The Real Cost of Evangelical Influence in Foreign Policy

The Real Cost of Evangelical Influence in Foreign Policy May 15, 2018

I just retweeted Mitt Romney.
And other things I never thought I’d say.

My first thought was, basically, hell has frozen over. But times change. Suddenly, the “Binders Full of Women” guy becomes the voice of sanity, compassion and a global worldview. This is where we are.

Romney tweeted yesterday in response to the White House decision to invite Robert Jeffress to pray at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Gaza today.

Jeffress is a prominent evangelical leader and one of Trump’s most influential advisors. He’s also famously not-so-interfaith in his views, as indicated by Romney’s message.

Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was controversial enough. Throw in the representation of Jeffress and John Haggee—white American ministers who are both Islamaphobic AND anti-semitic, in an area populated primarily by Jews and Muslims—and that’s where we are today. The face of the U.S. in that part of the world is somehow both disastrous and hilarious at the same time. That is, it would be hilarious. If it weren’t so deadly.

Because while these guys are praying about a happy Jesus inside, outside it is death and chaos.

Two side-by-side images in the New York Times sum it up well: on the left, violence, chaos and destruction at the border, as Israeli troops gun down Palestinian protesters. On the right, a picture of a smiling and polished Ivanka, wearing a nice suit and pointing to the new U.S. Embassy sign like Vanna White herself. At least 52 Palestinians have been killed in the past two days. Another 1,000+ injured. Because of the embassy that “we” needed to move. To appease a “Christian” voter base that has taken on larger-than-life political influence in this administration.

It’s hard to know which thread to start pulling at, but it’s also important to know how we got here. This is going to be a vast oversimplification, but the following factors all contributed to this bizarre confluence of headlines: a misreading of scripture among some evangelical Christians, taking thousands-of-years-old geographical boundaries at face value and wildly out of context; a second grade theology that views God as binary, vengeful, and of course, male; influenced by the anti-semitism and Islamaphobia that run rampant in American culture right now; complicated by a white privilege-y sort of American entitlement to control and manipulate the rest of the world.

THEN, give that demographic of evangelical voters an absurd amount of leverage in our whole political system, from campaign rhetoric to actual policy-making …

And then add in a President who is well-versed in NEITHER religion nor history. Not to mention religious history.

Many evangelicals support Trump’s actions because they think he is “fulfilling biblical prophecy.” Their assumption stems from a belief that the “end times” will be kickstarted by “Israel’s political boundaries being reestablished to what God promised the Israelites” in the Bible. (See this LifeWay Research Poll about evangelical attitudes toward Israel.)

If you think Donald Trump is fulfilling biblical prophecy … then I don’t think that means what you think it means. There is nothing “biblical” about moving the embassy. Even Trump doesn’t believe that. He is just doing the circus tricks that it takes to keep the evangelicals in his pocket and make them not care so much about, you know, porn stars (among other things). I guess it’s a pretty solid plan so far.

For him.

For the rest of the world, it’s a recipe for a disastrous cocktail of violent chaos. People are dying, on our watch and by our collective conscience. It adds up to the latest unsurprising move from an administration that uses force to cover up lack of … well, anything else. Knowledge, wisdom, leadership, vocabulary, etc. And then they send religious leaders like Jeffress and Hagee, with all their hateful rhetoric, to represent us.

It’s ironic that this brand of evangelicalism so adamantly supports “God’s will” for Israel, to the point of manipulating foreign policy at the expense of human life. And yet, they ALSO THINK all the Jews are going to hell for sure. “Jeffress bases his beliefs and his general opposition to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians on his strict interpretation of the Bible. In his own words: “The Bible says this land belongs to the Jewish people — period… God has pronounced judgment after judgment in the Old Testament to those who would “divide the land,” end quote, and hand it over to non-Jews.”

In other words: “Hey, we’ve got your back in this life, but in the next one you’re going to burn. Lol.”

Truth is– it is distinctly un-Christian to be anti-Jewish. I mean, JESUS WAS JEWISH. That always seems to be lost on these guys.

That the president is ignorant of these many layers is no excuse. Even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he willingly sells influence to leaders in the religious right in order to appeal to the coveted evangelical voter base. Keep them happy and they don’t mind if you sleep with a prostitute, or whatever.

Sending someone like Jeffress to an area where tensions are already escalated, is not just ignorant. It’s dangerous. And, as these past few days have revealed: bad religion isn’t just about misguided belief… it actually comes with a body count.


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