Christians, Israel and Government
I've mentioned before that I publish Chuck Baldwin's articles on the Autonomist because it is a free market of ideas, and in this country, that market consists of many Christian spokesmen. I do not believe in God, but find many who do to be good neighbors, and we agree on many principles, particularly those of individual liberty and the importance of values and absolutes.
What we do not agree on are those particular religious doctrines which rest on authority and must be accepted. So long as those beliefs do not become a matter of political policy, I regard them as harmless, except to those who hold them, which is essentially none of my business. When those beliefs begin to influence those who wield the power of the government sword, then I must point out what is wrong with them.
Religion and Government
In Chuck Baldwin's article, "Saving Souls--Losing Freedom," published today, he mentions an, "official document from one of our war colleges that is downright frightening." Chuck is usually very good at exposing government movements to curtail freedom, like his report on the
MIAC Report and DHS Report which essentially characterized anyone who believes in or practices individual liberty as a potential terrorist. I was eager to know what the war college document contained. He did not provide a link, but I found the document, which is very interesting, but not particularly frightening. In fact, it was quite enlightening.
I've save the document, "Strategic Implications of American Millennialism," Major Brian L. Stuckert. [For the School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.]
I could find no overt threat to religion, or even a covert one in the entire document. There is a very real danger in the general tenner of the document to the principles of liberty and limited government, however, because Major Stuckert is a globalist who favorably quotes policy reports from the Council on Foreign Relations, highly regards the UN and WTO, and believes friendlier relations with Russia, "could lead to significant improvements in dealing with North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and China," and "contribute to the long-term stability of the Middle East." A globalist is a collectivist on a world-wide scale.
Religion and Policy
The purpose of the report is to examine a specific religious doctrine that has historic and current influence on foreign policy. The particular doctrine is a widely held version of eschatology call pre-millennialism. Major Stuckert does a good job outlining the history of that doctrine, though glosses over, and may be unaware of the varieties of per-millennialism, such pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib (trib = tribulation) varieties. He does touch on some other eschatologies, however.
Briefly, pre-millennialism is the belief that the second-coming of Christ will be initiated by the "rapture" when all "born-again" Christians will be taken up out of the world, which will be followed by seven years of tribulation (trouble, turmoil, and war) culminated by the Battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ to the earth to reign for a thousand years (millennium). Before any of this can begin, it is believed by many, God will bring Israel back into the "promised land."
His description of the Biblical basis for pre-millennialism is also a bit shallow, concentrating almost entirely on the book of Revelation, but pre-millennialism is largely based on the books of Daniel and Ezekiel as well, with many references to Jeremiah, Zechariah, the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and almost every other book of the Bible. His purpose admittedly was not an examination of the theology, however, but the influence of the teaching, especially on the popular view of future history, and especially as it has and does affect American Foreign policy. On that he has done a very good job, I think.
His history of the origin, development, and spread of what should be called "dispensational, pre-trib, pre-millenialism," which was entirely the work of the British Plymouth Brethren pastor, John Darby, (1800-1882) includes a footnote which is an excellent delineation of the dispensationalist aspects of pre-millenialism. Major Stuckert attributes the major influence of pre-millenialism beginning in the 1970s, but pre-millennialism was already widely held and very influential, especially in the South, as early as the 1940s.
What did happen in the 1970s was the popularization of the ideas of pre-millenialism, and he again correctly points out the sources of that popularization, beginning with Hal Lindsey?s 1970, Late, Great Planet Earth, and Tim LaHayes 1996, "Left Behind" series of books and films.
He mentions other influential religious leaders, and more importantly shows their influence on many politicians, such as Billy Graham, Dr. John C. Hagee, Jack Van Impe, and Jerry Falwell.
What's So Special about Israel
Pre-millenniamists believe the current state of Israel is the Biblically promised return of the Jews to the promised land. Major Stuckert demonstrates it is this pre-millenial view that permeates both non-religious popular view as well as the widely held religious view that dominates US foreign policy.
As one piece of evidence, Major Stuckert provides an overview of American spending on Israel:
"Since 1976, Israel received the largest share of United States every single year until 2003 when the demands of the conflict in Iraq caused the country to occupy the top position for American aid."
"This is a significant fact that is difficult to understand using traditional political science or rational actor models."
"At the height of the Cold War when the European theater was said to be of paramount importance, the United States placed Israel with a population smaller than some American cities and no treaty or alliance obligations ahead of everyone else in the world for aid—including NATO allies. The timing is significant and coincides with the election of the first Baptist president since President Truman, who extended formal recognition to Israel against the almost unanimous advice of senior government and military officials."
"On August 13, 2007, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, signed a memorandum of understanding with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon Abramowitz to govern a new 10-year, $30 billion aid package. The aid is primarily in the form of foreign military financing and averages $3 billion per year. About a quarter of the money may be spent in Israel with remainder going to the purchase of American weaponry."
