US President Donald Trump
“I will always stand with Israel and the Jewish people,” “I have done a lot for Israel; I have moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and then recognized that the Golan Heights belong to Israel.” U.S. President Donald Trump last month announced the unilateral “Middle East peace plan” which he described as the “peace plan of the century.” With these words, he explained his so-called peace plan that gives Israel everything it ever wanted; destroying the two-state solution, stripping Palestine of all its rights, and consequently isolating Palestinian people to an unprecedented level.
Following the announcement, the plan is currently being debated with its historical, political, geo-political and demographic aspects. In this respect, the main focus of these debates is Trump’s desire to keep the support of evangelical Christians and the Jewish lobby ahead of the recent impeachment vote, which left him politically in a tight squeeze. Although it has been emphasized from time to time, the theo-political and apocalyptical aspects behind this plan have been overlooked. We can assert that the U.S. and the policies and plans of the administration of Trump and Vice President Pence about the Muslim world and the Middle East essentially focus on the following two factors: The first is economic interests, and the second is, along with the support of Jews and the Jewish lobby, realizing the theo-political purposes of radical fundamentalist evangelicals in the United States, whose numbers currently top 100 million and whose votes they desperately depend upon – and gained, at the end.
From this point, it can be positively asserted that without having a full grasp of the theo-politics of Jewish and Christian Zionism towards Jerusalem, the apocalyptical approaches that define this theo-politics and the “political orientalism” which brings all of this in one pot in the form of policymaking in the region, one cannot comprehend the policies and political moves of the U.S. and the Jewish-evangelicals on Jerusalem, which the Holy Qur’an defines as “whose surroundings We have blessed.” The reason is the following: debates around Jerusalem are very much intertwined with apocalyptical approaches such as “the end of the world – the Apocalypse” “Armageddon- millennium (1,000 years of Heaven on earth)” that are found in the holy texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
After the Trump-Pence administration took power, the three significant theo-political decisions that they made regarding Jerusalem, which are obviously apocalyptical decisions, confirm our hypothesis here. In this sense, it is useful to remember the historian of religions Justin McCarthy’s remarks: “There is not one existing phenomenon in the world that has nothing to do with religion.” This situation is much more explicit in the case of the United States, in which there is a 70-80% rate of religiosity, compared to that of Europe, where around 70% of people are moving away from religion/the church, specifically in the northern regions.
- Trump’s and Zionist evangelicals’ Jerusalem theo-politics and apocalyptics
As we pointed out in our articles “Trump’ın Zaferinde Evanjeliklerin Rolü ve İslam Karşıtlığı” (The Role of evangelicals in Trump’s Triumph and Opposition to Islam) published right after Trump took office, and “Trump’in Kudus Kararinda Evanjeliklerin Rolu” (The Role of evangelicals in Trump’s Jerusalem Decision) published after Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the influence of evangelicals’ theo-politics and apocalyptics is explicitly seen in the Trump-Pence duo’s decisions and plans for Jerusalem. By then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also pointed at this issue by saying “evangelicals are behind this decision, I heard this from the president himself.”
In his presidency, Trump wasted no time in announcing his decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, after which he recognized the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. This decision has everything to do with Jerusalem. For that reason, it is plain to see that Trump’s so-called “peace plan of the century” was prepared in line with the evangelicals’ and the Israeli lobby’s theo-political purposes. This path, which leads Zionist Jews towards the “promised lands” and Zionist Christians towards the ideal of the millennium, Jesus’ “Heaven on earth” in Jerusalem, raises the question of what the next concrete theo-political step will be.
- The Jerusalem apocalyptics
In order to understand Trump-Pence’s and therefore evangelicals’ theo-politics on Jerusalem, it is imperative to understand the apocalyptical knowledge about the end of the world which we find in the holy books of Judaism and Christianity. This knowledge is also present in Islamic sources and is referred to as “fiten-melahim” and “esratu’s-saa.”
