I’ve enjoyed watching the pundits try to parse Sarah Palin’s Christianity. Their favorite refrain is that you can’t hold the VP candidate responsible for what the Jews for Jesus guy said, since he’s not a member of her church.
This is all well and good, except that in my (comparatively vast) experience, most modern-day fundamentalists — especially Pentecostals and members of non-denominational community churches — actually do believe “that violence against Israelis resulted from Godâ€™s judgment against Jews who have failed to embrace Jesus.”
The idea is that God in His grief and infinite wisdom will reject Israel because the Jews don’t recognize His Son as their Savior. So Jesus will return to save the New Jerusalem (i.e., Christian America and other, somehow slightly lesser Christians), whereupon all the Jews who have not accepted Him into their hearts will be cast into Hell and subject to torment for endless millennia. Yaaaaaay!
But right now we’re in a waiting period. And even though the Jews are Jesus-killers who ultimately will burn in the Lake of Fire, it’s important to coddle them and keep them safe, because: (a) the Israelites are God’s original Chosen People, and He still loves them more than He loves most of the rest of us, despite their follies, and so we have to be nice to them until He finally banishes them to the Eternal Flames; and more importantly, (b) there has to be a strong and mighty Israel before World War III can erupt in the Middle East, and World War III has to erupt in the Middle East before all the Christians can be whisked off to Heaven in the Rapture. This is why peace in the Middle East actually is a terrible prospect and cannot be allowed to come to pass!
Also, remember: We’re getting really close to the End Times. Barack Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist, you know — if he is not in fact the Antichrist himself.
Reading John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought (out later this year), I was reminded that 400 years ago extreme Protestants conclusively pegged a completely different figure as the Antichrist: The Pope.
“To deny that the pope was Antichrist,” one scholar observes elsewhere, was “tantamount to calling King James a liar.”
I wonder: Has there ever been a study of how conceptions of the Antichrist have mutated through the centuries? If not, will somebody please get cracking?
Addendum: Andy writes: “Bernard McGinn, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination With Evil is pretty good. McGinn is more interesting on the Middle Ages than on other periods, but I think that’s probably because conceptions of Antichrist were more interesting in the Middle Ages than in any other period.”