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“Stranger Than Strange – The Rapture, Armageddon and Igniting a War With Iran – The Christian Fundamentalist Evangelical Program Being Implemented by the Trump Administration” – with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. September 24, 2019 – Transcript -Part One.

September 25, 2019

Rapturists – A major Middle East War is a prelude to the rapture. Formerly a marginal idea, now being promoted by many in the Trump Administration

Stranger Than Strange – The Rapture, Armageddon and Igniting a War With Iran – The Christian Fundamentalist Evangelical Program Being Implemented by the Trump Administration” – with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. September 24, 2019 – Transcript Part One.

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It was at that time (early 1970s) that they, the Evangelicals, in conjunction with other arch conservative elements in the country, in response to the country’s swing leftward, developed a strategy countering that more secular, liberal influence and to maximize their political power. Their position in the Trump Administration is the culmination of these decades of work. (Rob Prince)

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…Just a moment ago you referred to “an unholy trinity’ of military, neo-conservative and Christian Right elements. When Jerry Falwell started the “Moral Majority” there was a consensus reached between these three components with the upper echelons of power. They all needed one another.

The military needed the blessing of the so-called “divine group” – the religious establishment. The neo-cons wanted to establish there own authority and their own unique political outlook on the world. To achieve legitimacy they needed the support of both the military and religious elements. The Conservative Christian/Evangelical circles, in turn, lacking power by themselves needed the cooperation of both the Neo-cons and the military to be able to enhance their political influence and make major headway into the country’s political structures.

And they succeeded. (Ibrahim Kazerooni)

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Jim Nelson: We have a very interesting topic to discuss this evening. It’s the role of the evangelical religious movement in shaping U.S. Middle East policy.

I haven’t seen the full transcript of President Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly today but it seems that much of it reflected evangelical themes – religious freedom. Vice President Pence’s thinking is sprinkled throughout.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Jim, I listened to it. There was a lot of hype combined with little substance.

Jim Nelson: I’m surprised there was any substance.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: You can imagine when most of the speech is written by Pence then there’s not much to be expected from it.

Jim Nelson: So let’s begin – The evangelical movement and how it’s influencing Trump’s Middle East policy

Rob Prince: Oke-doke.

So much has happened over the past month in the Middle East since our last Middle East dialogues that, frankly it’s difficult to know where to begin..

With each month that we’re on this program, the specter of some kind of regional Middle East war becomes that much more pronounced…

Today there is a sense that the region is about to explode and that it could happen anywhere – in southern Lebanon, Syria, along the Syrian-Iraqi border, in the Persian Gulf, in Yemen.

The stakes seem to get higher and higher.

Many mainstream voices, finally are urging caution, although it’s done vaguely and they tend not to address the root causes of the conflict However, there are, within the Administration, others that are, frankly, pushing for war, actually cheering for war and in fact the worse the war the more content they appear to be.

Among those are the Christian Evangelicals.

To discuss their role, five, ten years back, even then they were more of a marginal group, whose influence on foreign policy was there, but modest at best. That is not true today.

We have chosen to contextualize, if you like, tonight’s program within the framework of what has come to be referred to as the evangelical narrative of “Armageddon and the Rapture.” It sounds strange to some ears.

We are exploring the role of the Evangelicals – and their offshoot – Christians United for Israel – because they have emerged as a significant, – if not decisive – element of the Trump Administration Middle East policy and the Administration contains an extensive web of them .

For starters, who are they? Who are the Evangelicals?

Without going into a great deal of complex history, at the heart and core of this religious tendency, many have their roots in Southern Baptist ontology. Looking at the history of Southern Baptists, particularly the political history, over the past five decades, already since the early 1970s, they, among others, were deeply concerned with and opposed to the direction that the United States had taken both in terms of domestic and foreign policy during the prior decade, the 1960s.

It was at that time (early 1970s) that they, the Evangelicals, in conjunction with other arch conservative elements in the country, in response to the country’s swing leftward, developed a strategy countering that more secular, liberal influence and to maximize their political power. Their position in the Trump Administration is the culmination of these decades of work.

As a result, today, they are literally an integral part of Trump’s political base: from Betsy Devos, the Secretary of Education who wants to privatize public education and “Christianize” it to Vice President Mike Pence who is afraid to be in a room alone with a woman who is not his wife, the Evangelicals are all over the Trump Administration and in key positions, certainly including foreign policy.

It is one thing when these elements – who have been a part of the American body politic for much of its history – are marginalized and quite another when they reach the top echelons of the power structure – as they have in the Trump Administration starting with Vice President Mike Pence, but including a whole slew of Christian fundamentalist zealots.

