armageddon3.jpgStdogbert alerted me to this little piece from Reuters earlier in the afternoon and suggested that it might be blogworthy. Yep, sure is; any time an American President gets involved with trying to bring peace to the Middle East via a resolution to the Israel-Palestine contest, there’s going to be something to talk, write, read, or blog about.

This sudden interest by Bush in the Middle East peace process is remarkable. Obviously, every President has had an interest in it and they all have been involved to varying degrees, but given the circumstances going on in Iraq (and perhaps Iran in the disturbingly-near future), for Bush to start pandering peace, especially by appealing to Jesus’ beatitude to being peacemakers, when he has so much blood on his hands in the region is hypocritical and disingenuous, or just plain clueless. (My guess is it’s the last.) What fascinates me, however, is how an evangelical President like Bush is going against the old grain with this little peace-making visit. Whatever else the Bush Presidency may be remembered as, I certainly will not-so-fondly remember it as the Presidency who tried to help God out in bringing in the so-called “End Times.” I don’t think any other President has done more that, at least on the surface of things, seems to speed up the timetable to Armageddon in the Bob Hagee-an, Jack van Impe-an, Hal Lindsey-an sense.

Not too long ago, during a call for congregational prayer requests, a fellow in our church asked the pastor and church to pray for peace in the Middle East. The pastor took the opportunity to give a little mini-sermon/lecture that reflects the dispensationalist, Jack van Impean form of End Times politics. His response was something to the effect of “Well, I’m not sure that we can really do that, [name], because the Bible tells us that there will not be peace in the Middle East until the Lord Jesus returns. No matter how many Presidents, ambassadors, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and humanitarians argue for peace and work for peace, it’s just not going to happen until then, and so I think that anything we do that tries to make peace there is just getting in God’s way. But I’ll pray for Jesus’ return and that he comes soon so that we can have peace in Israel soon.” Many evangelicals, particularly those reared and raised and under the continued influence of more traditional, 1950s-60s evangelicalism, and practically all self-proclaimed fundamentalists would agree with the pastor’s assessment here. Not too many “new” or “younger evangelicals” would, however.

Probably not surprisingly, I don’t agree with this at all, because this is not what the Bible says. But that’s not the point here. The point is that Bush’s visit looks like he’s breaking rank with the older mainstream evangelical tradition he has sought to uphold as his standard for his Presidency. Just for once, for whatever motives, he is appealing to the Christian beatitude of peacableness as represented by Jesus rather than the imperialized and horrific vision of the Revelation. I have to give him credit for this.

If Bush’s effort here is doomed to fail, as I think it is, it’s not because it’s foretold in the Scriptures that it will, but that it’s just too hard of a sell. It’s because Middle East leaders can’t trust him, or the US in general, and that is simply because the track record of US involvement in this part of the world isn’t exactly worthy of trust. For that, we can’t blame the Bible, but only those who think they are doing what it says God wants them to do.