymen as "one of the most religious prime ministers in the past century," one web site explains. Britain had its troubles with religious controversies in earlier centuries, and these days the British electorate expects a rigorously secular government. Blair is a member of the Church of England, but attends the Roman Catholic church and may be intending to convert to Catholicism once he leaves office. The National Secular Society in England claims, "Tony Blair has done more to undermine the secular nature of British society than anyone in recent history. But many people haven't woken up to what will be regarded by coming generations as Tony Blair's worst legacy - encouraging single-faith schools." Blair has no obvious connections to end-of-days beliefs. Like Bush's White House, his government offices issue strong statements affirming solidarity with "the vast majority of decent Muslims." But, given his background and behavior, it is not unreasonable to think that Blair has sympathized with the coded political-religious language Bush uses and with Bush's attempt to entwine religion and government.