I don’t know how else to put it: they are a toxic and key element that is actively trying to trigger a major conflagration in the Middle East,. This they do for their own ontological ends

They have an agenda, a hard-line hawkish policy based upon their theological ontology, one, as will be discussed below, one that encourages, if not outright welcomes regional war as a prelude to what they refer to as “the Rapture” – all this will be discussed and explained in this program.

I would describe the role of the evangelicals in the Trump Administration as basically part and parcel of “the Unholy Trinity.” This consists of the neo-cons, the military together with the Evangelicals themselves.

Ibrahim: For starters, from your perspective, can you provide some insights as to how these Evangelicals, in the past, such a marginal element in the U.S. body politic as well as in the social cultural sphere of our country have emerged to have such power and influence both over domestic and foreign policy.

Ibrahim: Rob, it’s very difficult to determine an exact date for such a transition in the country’s social and political make up of – however they are referred to – as the Christian extremists, Christian Zionists or evangelicals.

But still there are certain historical markers.

For example, in the late 1970s, there was a growing unrest among conservative Christians in the United States over the lack of political mobilization of their constituencies and the lack of influence that conservative Christians within the higher echelons of power in this country.

In response, in 1979, Reverend Jerry Falwell launched an organization called the Moral Majority.
Its aim was to mobilize conservatives around the moral and social issues they consider important and to encourage conservatives to participate more actively in the political process, for example influencing the U.S. Supreme Court nominees on the abortion issue.

Initially they focused their attention first and foremost within the context of U.S. national politics. I remember one classic example in 1981 in which the then Interior Secretary (in the Reagan Administration) James Watt in Congressional testimony when asked even then – some thirty eight years ago – when he was asked about the impact of the Greenhouse effect and the depletion of the ozone layer of the atmosphere, commented that he didn’t think that there would be many generations before the Lord comes and hence there was no need to preserve the earth for the next generation.

So even as early as the early 1980s we begin to see the evangelical influence at high levels of government.

But as you stated earlier, whatever their prior influence, mostly in Republican Administrations, today, Evangelical influence on both national and international policy has become markedly more pronounced under Trump.

It is not only that the Christian extremists, Christian Zionists and Evangelicals voted for Trump – some 80 per cent of them voted for him in 2016 – but even today where Donald Trump’s popularity in the polls among the American public at large is somewhere between 25-30 per cent, but among evangelical Christians, it’s rated at 70%. It’s a solid constituency that intends to vote for Trump again in 2020.

To go even further, it appears that Trump has an Evangelical Advisory Board. It is comprised of leaders of different religious right organizations. Television preachers, conservative pastors,. Their spokesperson is Reverend Johnnie Moore. Moore openly stated that the Evangelical Advisory Board has a pretty significant hand in shaping and directing Administration policy both nationally and internationally. It’s a shadowy group although there are some pictures of them that includes on of Trump sitting on a chair with different Evangelical leadership placing their hands on his shoulder, praying that he, Trump, become “the divine image.”

I remember something similar to this in 2003 when the war in Iraq started and I was working with the Colorado Council of Churches and the Interfaith Alliance. At the time there was a U.S. Congressman from Colorado, Tom Tancredo, that called on the U.S. to bomb Mecca and Medina because the situation in Iraq was not going according to Washington’s plan. Various members of the Interfaith Alliance decided to visit him.

I was asked to be their spokesperson for this group. It was astonishing what I saw entering his office.

There was a large picture of George Bush. A kind of spirit of George Washington on Bush’s right putting his left hand on Bush’s shoulder and Abraham Lincoln was on Bush’s left putting his right hand on the-then presidents shoulder from the other side. There was a beam of light in the form of a cross from George Bush leading straight into Heaven.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, how often does this informal group meet with Trump?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: On a weekly basis. They, this informal Evangelical Advisory Board, clearly indicated that they meet with him both on a weekly basis and whenever there are policy issues, whether these issues are national or international, are discussed. These people are there to give advice and direction.

Rob Prince: It reminds me of the Ronald Reagan years. There was his official cabinet and then there was Reagan’s Kitchen Cabinet, that included Joe Coors and other right-wing zealots of the time (early 1980s).

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Including Jerry Falwell

Rob Prince: These informal bodies in many ways have as much and sometimes more influence on policy than the actual cabinet.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, just a moment ago you referred to “an unholy trinity’ of military, neo-conservative and Christian Right elements. When Jerry Falwell started the “Moral Majority” there was a consensus reached between these three components with the upper echelons of power.

They all needed one another.

The military needed the blessing of the so-called “divine group” – the religious establishment. The neo-cons wanted to establish there own authority and their own unique political outlook on the world. To achieve legitimacy they needed the support of both the military and religious elements. The Conservative Christian/Evangelical circles, in turn, lacking power by themselves needed the cooperation of both the Neo-cons and the military to be able to enhance their political influence and make major headway into the country’s political structures. And they succeeded.

To be continued.

(Link to Part Two)

 

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