According to a just released PEW Research Center poll, support for the war in Iraq among evangelical Christians in the U.S. has plummeted over the last few weeks. In September, 61% of this group thought the war was going well. That figure is down to 48% in late October. In September, 71% supported Bush’s decision to go to war; now, only 58% think it was proper. Meanwhile among Republicans in general, 76% supported the decision to attack in September, while 78% do in October. Thus evangelicals are actually now more likely than their more secular party comrades to oppose the war.
This is bad news for the administration, since fundamentalist Protestants have been the bedrock of Bush’s political support. It’s good news for the antiwar movement, which ought to have room in its ranks for these believers. It is possible, after all, for good decent people who -- for whatever reasons and whatever sorts of upbringing -- happen to believe in the literal truth of the Bible (seven day creation, Adam and Eve, parting of the Red Sea and so on) to critically analyze and oppose the Iraq war. They can respond skeptically to those who depict Bush Middle East policy as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. They can wonder (as Pope John Paul II apparently wondered) if Bush himself might be the prophesied Antichrist -- a “false prophet” engaging in deception (Mark 13:22), a man wielding the “secret power of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7), the “liar” (1 John 2:22), the ruler of the world when “the great city” of Babylon (New York?) burns and people “weep and wail” (Revelation 18:9). Whether or not they relate contemporary events to prophecy, many fundamentalist Christians have declined to jump on the warmongers’ bandwagon. That, at least, is what I gather from e-mails I’ve received from some such believers. We secular humanists can work with them against this war.
One might say to any evangelical open to discussion: Don’t you realize how you have been USED? Conservative Christian David Kuo, who served as special assistant to Bush from 2001 to 2003 heading the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has just published Tempting Faith, another insider view of the administration that exposes its hypocrisy. He comes down on Bush’s top political advisor Karl Rove, the Machiavellian operator whose amorality is nicely documented in the documentary Bush’s Brain.”
“National Christian leaders,” writes Kuo, “received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy.’” Karl Rove’s staff, Kuo declares, regarded religious fundamentalists as “nuts.”
You see, evangelicals, they don’t like you for who you are, or what you believe about God and the Bible. They don’t like you for your family values. They like you because -- like sheep led astray -- you’ve been backing their man.
That’s what we ought to stress to our fundamentalist brothers and sisters. We can also say:
Yes, St. Paul in Romans 1:26 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 condemns homosexuality. You believe that everything written in the Bible is the Word of God. That’s fine, that’s your business. No one’s saying you should reject any teaching of the Apostle. But can’t you see that this administration is USING the gay marriage thing to sustain your support, smugly confident that this issue, along with abortion and stem-cell research will distract you from thinking about the war? About the hundreds of thousands they’ve killed, thinking you’ll just go along with it?
Devout, anti-abortion Roman Catholics from actor Martin Sheen to producer Mel Gibson (who directed and produced The Passion of the Christ so wildly popular with the evangelical community) have denounced or questioned the war.
Fundamentalist Protestants can too, and as the PEW poll shows, they finally are.
is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative
Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese
history. He can be reached at:
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