Left Behind and the New World Order of Donald Trump
Christian apocalyptic eschatology is the beating heart of the Council for National Policy
Earlier this year, when Donald Trump spoke before the Council for National Policy, he touted his controversial decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a major achievement for his administration. He also cited his role in the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations as proof of his virtuosity in international diplomacy. Bahrain joined the Abraham Accords, as well, and Trump referred to the treaty as “a long-overdue step” in the Middle East “peace process.” On Thursday, Morocco also signed the Accords — the fourth Arab nation in four months to do so.
However, the progress of “peace” in the region and the administration’s role in it is dubious at best. As the new embassy’s opening ceremony was taking place on May 14th, Israeli soldiers killed 60 Palestinian protestors at the Gaza border and wounded thousands of others. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have legitimate claims in Jerusalem and the city is home to sites considered sacred to all three major monotheistic religions. The Palestinian National Authority seeks to claim half of Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state; the Israeli government currently occupies the whole city and Benjamin Netanyahu has long dismissed any talk of concessions to the Palestinians concerning the disputed territory. Israel predictably welcomed Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians were understandably outraged.
Morocco, too, is embroiled in a territorial dispute. The indigenous Sharawi people of Western Sahara have long demanded independence and self-determination from the Moroccan government. Its representative body, the Polisario Front, declared war on Morocco last month after a 29-year cease-fire. Morocco joined the Abraham Accords for one reason alone: Trump agreed to declare the Moroccan government’s sovereignty in Western Sahara, despite the will of the people living there and in opposition to the United Nations’ position on the matter.
Meanwhile, neither the United Arab Emirates nor Bahrain have ever fired a shot at Israel and have been doing business with Netanyahu for years. The Abraham Accords, therefore, merely lend official sanction to abiding partnerships. Aaron David Miller, a White House adviser on Israeli-Palestinian relations during six different administrations, claimed that while Trump deserved some credit for the treaty, he had nevertheless “jumped on a bus that had already left the station.”
These triumphs for “peace” are occurring within a climate of escalating tension. Religious strife has piqued animosities in recent years between two of the region’s most powerful nations — Sunni dense Saudi Arabia and primarily Shia Iran. Iran is openly hostile toward Israel, and The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have long expressed concern over Iranian nuclear capabilities, especially since Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal — in 2018.
So, the UAE and Bahrain are using the Abraham Accords to curry favor with the United States and Saudi Arabia against Iran, and Morocco is making nice with Israel to gain leverage in the war at home, all to the dismay of Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation. None of it improves the United States' position in the region, and none of it is a recipe for peace. Trump, just as he so often claims, has done what no other President before him has: he has taken sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thus discredited the United States as a reliable third-party mediator.
Still, during his speech before the Council for National Policy, Trump claimed that his “diplomatic” efforts in the Middle East were the crowning achievements of his administration. As bewildering as that claim sounds to liberals, Trump supported his assertion with an astute observation: the people most delighted with the Abraham Accords, he said, “are the evangelical Christians. They appreciate it the most.” Here, Trump received his heartiest round of applause of the evening.
Give Trump credit — he knows his audience. The Council for National Policy was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, an evangelical Baptist minister deeply influential among American political elites. LaHaye sat on the board of directors of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the late 70s and founded the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, which produces creationist apologetics videos and other media.
LaHaye, who died in 2016, was an old-school fire-and-brimstone preacher with money enough to court politicians to evangelical causes. The Council for National Policy has an exclusive, invite-only membership of the nation’s most influential conservatives; in 2002, ABC News called the CNP the “most powerful conservative organization in America you’ve never heard of.”
ABC’s assertion is not hyperbole. George W. Bush’s speech before the CNP propelled him to the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, while in 2008, the group threatened to support an anti-abortion 3rd party candidate in the event of a Rudy Giuliani win at the Republican National Convention. The CNP’s vow to abandon the Republican Party prevailed despite Giuliani’s seemingly insurmountable lead ahead of the 2008 primary, and the GOP subsequently nominated John McCain instead of “America’s Mayor” to challenge Barack Obama.
In addition to his political activism, LaHaye was also the co-author of the bestselling Left Behind books — a series that dramatizes Christian apocalyptic eschatology and imagines what might become of the world and Christians late to belief following “the rapture.” While the novels, because of their brisk pacing and sensationalized action, are frequently compared to Tom Clancy’s spy-thrillers, they are nevertheless more truth than fiction in the minds of evangelical voters and the power players on the Council for National Policy.
