Observations, Politics-Government, Religion.

Apocalyptic politics


President Donald Trump places his hand on the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Monday, 5/22/2017. PD-USGOV.


Donald Trump’s latest international provocation, the decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, marches Trump-backing evangelicals a step closer to their deeply held desire for the fulfillment of Biblical end-times prophecies. A recent CNN article by Diana Bass suggests that, for many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics. I would partially agree: It is about prophecy, but it is also explicitly about politics.

Bass explains that many evangelicals, in particular Trump’s evangelicals, subscribe to an interpretation of Biblical end-times prophecy known as premillenialist dispensationalism, which outlines a series of events that must occur to precipitate the Second Coming of Jesus and a subsequent millenium of peace on earth. In particular, the Temple must be rebuilt, which will finally trigger a great war at Armageddon. (Note 1. End-times prophecies are much disputed.)

Trump’s evangelicals support him partly because he panders to their desire to effect political decisions they believe will fulfill this prophecy. Trump’s order to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem is one of those political decisions. Another was Trump’s earlier prayer at the Western Wall on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Note 2) Trump on the behalf of his evangelicals is taking political steps to deliberately push the world towards a war, and not just any war, but Armageddon, the war to end all wars. Imagine the response of the Nation of Islam to a de facto U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Imagine their response to any effort to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. This isn’t just some harmless person in the public square brandishing a sign proclaiming that the end is nigh – while Trump and his evangelicals nihilistically play with religious fire, the world becomes a more dangerous place for all of the rest of us.

Trump’s evangelicals seem to think they not only know what God is thinking, but what God should do next in order to end the world, and they are acting politically to take such steps. In the New Testament, Mark reminds his readers that they might watch for the end of the world, even wait for it, but that only God knows when it will come.

Perhaps if Trump’s evangelicals revisit Paul’s advice in Corinthians 13 they might reassess their actions. There they will be reminded to act humbly in the face of deep ignorance, to act responsibly, to act first and foremost with love, rather than, say, taking steps they believe will foment a cataclysmic battle.

The New Testament, it seems to me, asks us to worship God, seek in our own behavior a loving attitude, and eschew the worst of our inclinations: the selfish, the fearful, the hateful, the bellicose. Promoting great violence in God’s name based on disputed interpretations of Biblical prophecy misses the mark widely.



1. There are many interpretations of the revelatory passages of the Bible, and they have changed significantly throughout the history of Christianity. They continue to be disputed today amongst Christian sects. Premillenial dispensationalism was developed as a system and grew rapidly in the U.S. in the early 19th century. End-times prophecies fall under the broader category of Christian eschatology, interpretations of “last things”, which are summarized here.

"Western man has long lived under the shadow of impending disaster: famine, plague, war, flood, earthquake. Under circumstances we by no means fully understand, as in the early apocalyptic days of Christianity, or in the troubled fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of our era, great populations have been moved to mass madness by an almost universal sense of impending doom; and, if only because of the intellectual and emotional heritage of primitive Christian belief in a Second Coming, small sectarian groups have been hailing the immediate end of the world at intervals for two thousand years.One of the constants in the history of Christianity is the continuous emergence of predictions of when the end times will occur based on interpretations of Biblical prophecy."(Crane Brinton, A History Of Western Morals, p. 413) 

A partial list of such predictions can be found here.

2. Jerusalem has been a site of much religious conflict between Jews, Christians and Muslims, from the time of Mohammed to today. Trump was the first sitting US President to pray at the wall, something previously considered to be too inflammatory. Trump’s prayer at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in May 2017 was not followed by an ecumenical offer to say, pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the same site. In fact, he had planned during this visit to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there, but backed off the idea amid warnings from US foreign policy officials as well as from Arab leaders in the region, who warned Trump such a move could hurt chances of reviving peace negotiations and inflame tensions in the region. Six months later Trump went ahead with the recognition anyway.

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