The words “apocalypse” and “apocalyptical” are used to explain various cosmic phenomena. The root of this word comes from the Greek “apokalypsis,” which means “to uncover something that is hidden.” Although its usage in the context of “destroying calamity” and agitation can be found in the Book of John in the New Testament, after 11 A.D. all Jewish and Christian books which resemble the New Testament’s understanding of apocalypse used this meaning. According to the apocalyptical narratives that are defined by F. Rosenthal as “the history of the future,” God explained the secrets of the ending of the world to the chosen ones. The end was near, and the chosen ones were meant to teach the people about it. These chosen ones learned the secrets through visions and dreams, and wrote them down. In this sense, along with the much-respected chapters and passages of the holy scripture, an apocalyptical literature has been created within the Judeo-Christian tradition including the following: the Pseudo-Ephraem Apocalypse, Pseudo-Methodius Apocalypse, Edessene Apocalypse, Shenute Apocalypse, John bar Penkaye Apocalypse, 12 Apostles Apocalypse, Ezra Apocalypse, and Daniel and Bahira Apocalypse.
For Zionist evangelicals, this approach is related to the millennium (1,000 years of Heaven on earth) believed to be set to follow “Armageddon,” the Grand Apocalypse War, in addition to the apocalyptical events that will happen after that. According to evangelicals, one of the necessary transitory stages required to reach the millennium is the congregation of all Jews in Israel-Palestine. After this stage is realized, the last stage is believed to be the arrival of Jesus, ordering Jews to convert to Christianity. They believe that some of them will consent to this, while those who do not will perish.
This is one of the main reasons behind Trump’s hardcore evangelical deputy Mike Pence’s decisions about Jerusalem, and consequently behind the so-called peace plan. Although there are nuances among them, nearly all of the evangelical sects are considered to be the most radical-fundamentalists of all Christians. They interpret some eschatological-apocalyptical passages in the New Testament and the Bible (canon- apocrypha) in the most literal and virtual sense possible. For that reason there are some approaches that compare them to “radical-integrist Salafis.”
- ‘President bestowed by God’
Among these Zionist evangelical and anti-Islam groups, which are very actively operating within seemingly civil society organizations, are Jerry Falwell, Jr. (president of the pioneering evangelical school Liberty University), Johnnie Moore, Sarah Palin, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Pat Robertson, and Tim Keller. In this context, evangelical organizations and civil society organizations such as Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, and Moral Majority – the last of them founded by the late Jerry Falwell, one of the most significant figures in the Christian right wing with a large following that supports Israel – are effectively operating in the field. Among these groups are large numbers of evangelical Christians who see Trump as the “president bestowed by God.” For instance, David Barton, the head of a group called “Wall Builders” who work to make the U.S. government comply fully with the New Testament / Christian-evangelical values, said: “Trump is a candidate bestowed to us by God and God has shown us through him that we will not succeed if we are alone. I’m certain that after a few years with Trump we will look back and we will say ‘this man has achieved things none of us thought possible before’.”
Due to these ideas, evangelicals are sometimes referred to as “Zionist Christians” “the American Taliban,” and “extreme right wing” in the U.S. as well. In fact, they are known to have announced the “manifesto of Christian Zionism” approximately 10 years before Theodore Herzl rallied the first Zionist congress (1897). Nearly 85% of evangelicals who act in accordance with this manifesto believe that God gave Israel to the Jews. This rate is around 40% even among Jews in the U.S.
This shows that in terms of their approach to Jerusalem, evangelicals have more theo-politically and apocalyptically fueled ideals and beliefs compared to Jews in the U.S. The fact that evangelical Christians heartily support a Jewish state in Jerusalem is quite remarkable, for if we consider the historical and theological facts, we may remember that the founding father of Protestantism Martin Luther described Jews as one of his three greatest foes (the other two being Turks/Muslims and the pope). This support can only be explained through theo-political and apocalyptical beliefs and motivations. As pointed out above, according to some Christians the arrival of Christ and the millennium, “1,000 years of Heaven on earth,” can only be possible if Jews can found their own state in Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomon, their main temple. The “Heaven on earth” led by Jesus Christ can only be possible if these steps are taken. Then, according to evangelicals, some Jews will put their faith in Jesus to become Christians. Those who do not will be deemed enemies and destroyed.
