Get Ready for Trumpageddon
The unilateral decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has ignited a political backlash throughout the Middle East. Not surprisingly, this major shift in U.S. policy has angered Palestinians but it has also led to protests across the region. Trump has increased his isolation on this diplomatic move by threatening to deny aid to countries who support a move within the UN to condemn his action.
Politics, however, in the Middle East is always linked with religious fervor. Two rightwing groups are pleased as they can be with the move, even though it is still symbolic at this point given that it will take at least three years to actually make such a move. The first are the Zionist supporters of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who welcome any move that thwarts Palestinian aspirations for a state. But a second group sees Trump in prophetic light as setting the stage for the long-awaited (and much debated) return of Jesus. Get ready for a fake-news tsunami on Trumpageddon.
It has already started. A “God Bless Trump” campaign by the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem is billboarding Jerusalem and its busses. Trump is being promoted as a modern-day Cyrus, the biblical King from Persia that helped Jews return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Speculation is in that Trump, the real estate magnet, will rebuild the Third Temple where the mosque of al-Aqsa now stands.
Trump’s rise to power owes an electoral debt to Fundamentalist Christians who believe that Jesus will soon return to earth. In a “Dispensationalist” scenario dreamed up over a century ago, a common Fundamentalist apocalyptic prediction is that at any moment the true Christians (born-again Bible believers) will be raised up in a “Rapture” to meet Jesus and then seven years of Tribulation will be unleashed on earth. During this time of “Jacob’s Trouble” the Antichrist and Beast will take over the world, eventually persecuting the Jews worse than they have ever experienced in history. As one prophetic website notes: “God will put the Jewish people through an unparalleled period of tribulation (Deuteronomy 4:30), during which two-thirds of the Jews will perish (Zechariah 13:8-9). The purpose will be to soften the hearts of a remnant so that they will accept Jesus as their Messiah.” This alone makes the alliance between Israeli Zionists and Fundamentalist Dispensationalists a pathetic, prophetic, procrustean power play.
Donald Trump is no angel, even a fallen one, but he has made a Faustian deal with the most rightwing Christians who have put aside any concerns about his moral character and lack of knowledge of the Bible. It is estimated that 80% of Evangelicals (a loose term for what used to be called Fundamentalists but now extends to a variety of rightwing Christian conservatives) voted for the man who bragged about his ability to grab a woman’s private parts. A recent Pew Foundation poll found that by December, Trump’s support among Evangelicals had dropped 17 points, but is still robust at 61%. By catering to the most extreme elements of Evangelicals, such as his support for abuse-plagued Roy Moore for senator in Alabama, Trump risks turning off many other Evangelicals. This continues a trend where younger Evangelicals do not necessarily follow the creed and screed of their elders.
Trump’s Jerusalem move is cynical. Unlike his Vice-President, who may actually believe the Rapture is imminent, Trump only believes in himself. A cynic might wonder, if indeed the U.S. embassy is eventually moved to Jerusalem, if this is what Jesus has been waiting for in order to come back to earth. Given Trump’s immigration policy, a Palestinian claiming to be the son of God and without an Israel passport would be denied entry.