Bush & the Apocalyptic Coalition
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 07:43:48 PM EST
Tens of millions of Americans have been reading the Left Behind fiction series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The stories are set in the turmoil after "real" Christians have been Raptured by God who pulls them away from earth in the End Times while those who have been "left behind" face the Tribulations. This includes those Christians who didn't make the A team who ascended.

Hugh Urban explains there is a symbiosis between the worldview of the neoconservatives who have engineered the Bush Administration's foreign policy, and the plotline of the Left Behind series.

In an online essay titled "Bush, the Neocons and Evangelical Christian Fiction: America, `Left Behind,'" Urban observes that:

"...the Neocon's aggressive foreign policy, centered around the Middle East, and the Christian evangelical story of the immanent return of Christ in the Holy Land-- struck me as weirdly similar and disturbingly parallel. The former openly advocates a "New American Century" and a "benevolent hegemony" of the globe by U.S. power, inaugurated by the invasion of Iraq, while the latter predicts a New Millennium of divine rule ushered in by apocalyptic war, first in Babylon and then in Jerusalem."

The Christian Right is composed of many different conservative tendencies and theological viewpoints, but a significant number have adopted this particular version of the apocalyptic End Times script, which is called premillennial dispensationalism. Some of them even belong to Protestant denominations that are not premillennial, and don't believe in the Rapture. Pop culture trumps theology.

The focus on the Middle East has led some premillennialist Christians to become Christian Zionists. They uncritically support every policy and action by the Israeli government so that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem remains in the control of Jews who the Christian premillennialists believe will displace Islamic shrines and rebuild Solomon's Temple--which they see as a prerequisite for the return of Jesus Christ. This has also resulted in increasing antipathy towards Muslims and Islam, who some weave into the biblical script as agents of Satan who assist the Antichrist in the End Times.

Neoconservatives have a secular approach to the Middle East that lines up along similar lines, with some advocating the idea of Samuel Huntington that there is a "clash of civilizations" pitting the good Judeo-Christian West against the evil Islamic East. In this worldview, the American brand of "Free Market" capitalism is a prerequisite for democracy; and the United States has an obligation to export both--using tanks and missiles if necessary.

In his book An Angel Directs the Storm, Michael Northcott argues that the neoconservative:

 " conception of political economy is as apocalyptic as more openly religious forms of millennialism precisely because it sets up an ideology of human redemption which its advocates believe they are charged to follow regardless of the destruction and violence it may entail."

Apocalyptic violence is justified from a religious perspective by the Christian Right and from a secular perspective by the neoconservatives. Both want to "take dominion" over the earth.

This is the apocalyptic coalition crafted by the Bush Administration.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Chip's Blog

We need more discussion of how neoconservatives and evangelicals are using each other.

It would be helpful to find the fault lines between these two groups and then work to expose tham and thereby widen the gaps between them.

by Mainstream Baptist on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 05:00:32 PM EST

My two pence on it:

It's probably going to be easier to find fault-lines between "soft dominionists" (aka the people who get suckered in from the claims on "family"), and dominionism, evangelicals and dominionism, etc.

One possible area of split may be in identifying neoconservatives with a largely business oriented slant towards things, and wedging in there.

The major difficulty in this is because dominionists (or, some would say, protodominionists--it depends on whether you count "The Fellowship", the Full Gospel Businessmens' Fellowship International, and other groups with extremely early involvement in dominionism) are in part responsible for and can even be said to have invented much of the neoconservative movement--at least with the pentes involved in dominion theology, the push goes clear back to the 1950's and beforehand (as I've documented here).  (If you take the history of "The Fellowship", it goes even further back, to pre-World War II.)  

One potential wedge issue that I think has been very underutilised, could have a real potential for marginalising the core of the dominionist movement, and which needs to be used more IMHO is the issue of extensive links between dominionist and racist groups.  I've done a partial documentation of this here which is probably woefully inadequate.

by dogemperor on Wed Feb 01, 2006 at 01:50:08 PM EST

then the entire current administration is built on some poorly conceived theology (based on a poorly translated verse) and has even less legitimacy than I thought.  Will there be a country left that I can even recognize as the USA after these people are done?  How did it get to this?  What can we do?

by Pauljaxon on Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 08:04:52 PM EST
Might take a long time to answer ! But the short answer is this - a large part of the American electorate became disengaged - over the course of several decades - from electoral politics. Simultaneously the Christian was learning about political activism, on how to place its partisans in government.  