Although Jews’ interpretations of this apocalyptical target differs in nature, this theo-political cooperation works for their benefit until they reach ideals of their own. Evangelicals believe that those who oppose this apocalyptical belief and the Jerusalem plan devised by that same belief are “Antichrists” and “Gog and Magog.”
- ‘Antichrist’ and ‘Gog and Magog’
Craig C. White’s recent book Halfway to Armageddon (High Time to Awake) can be considered an example of this apocalyptical belief and its reflections. In this book, President Erdogan is targeted because he has shown the most effective reaction to the theo-political plans regarding the Muslim world, specifically Jerusalem. With references to some verses in the Bible, Erdogan is called the Antichrist and Gog/Magog (endtime enemies of God). Craig attempts to create apocalyptical proofs for this claim by citing Old and New Testament biblical eschatological and apocalyptical passages from such books as Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Revelations.
Historically, whenever Muslims defeat Christians, the strong Muslim leaders of the era are defined as the “Antichrist.” In this sense, Salahaddin Ayyubi upon conquering Jerusalem, Mehmed II upon conquering Constantinople, and Suleiman the Magnificent upon sending Ottoman troops deep into Europe to the gates of Vienna are all defined as “Antichrists.” Naturally, after the revelation of Islam, the first records written by the church fathers and in all anti-Islam debates throughout the Middle Ages, the Prophet Muhammad was also referred to as an Antichrist, along with all other sorts of heinous definitions.
- US presidents and the theo-politics of Jerusalem
It is useful to remember the other American presidents who supported Israel in religious and theo-political aspects. For instance, President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) at the time of Balfour Declaration (1917), which paved the way for Israel’s creation, was known as a Presbyterian and a firm supporter of the declaration. The son of an evangelical priest, Wilson is reported to have believed that the holy lands had to be seized by the rightful Jewish people and that he had a vital role to play in this process. Another example would be Harry Truman, president in 1945-1953 in and around the time of Israel’s foundation in 1948. He regarded himself as Cyrus II, who is mentioned in the Bible as the savior of the Jews, and thus he placed specific importance on the foundation of the state of Israel.
Today, evangelicals also compare Trump to the Cyrus II. After the king of Babel Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem in 586 B.C., demolished the Temple of Solomon, and sent 70,000 Jews into exile to Mesopotamia-Babylon (the first Jewish diaspora), Jews had to live in captivity for 60 years. Cyrus II is after all the king who saved the Jews from this captivity and allowed them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomon; thus the enthusiastic comparison with Trump.
Later Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) and Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) also had similar views. Moreover, both father and son Presidents Bush destroyed and demolished Iraq with policies that can be considered in the same context, which also comes from the same logic of Israeli and Jerusalem theo-politics.
Consequently, if the Muslim world does not react swiftly and take action against Trump’s Jerusalem plan, which can be described as the “neo-Balfour Declaration” and has a strong theo-political and apocalyptical background, it is doomed to destruction and further violence.
If we look back, we will remember that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was founded after a Christian integrist Dennis Michael Rohan, a member of Church of God sect, set Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on fire. At that time, Jerusalem became a meeting point of the Muslim world and brought it together. And today, if the necessary measures are taken to raise awareness of the theo-political, apocalyptical, and orientalist plans towards the Muslim world, Jerusalem will preserve its potential to bring the Muslim world together once again. At the same time, the Judeo-Christian-evangelical apocalyptical projections led by the Trump-Pence administration are on full speed in “forcing God for apocalypse” and thus bringing the world to an end, primarily directed towards Jerusalem.
By Ozcan Hidir
(A professor at Istanbul’s Sabahattin Zaim University)
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