International: Book review: On how Christian fundamentalists pray for the destruction of the world

Islam Interfaith
Yoginder Sikand reviews the recent title by Grace Halsell, "Forcing God’s Hand: Why Millions Pray for a Quick Rapture and Destruction of Planet Earth."
Although rarely talked about in the media, Christian fundamentalism has witnessed a frightening expansion in recent years. Christian fundamentalism is based on the belief that Christianity alone represents the truth.
All other religions are alleged to be false and even Satanic and their followers are said to be destined for hell. Today, Christian fundamentalism is a major power to reckon with in America. President Bush is himself a fervent Christian fundamentalist as are several of his top advisors and a large number of Republican Party members. Numerous Christian fundamentalist mega-missionary agencies based in America and Europe are working in poverty-stricken countries of the world spreading their literalist, hate-driven version of Christianity and have made considerable headway in gaining converts.

Because of the vast resources at its disposal and its close links with Western, particularly American, officialdom, Christian fundamentalism is a far more menacing form of religious fundamentalism, so this remarkable book argues. Halsell, a noted American author, an expert on Christian cults and speech writer for the former American President Lyndon Johnson, insists that Christian evangelist fundamentalists are a major threat to humanity because they actively and aggressively promote a global war that would engulf the entire world and drive it to total destruction. As their version of Christianity would have it, Jesus is returning soon, but before that terrible events will take place, the like of which the world has never seen before. The Anti-Christ will rule the world and will seek to destroy Israel. This will be accompanied by massive bloodshed all over the world, followed by the final global war of Armageddon. Then, Jesus will descend to earth, slay the Anti-Christ and all those who do not believe in Jesus and the monopolistic claims of Christianity, and will sit on a throne in Jerusalem to rule the world forever. In some versions of the story, just before the global war begins all righteous Christians will be miraculously lifted up to heaven, leaving the rest of humanity to be killed and then to suffer eternal damnation in hell. Halsell insists that Christian fundamentalism is a call to and appeal for global war. She also talks of the fiercely pro-capitalist thrust of Christian fundamentalists and the racist underpinnings of their theology.

Halsell tells us that advocates of what she calls ‘Armageddon theology’ are a major section of the American population. More than a quarter of American adults are Christian evangelist fundamentalists, she claims. These are not simply the ‘crazies’ one often associates with various American cults. Several American Presidents, including the present one, have been sympathizers or passionate supporters of aggressive Christian fundamentalism. A central pillar of Christian fundamentalism is the defence of Israel, and Halsell devotes much of her book to this. She argues that consistent American support to Israel and Israeli aggression has much to do with the enormous clout of the Christian right-wing in American policy-making circles. The US Treasury, she says, is the largest source of funding to extremist Jewish groups like the Gush Emunim and to organizations engaged in the building of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. From 1949 to 1995, US taxpayers gave a total of 62.5 billion dollars to Israel as foreign aid. Israel, one of the world’s smallest countries, with a population less than that of Hong Kong, receives as much American foreign aid as all the countries of the Caribbean, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa combined, working out to an average of more than 14000 dollars per Israeli.

American Christian Zionist fundamentalists, Halsell tells us, have established very close links with American and Israeli Jewish organizations and with Israeli leaders. This support to Israel and the Zionist agenda has, however, nothing to do with any genuine love for the Jews and does not represent a marked departure from the Church’s historical opposition to the Jews. Rather, it all has to do with the bizarre Christian fundamentalist theory of the end of the world. According to this thesis, the end of the world is drawing near, and Jesus’ second coming is round the corner. But for this to happen, Jews living elsewhere in the world must be settled in Israel, and the dream of Greater Israel, stretching from Egypt to Iraq be made real. The Jews must rebuild their temple, which allegedly stood on the spot presently occupied by the al-Aqsa mosque. Hence, numerous Christian fundamentalist organizations are generously funding Jewish efforts to settle Jews in Palestine, clearing Palestine of the Arabs, egging on Western governments to attack and destroy Arab countries opposed to Israel and assisting extremist Jewish organizations who advocate the destruction of the Al-Qasa mosque, even though if that were to happen the chances of a Third World War would be immeasurably closer than ever in the past. Rather than this representing any sort of sincere support for the Jews, Halsell says, it represents a new form of anti-Semitism, because Christian fundamentalists believe that once Jesus returns to the world all Jews, along with all other non-Christians who do not agree to believe in Christianity, would be slain and then sent off to eternal damnation in Hell.

Haslell concludes this remarkable book with a warning that Christian fundamentalism, in league with the American establishment, poses the gravest danger to world peace and even to Christianity itself. Given the enormous clout of the Christian fundamentalist lobby in America and elsewhere the media’s silence on the global threat that it poses needs to be interrogated as implicit complicity and reflecting a long tradition of Western Christian racism that continues to thrive today in different guises.