As for your second question, well, one good response would be to become politically active ( if you are not already ) - in your local town, your county, your state. That's an educational  process, one which won't happen overnight. But, if we want different values expressed in government, well.... we've got to work for it.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 05:04:56 PM EST

I myself grew up in a premillenial dispensationalist dominionist church (most AoG churches are premillenial-dispensationalist) and I remember the preacher practically jumping for joy when it looked like the Cold War was going to go "hot" with Russia.

You see, they expected to be raptured up, and get to see everyone else burn in hellfire.

I still get nightmares thinking on that (and the current mess between Iran and Israel doesn't help--one of the common "scenarios" promoted was that Russia was going to use Iran to help invade Israel--remember, this was back when the US was friends with Saddam).

And yes, being a walkaway from one of those groups, I can also testify that the group I walked away from was not only armageddonist but is very heavy into the "Christian Zionism" thing (in fact, they're one of the major players in it--if you've ever heard of a group called High Adventure Ministries, they're a "Christian Zionist" outfit that is linked with the very church I walked away from).  

In fact, the Assemblies of God (which is dominionist and premillenial dispensationalist in general) also has a very heavy bent towards Christian Zionism, both in getting large numbers of evangelicals in Israel itself and targeting Jewish people for conversion to "Messianic Jews" aka kosher pentecostals (very nearly all "Messianic Jew" groups not affiliated with Jews for Jesus are affiliated with the Assemblies of God and are essentially "satellite churches" of existing AoG congregations in many cases).

Anyways, a history of the movement where this came from is here, and DefCon America has actually written a fairly good primer on premillenial dispensationalism on their website (in the "Meet The Religious Right" section).

by dogemperor on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 08:06:37 AM EST

The convenient parallelism that Hugh Urban and Michael Northcott mention. I wonder on the historical genesis of the two ideologies.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 05:08:57 PM EST
I think we need to make a distinction between many of the neoconservative foot soldiers, who may be closely tied to AoG and other Dominionist groups, and the intellectual masterminds like Leo Strauss, who are atheists.

Shadia Drury in several books and articles makes it clear that behind the neoconservatism is a group of secretive, Machiavellian and Nietzschean elites who are using religion to "manufacture consent," manipulate a gullible populace, redirect the course of history and thereby enrich and amuse themselves.

by Mainstream Baptist on Wed Feb 01, 2006 at 04:12:51 PM EST

There's a good deal of what I'd label sociopathy and/or misanthropy among Neoconservative elites.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Feb 01, 2006 at 05:27:12 PM EST

unless it has been previously introducted as Assemblies of God.

To many of our readers, AoG means Army of God, the antiaboriton terror organization.

While this is not a terribly big deal, I thought I would take this ocasion to note that everyone writing on the site, whether on the front page, the diaries or comments, needs to be conscious that many if not most readers may be unfamiliar with many of the strands of our general subject, and that abbreviations absent a previous introduction are likely to leave many readers behind.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Feb 01, 2006 at 05:51:46 PM EST


I really like the essay by dogemperor "Kingdom Now/Dominion/Restoration theology," But I really do not like one of the other suggested articles on the historic roots by Wayne Madsen.

Not only is it overly conspiratorial, but it blithely ignores that most of this history he claims to have "discovered" has been sketched out in much more detail and with footnotes by writers such as Sara Diamond and William Martin among others.

The National Association of Evangelicals, founded in 1942, "assailed the 'revolutionary' activities of the New Deal and the infiltration of government, the unions, and churches by `reds,'" according to Heale. The Christian Right promotes a type of Elitist Calvinism long seen as complementary to a particular form of Social Darwinist Free Market economic theories favored by both libertarians and neoconservatives. The Christian Freedom Foundation (CFF), established in 1950, was an influential precursor to the contemporary Christian Right. Another example was the Church League of America.

As several people in this thread and on this website have pointed out, this is a long term strategy that traces back to the roots of American fundamentalism.

Perhaps this should be the subject of my next post?


Boyer, Paul S. 1992. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap/Harvard University Press.

Diamond, Sara. 1989. Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States, New York: Guilford.

Fuller, Robert C. 1995. Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession. New York: Oxford University Press.

Heale, M. J. 1990. American Anticommunism: Combating the Enemy Within, 1830-1970. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1990. To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Marsden, George M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Thu Feb 02, 2006 at 05:32:29 PM EST
I'll agree that the Madsen essay was at times...shall we say...tinfoil-hattish :3  There are bits that can be verified though (Sara Diamond's book being a particularly good source, dare I say it, "must reading" for anyone interested in the subject).

