A marriage made in hell

A Marriage Made in Hell
How Christian Pessimism and Radical Islam Are Blowing Up the World
by Michael Spencer

The Bible is an optimistic book. This seems almost ridiculously obvious. No matter what your position on eschatology, the end of the story is upbeat. On that I think we can all agree. The vision of God that fills the closing chapters of Holy Scripture will always improve a bad day.

In the meantime, Christians are divided over the course of history. Should we work to make things better or cheer while things get worse? Pre-tribulational Dispensationalists are rejoicing pessimists. The more bad news, the happier they are, for the hour of their salvation is drawing near. When the evening news says that the planet is going to hell in a handbasket, they turn to Jack Van Impe or John Hagee and rejoice in the abundant bad news. The purist variety of this pessimism even allows the devil to ruin things after Christ reigns for a thousand years. Now that’s pessimistic.

Post-millennial folk, no matter what the rest of their eschatology, are a tiny band of optimists, convinced by the visions of the Old Testament prophets and the Great Commission that the knowledge of the Lord will convert whole nations, bring peace and solve our penchant for war even as it ushers in the coming of Christ. As a result of this optimism, post-mils are usually involved in some aspect of the cultural mandate: frontier missions, building schools or working for political renewal. R.C. Sproul, Jr. recently said that if reformed people wanted to work for the enlargement of the Kingdom, they should get married and have lots of children. I am sure that there are plenty of people with Left Behind on the night stand who are debating whether one should have children at all, given that the world is about to end any minute. (Implications for credit cards duly noted.)

Christian pessimism is the prevailing mood of the day in world affairs. And, hey- who can blame somebody for being a pessimist right now? Peggy Noonan reported that a major world diplomat looked at her after she asked his views on the prospects of peace in the middle east and said one word: “Unsolvable.” Though the pessimists have seemed less consistent in their approach to American culture, they have been consistent on the middle east situation. It’s bad, getting worse, and they like it that way. Two hours of listening to Christian talk radio confirmed that in my mind earlier this week.

This particular program was allowing Christians to call in and give their opinions on whether Yassar Arafat was a diplomat or a terrorist. (Score: Diplomat- zero. Terrorist- 5,321.) After giving their views on this pressing matter, the majority of callers gave their two cents on the overall middle east situation. Consistently, each caller proved to be a pretribulational dispensationalist schooled in John Hagee and Left Behind, and their opinion could generally be summarized as follows:

Modern Israel is the chosen people of God, and God gave them all the middle east from Egypt to Iraq to Syria. They have a right to this land no matter who else is there or how long they’ve been there. We must approve everything the government of Israel does, or we are going against God. (That was frequently referred to as being “Biblically aligned” with Israel, which means we get blessed in the deal, no matter what else might be going on.) The consensus solution is something drastic, like wipe out the Palestinians. (One woman referred to this as a “Holy War” that we must win. Holy Osama Bin Ladin, Batman! It’s a Christian Jihad!) This is all part of the arrival of the anti-Christ, a European do-gooder who will wow the world with his ability to solve the unsolvable crisis. Anything the Palestinians do- from suicide/homicide attacks to pleas for American intervention- is terrorism. Anything Israel does is God’s will. Best of all, if this keeps up, we will all soon be raptured and the Jews will turn to Christ, so let’s keep our hands off and pray for the worst.

No one mentioned that there are thousands of Christian Arabs and Christian Palestinians. No one mentioned that Israel is an unbelieving nation where evangelism is illegal (yeah- just like some of those Muslim countries.) No one mentioned that Israel has developed an attitude towards the Palestinians as a race that justifies and excuses the worst kinds of discrimination. No one mentioned that there is good reason to believe scripture does not teach anything as stupid as a blanket approval of the actions of the government of Israel. No one mentioned peace, reconciliation and justice must apply to all sides. No one mentioned the fact that many Israelis and Palestinians live together in peace, and loathe what the younger generation of Palestinians are doing. No one mentioned the complex root causes of Palestinian violence in the despair of the refugee camps or the absurd political policies of Arafat that are guaranteed to choke off moderate alternatives. No one mentioned that America will soon face its own plague of suicide bombers if we cannot find a reasonable, justice-pursuing alternative to nuking the whole Arab world, one country at a time. And no one mentioned evangelizing the Palestinians, or Muslims in general.

Christian pessimism and Muslim extremism are a marriage made in hell. I have no reason to believe the evangelicals in the Bush administration buy this line of cheering while the world slides into the pit, but I think evangelical leaders would do well to say loudly and clearly, that there is no undercurrent of grinning apocalypticism in our dealings with the middle east. If anything in our faith should be animating us right now, it is that Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, would be putting himself in harm’s way to bring together those who are choosing vengeance over reconciliation. The knee jerk Zionism of conservatives and the knee jerk backing of Arafat by liberals needs to give way to a policy that recognizes the evil of terrorism and the evil of human pride, prejudice and stubbornness. And as Christians, our concern should be the evangelizing of all the peoples of the earth, including those who hate one another.

It took a generation for Arafat to produce suicide bombers who hated people as a virtue. It may take as long to produce Christians who believe the Gospel enough to love their friends and their enemies and their friend’s enemies. What we can’t have is a Christianity that embraces the worst case as the best case, and excuses violence as the necessary fulfillment of prophecy. Scripture says that we must not lose heart and grow weary in doing good. I would urge every Christian to reject a view of the world that says giving up on peace and advocating war is what Jesus would do.

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