"The State Department's official position is that a militarily strong Israel is in the interests of the United States. Essentially, in spite of broad consensus that Israel possesses a more than adequate military, the United States continues to go to great lengths and expense to add to Israel's military capacity and strengthen the military relationship between the two countries."
"In 1998, the United States Congress recognized that Israel no longer required any economic enhancement or support, but continued to increase funding for the improvement and expansion of Israeli military capabilities. The Congress has also shown interest in funding another on-going program: emigration of Jews worldwide to Israel. In dispensational pre-millennialism, this is called the Ingathering and the return of the Jews to their biblical homeland in Palestine is an essential precursor to Armageddon."
The flow of American tax-payer dollars to Israel has not abated. There is no other reason for this rape of American's wealth for Israel than the religious view that Israel is a God made state, populated by "the chosen people."
Major Stuckert's analysis of the extent to which pre-millennialism influences America's foreign policy, especially in the Middle East is correct. His criticism of that religious belief, or any religious belief molding government policy of any kind as wrong is also correct.
Unfortunately some of his criticism indicts his own views:
"Pre-millennial interpretations of biblical prophecy that predict the emergence of a one-world government led by an anti-Christ causes distrust and even antagonism toward organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, NAFTA and OPEC."
Mistrust of and antagonism toward, "organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, NAFTA and OPEC," ought to be coming from one's understanding of the principles on which this country was found, the principles of individual liberty, property rights, and limited government. Major Stuckert obviously does not understand those principles and the danger such organizations are to them and to US autonomy. If pre-millennialists are also antagonistic against these collectivist anti-individualist Marxist agencies, that is good, not something they are to be criticized for.
Two Things Wrong
Major Stuckert thinks, "Two motivations for support of Israel derive directly from pre-millennialism. First, pre-millennialists equate the contemporary political state of Israel with the Israel of the Old Testament and hold them to be God's chosen people resulting in an obligation to aid them in any way possible. Second, if Israel were removed before the rapture, then the pre-millennialists' theory of imminent escape from death would be falsified."
Whether that criticism is totally correct or not, there certainly is some of that in what influences America's Middle East foreign policy, but it is broader than that, because America's popular view of Israel as something special, unlike any other nation determines America's entire Middle East policy, and much other foreign policy as well.
Suppose Israel were populated with any other people than the Jews, such as Gypsies, perhaps, or British, but was still a country friendly to the United States, but just as hated by the surrounding countries as Israel is by the Muslim countries surrounding it. Does anyone believe that country would be the recipient of the greatest amount of American aid of any country in the world? Isreal is the recipient of such aid, entirely because of the influence of people's religious beliefs about it.
Should the United States defend Israel? At the very least, the United States ought to morally support Israel's right to defend itself from aggression by any means it can, and ought to stand with Israel against all the hate and false accusations made against that country. If Israel should make a mutual defense pack with the US (there is no formal agreement at all at the moment), then the US should honor that agreement when and if Israel were truly threatened militarily. Beyond that, there is nothing special about Israel that would require more. [The United States should not be wasting its citizen's wealth on financial aid to any country.]
Is Israel God's Country?
The Balfour Declaration in 1917 and recognition of Israel by the US and UN in 1948, and Israel's own ability to defend itself militarily had more to do with the existence of Israel than any divine intervention, in my view. Still many Christians are convinced, the existence of Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy and has eschatological significance.
I do not intend to question that belief, but to question the sincerity of those who claim to hold it. Perhaps my Christian friends remember the words of wise Gamaliel when counseling the Pharisees on what they should do about the Christians, "Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this ... work be of men it will come to nothing; But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God." [Acts 5:38-39]
If you truly believe Israel is the return of the Jews to the promised land, if it is really the work of God, and it is God's intention that Israel be where it is, can anything overthrow it? If you really think Israel is in danger (and I think it is) how could it then be the work of God and the fulfillment of prophecy. If Israel is the work of God, does God need American aid? If Israel needs American aid, how can it be the work of God?
Of course it doesn't ultimately matter what anyone believes about Israel, no one's religious beliefs must ever be the basis of any government policy, and no one's religious beliefs must ever be shoved down the throats of those who do not agree.
The Real Issue
It does not make a particle of difference to me what people believe, and I do not care if people want to believe that Israel is a portent of the millenniam at hand. Like global warming, they are going to have a very long wait for what they believe is imminent to transpire.
The real issue is religion mixed with political power. I've already addressed the issue in relationship to abortion. It's always wrong, and always disastrous.
I do not think for a moment the United States is in any danger of becoming a theocracy, like
Dr. Peikoff and the
OINOs, and as even Major Stuckert hinted. I do know most Americans have no qualms about using their religious beliefs on various issues as the basis for government policy, which I've adddressed
elswhere. Such people are are anti-American, no matter how patriotic they feel.
—Reginald Firehammer (04/12/10)
All comments and criticisms will be read, and, if decent, published. Please include the title of the article. Questions are also welcome.