The US, Iran and CUFI
On October 6th., Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS focused its attention on a convention of the organization that calls itself "Christians United for Israel" (CUFI) that was held in Washington DC this past July. The convention, as well as the organization itself, was led by a Christian fundamentalist Texas clergyman John Hagee. Hagee is also known as the guiding influence -- the "Godfather" one might put it-- behind the immensely popular "left behind" series of novels written by Tim LaHaye. In these novels, the recurring theme is that of biblical "dispensationalism", which holds that the Second Coming of Christ will only be accomplished in conjunction with the apocalyptic event known as "Armageddon", when the forces of good and evil will square off against each other in a final showdown, an event that Hagee has for a long time claimed will take place in the Middle East and be centered around the fate of the state of Israel.
For a long time Hagee predicted that the main antagonists in this apocalyptic battle would be the USA vs.the Soviet Union. But lately, Hagee has turned his attention to Iran, which he now sees as a proxy for the Russians, just as he sees the state of Israel as a proxy for the USA. His current message, repeated over and over again at this recent convention, is that the USA must see to it that a pre-emptive strike must be taken against Iran before it gets nuclear weapon -- a message that seems to have the support of a number of American politicians who showed up and spoke at the CUFI convention, most noticeable being ex-vice-presidential candidate Senator Joseph Liebermann, present presidential candidate John McCain, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and present House minority whip, Roy Blunt.
All this, I must say, strikes me as a particularly scary and cynical mixture of religion and politics. Cynical, first because none of the politicians who showed up are particularly religious, at least in any fundamentalist sense. But second, because according to Hagee's beliefs -- although he, as well as his supporters in Israel, are now understandably downplaying this part of his message -- Armageddon will also usher in the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, with those who fail to cooperate all sent to hell.
But it also seems to me particularly scary, considering that just five years ago we were all being barraged with the same sort of message -- that the "smoking gun" pointed at us by Saddam's Iraq might soon turn out to be a nuclear "mushroom cloud". It also takes me back to those days, when at the height of the "Cold War" I found myself berated by an ultra-conservative Catholic for having repeated (from the pulpit) Pope Paul VI's warning to LBJ that the USA would be making a big mistake in getting further involved in Vietnam. My vehement critic was certain that Communist China was behind the Viet Cong (despite Vietnam's long struggle to remain independent of China) and that rather than fear a showdown with Communist China, the USA should preemptively strike China "before the Chinese got the bomb."
It could be that my critic back then was right -- that I shouldn't have mixed religion with politics and that China would sooner or later turn out to be our greatest threat. But if so, it hardly seems because the Chinese, out of sense of patriotism, have long had a few nuclear bombs. Rather, it seems to me that the greatest threat to world peace is not when we bring bring moral reasoning or ethical judgment to bear on national policy-making, but when we fail to do so out of fear of being critical of religious fundamentalists or of politicians, whether they be Christian, Jewish, or Islamic, allowing religious extremism -- or political opportunism -- to overcome either careful diplomacy or even just plain common sense.
R W Kropf 10/16/07 CUFI.doc 07-10-16.html