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Trump, Middle East and conservative Christians

By Keith Suter - posted Friday, 25 May 2018


American Jews cannot be blamed for President Trump's recent decisions to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. If a religious dimension is being looked for, then the answer lies with the US's Christian right.

President Trump does have some American Jewish supporters, such as billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But most Jews do not vote for conservative Republicans; they are far more liberal. Also the number of American Jews is at most around eight million and so represent less than three per cent of the total American population. In much the same way as Israel is a nation of eight million prime ministers, so the American population is equally varied, even on a matter such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

If a religious dimension is being sought, then the answer lies with conservative American Christians. The US has the world's largest Christian population. Of the Christians who voted in the 2016 presidential election, 81 per cent voted for Trump (a higher percentage than Ronald Reagan or George W Bush ever received). His support remains firm, if not increasing.

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These conservative Christians represent an American sub-culture. They see themselves as living in the "end times", with Jesus about to return to Earth. The countdown began with the recreation of the state of Israel in 1948, about 2,000 years after the last Jewish state was destroyed by the Romans.

They are "pre-millennial", meaning that they expect the return of Jesus to occur before the "millennial" rule of Jesus. (More liberal Christians are "post-millennial, meaning that they have to work for social justice to improve the quality of life before Jesus returns).

Conservative Christians see themselves as living in a decaying world, with life getting worse. But not to worry: the worse it gets, the closer Jesus is to returning. Bad news is for them good news.

Israel has been recreated. The US has now recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Previous presidential candidates have made similar promises but then failed to honour the promise once elected. Trump has kept his word (despite criticism from Washington's foreign policy elite).

The next stage will be the creation of the Third Temple in Jerusalem (the last one was destroyed by the Romans 2,000 years ago). That project will require demolishing some current Islamic places of worship.

Trying to end the Iran deal means that hostilities will increase, with Israel already having nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia (Iran's Islamic rival) also acquiring nuclear weapons.

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The conservative Christians see themselves as on the countdown to Armageddon. "Armageddon" is derived from Har Megiddo, located in northern Israel. It will be, according to this theology, the location of the final battle between the supporters and opponents of Israel. The battle will trigger Jesus' return.

Australia's mainstream media are generally agnostic and so not interested in religious issues (except for the abuse of children in religious institutions). The bigger issues of "Armageddon theology" are not mainstream considerations.

Therefore this mention of the US's conservative Christians may come as a surprise to many Australians. They have difficulty understanding why strict Christians could endorse a person with such moral lapses.

But it is a way of explaining Trump's popularity among conservative Christians. Trump is, for them, a flawed warrior of Christ. He has immense moral imperfections but he can still also be a vehicle for God's plans for the Earth. They overlook his appalling personal behaviour because he serves (for them) a higher purpose.

The US has voluntary voting. It is very important to encourage people to get out to vote. This November sees the "mid-term" elections: one third of the Senate and all the House of Representatives. Trump needs to continue his influence over Congress.

Trump is counting on the conservative Christians getting out to support him in much the same was as he has supported their objectives.

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About the Author

Dr Keith Suter is a futurist, thought leader and media personality in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. He is a prolific and well-respected writer and social commentator appearing on radio and television most weeks.

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