Israelis and Palestinians are headed for another round of tragedy and destruction but seem helpless to avoid it,” according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. With a headline of “Dear God, Not Again, the paper analyzes recent events that include violent deaths on both sides over events at the Al Asqa Mosque in Jerusalem at the Dome of the Rock. This piece of property has profound religious meaning for both Jews and Muslims, and thusly sits as a likely flashpoint for World War III. It bears watching. The Dome of the Rock is atop the Temple Mount, where the Temple of Solomon used to sit. For Muslims, it’s the location where Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven. The Temple is where ancient Israelis used to pray, where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, and where Solomon offered his prayer of repentance on behalf of the Jews. The site is managed by Jordan, and Jews are allowed to visit but not pray. The site also has deep significance to certain Christians who dwell on end times prophecy, for according to that prophecy, the Temple must be rebuilt as the last act before Jesus Christ returns to rule for 1,000 years. For this reason, American fundamentalist Christians are willing to look the other way at modern-day violence.
The point is that what happens here in the daily news is of supreme importance to all people of “the book,” and to countries near and far who are likely to get caught up in the conflict. Evangelical Christians of the sort who voted for and support Donald Trump were deeply disappointed when the administration decided against moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, in part, because it would’ve raised the tension in the area, which these Christians view quietly as a good thing. After all, what could be better than the return of Jesus Christ? The more this view resonates with the mainstream of contemporary life in the United States, the greater the risk of all-out war - Armageddon - in the Middle East.
Chuck Colson nailed this conflict beautifully in the prologue of his bestselling book Kingdoms in Conflict. It’s a brilliant 30-page work of fiction from a man with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the White House. The story is about an evangelical President of the United States who must make a decision about intervening as Israeli right-wingers begin to take over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In Colson’s story, President Shelby Hopkins is a Southern Baptist with roots in the far right of the party. As events begin to unfold, Colson describes a hastily called meeting with key members of Hopkins’ cabinet, including the Chief of Staff, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the national security advisor. His knowledge of the White House and how things work within make for a very real atmosphere of tension in the room.
The Soviet army had invaded Iran and now came word that a small Jewish sect known as Tehiya led by the radical Yosef Tzuria were planning to blow up the Dome of the Rock and rebuild the temple of Solomon in its place. Tzuria believed that God had given the entirety of the Holy Land to the Zionists. At the meeting, after discussions among the gathered about how destruction of the Dome of the Rock would mean war, the president, who had been silent until this point in Colson’s story, says in reference to providence, “Gentlemen, we must keep in mind the very real possibility that this situation is beyond us all.” The fictional president is suggesting that God Almighty is directing the path of humanity in this, and it throws a monkey wrench into conventional thinking about the conflict specifically and international relations in general. He refuses to act.
His staff, therefore, secretly initiates a plan without the president’s knowledge to send Marines to Jerusalem to protect the Dome of the Rock. It’s seen as an action against our greatest ally, Israel, and when he learns of the plan, it troubles the president deeply. The action was based on intelligence suggesting that Tehiya was about to take over the Israeli government, which would make matters much worse. The staff tries to bring the president to understand the necessity of action, but he responds to his close friend and Chief of Staff Larry Parrish, “You know, Larry, I can’t help thinking—this really could be the time. The generation that saw the Jews return to their homeland is about to pass. It almost has to happen soon. All that is left is for the Temple to be built. That’s the last big sign before—.”
In a private discussion, the President and his Chief of Staff talk about the history they’re about to make:
“Larry, don’t ‘yessir’ me. Say what’s on your mind.”
“I don’t know what’s on my mind, Mr. President. Frankly, sir, you’re scaring me to death.”
“You mean that, don’t you, Larry?” The president stood, half turned away, then whirled back to face him, “I didn’t think anything could ruffle you. Tell me why.”
“I don’t know how to explain it, if you can’t see it for yourself, sir.” Parrish replied. “You’re responsible for hundreds of millions of lives, including mine, including my wife and kids. And you seem to be guiding us by some obscure, kooky theory about the end of the world.”
“What if that obscure, kooky theory happens to be true?”
“I’m happy to leave that decision up to God. The end of the world is His business. Our business here in the White House is to prevent the end of the world.”
“Well, according to my theology, Larry, the end of the world - ”
Parrish interrupted, something he never would have done had he not been deeply distressed. “Your theology is irrelevant right now! You weren’t elected to be the nation’s theologian.”
The staff convinces the President to send a harsh letter to Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Arens, but Hopkins refuses to bully the man. They then receive word that Prime Minister Arens and Tehiya’s Tzuria have reached an agreement. Larry Parrish addresses the President:
“They (the American people) trust you. You can’t betray them.”
“But I only avoid that if I keep trust with God.”
“Then keep us out of a war! Surely God did not put you here to cheer on the Israelis while they blunder into World War Three. Harrell has information that Tzuria and Arens have reached an agreement. If we don’t stop them with our marines, they’ll destroy the mosque, probably within the next twenty-four hours. We have to move militarily or there’ll be war.”
“No,” Hopkins said vehemently. “I will not lift a hand against God’s chosen people.”
In the end, the Israelis destroy the Temple Mount, and the White House seems incapable of unity on a response. It is a helpless scenario, and Colson just leaves us there to contemplate the enormity and chaos of it all.
This entire story was Chuck Colson’s way of warning us that it would be extremely dangerous for an Evangelical with a prophetic, apocalyptic perspective on world events to be in the White House. While Donald Trump himself isn’t such a man, he is certainly surrounded by such, including the guy who actually seems to be running things, former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon. The Christian “leaders” who met, “laid hands on,” and prayed with President Trump recently are generally of the same mind, as noted by Vox Magazine:
“By appealing not just to his evangelical base but to a theological, even apocalyptic reading of history, and Trump’s role in it, Trump is not merely legitimizing alternative facts but, more dangerously, writing alternative sacred history. He is cast a religious martyr, or someone who, though assailed on (in their view, bogus) legal or circumstantial grounds will be vindicated through divine favor.”
Colson’s 30-year old book is excellent, but that prologue is chilling, because we’re witnessing events in a highly right-wing Israel today that are eerily similar. It’s a time in history when we MUST pay close attention to everything and without the view that Israel can do no wrong. The U.S. provides the Netanyahu government with $10 million in aid every single day, and despite our wishes to the contrary, Israel continues forcing its aggressive settlement plans in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, we’re all busy with issues of cultural and personal morals, class warfare, Russian corruption, North Korean missiles, social media, violence in our streets and alleys, and a culture unable to work together for the common good. Let us not be so distracted that we lose our ability to grasp the greater danger.