One good online book I'd add in to that, too, as well--the book Merchants of Deception.  Whilst it is written by an Amway walkaway (and a good portion of it is Amway-centric) a great deal of what is written in the book--especially as the author got in the higher "levels" at Amway--is possibly one of the best descriptions of the general sorts of coercive tactics used by dominionist groups (and especially those in the neopentecostal dominionist branches)--seeing as no less than three of the four major "uplines" of Amway heavily incorporate "name it and claim it" theology explicitly and even dominion theology proper, and Amway has been used as a tool of "stealth evangelism" and frank recruitment into dominionist churches.

At any rate, though, I'd be extremely interested in your notes on the subject, much less a complete essay.  

by dogemperor on Thu Feb 02, 2006 at 07:31:58 PM EST

Of note--one of the dominionist churches most frequently associated with Amway is the Assemblies of God (Fred, I'll note to use "Assemblies" if I must abbreviate to avoid confusion with the Army of God--even though, sadly, there are people in the Assemblies who sympathise with the goals of the Army of God; my own family talked about how it was "cool" that Eric Rudolph was able to hide out and even hoped he'd "get" more abortion providers and he wouldn't get caught).  The Assemblies of God is a premillenial dispensationalist church; in fact, the vast majority of televangelists on TV that are promoting "end of the world" theology are in fact Assemblies of God ministers (partly because it is extremely easy to be "ordained"--merely requiring a positive recommendation from an existing pastor, signing of a statement of faith, and paying money, very similar to how Calvary Chapel has affiliated churches).

In fact, if people are curious as to just how much the Assemblies of God promotes what I have referred to in past as "armageddonism" (before I knew what premillenial dispensationalism was), one merely needs to go to the Assemblies of God's official magazine wherein Tim LaHaye (the publisher of the "Left Behind" series) is positively reviewed as a tool for "outreach" and is referenced directly with the denomination's official church doctrines:

The Left Behind series is a fictional account of events after the rapture of the Church. The Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths calls this event "The Blessed Hope."

"All Christians who have died will one day rise from their graves and will meet the Lord in the air. Christians who have not yet died will be raptured or caught up with them, to be with the Lord. Then Christians of all ages will live with God forever. The scriptural truth of the Lord's soon return is `the blessed hope' (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51,52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; Titus 2:13).

"This doctrine is very important because it provides a primary motivation for witnessing and living a holy life. For the believer, the return of Christ for His redeemed is a blessed hope indeed. The translation or `snatching away' of living Christians, commonly called the Rapture (`to catch up'), will bring an end to suffering, pain, hardship and difficulty. We as Christians will then be with the Lord forever. Though the body is not alive between death and resurrection, the soul does not sleep but is consciously alive in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

"For the sinner, however, the Rapture is anything but a blessed hope. To be left behind will involve indescribable suffering as God judges a rebellious and disobedient world. God desires that all mankind should ask forgiveness and be restored to fellowship with himself. He places this burden for the lost and their waiting eternal punishment on the hearts of those who already know His love and salvation. It is for this reason that a primary mission of the church is evangelizing the world, seeking to save as many as possible from the judgment to come."

-- Reprinted from Our 16 Doctrines, with permission from the Assemblies of God Office of Public Relations.

(Yes, they explicitly believe they're going to get raptured up and have a laugh at the rest of humanity's expense as humanity suffers and is destroyed.)

Lest someone think this was recent, the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International was pushing this as early as the 50's, and the Assemblies of God itself documents nicely how notes how Assemblies-associated songwriters were writing "Jesus Rock" songs about the Tribulation as early as the 60's.  

If you want to think of something just as scary--one of the older "political" dominionist groups, Concerned Women for America, is headed up by Tim LaHaye's wife (again, this is per official magazines from the Assemblies of God).

Tim LaHaye has also worked actively with both  the head of the Assemblies of God itself as well as with the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, per this article, and has been seen frequently at events held by Assemblies of God churches.  A critical article on premillenial dispensationalism, "Beam Me Up Theology", also notes the links.

(This is a particular area of dominionism I am quite unfortunately an expert in, being a survivor of one of these churches.  Still have nightmares about nuclear wars sometimes :()

by dogemperor on Thu Feb 02, 2006 at 07:40:36 PM EST

There is a lot of stuff out there, and it can be difficult to evaluate. Additionally, it can be difficult to find out about good materials.  I'm glad you and PRA have taken the time to put together such useful bibliographies.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Feb 03, 2006 at 02:41:24 AM EST

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