A Brief Overview of ‘Left Behind’
Left Behind charts the rise of the Antichrist following “the rapture” — an event that causes millions of believers to suddenly disappear. Planes and cars crash the world over when Christians operating them are called bodily to heaven, while families are broken and general chaos reigns. A small band of newly converted believers called the Tribulation Force then spend 15 novels vanishing, disagreeing, and falling in love with each other, all while hiding from and openly warring with the armies of the Antichrist. Some are martyred along the way, while others remain to the glorious end, even after the 1,000-year reign of Christ.
The rapture, incidentally, occurs in the first novel of the series immediately following a military attack on Israel, which somehow survives unscathed. Israel’s crisis is portrayed as a fulfillment of New Testament prophecy, and “the promised land” remains the hub of world affairs throughout the series. The series, by the way, is a serious attempt to dramatize the peculiar eschatology of American evangelicals. In the words of LaHaye:
“…the pre-millennialist theology found in the ‘Left Behind’ Series is the prominent view among evangelical Christians, including their leading seminaries such as Talbot Seminary, Trinity Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary.”
In that light, it is little wonder that Christian elites on the Council for National Policy applaud “peace” agreements that enjoin the military might of the United States to defend Israel and its new partners from the “forces of Satan,” like Iran. To the CNP and its evangelical flock, an attack on Israel would presage the return of Christ, while its survival through alliances with the U.S. and the signatories of the Abraham Accords would usher in the Great Tribulation and draw closer God’s kingdom on earth.
Following a betrayal by the Antichrist, a multitude of Israelis “repent” for denying Christ and clinging to Judaism as a nation. LaHaye thus posits that Israel will someday join the ranks of “Christian nations” and claim Jerusalem for Christ and his evangelical church. Thus, when Trump takes Israel’s side in a conflict that has little to do with the United States, the CNP interprets that policy as God’s will concerning the destiny of his “chosen people.” Trump, therefore, isn’t just an American President to the CNP — he’s the very arm of God.
In Kingdom Come, the final installment of the Left Behind series, Jesus Christ himself assaults the forces of Satan who by this time have taken control of Jerusalem. He consumes them instantly with heavenly fire and then casts the Prince of Darkness and the Antichrist into hell. Following the White Throne of Judgment, Christ creates New Jerusalem and invites the Tribulation Force and all other believers to reign with him there for all eternity.
It All Makes Sense, Sort of
Clearly, Israel and its role in LaHaye’s bananas — and frankly antisemitic — interpretation of Biblical prophecy features prominently in the worldview of American evangelicals, even among the group’s ‘intellectual’ elite, like the CNP. While liberals are rightly baffled by Trump’s cancellation of America’s longstanding neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the religious right views his policies as proof that he is God’s chosen President.
No wonder then, that so many evangelicals cannot accept his defeat in the 2020 election. And, given the outrageous claims made by LaHaye, it is easy to understand why so many of them are susceptible to equally outrageous conspiracy theories. Qanon claims that Trump is the victim of a Satanic cabal of pedophile Democrats who want to oust him from office by any means necessary — including conspiring with Dominion Voting Systems — so that they can continue their traffic in children. LaHaye and the CNP have conditioned evangelicals to see Satan behind every tree, and many of them are, therefore, easy prey for Q.
Many evangelical Trump supporters also cling to the belief that despite the utter lack of any evidence of voter fraud, Trump will ultimately prevail and serve a second term as President, either by the mythical powers they imagine Trump loyalist Ezra Cohen-Watnick (acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security) to possess or by fiat of the Supreme Court. It’s God’s will, you see, both for the United States and Israel. And nothing trumps God.
Apocalyptic Politics Is Not on the Margins
Evangelical politics aren’t limited to Christian pastors and novelists like Tim LaHaye. CNP members come from a wide variety of backgrounds; Major General John Singlaub, a founding agent of the CIA, is a member; so too is the president of conservative lobbying group The Heritage Foundation, Edwin J. Feulner. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft is also a CNP congregant, as are Trump stalwarts Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
Whether or not these individuals are true believers is immaterial; they pander to and play along with the apocalyptic politics of the CNP and therefore imperil the lives of real people in Gaza, the West Bank, Golan Heights, the Western Sahara, and other disputed territories in the Middle East and Africa, all for fantasies of Christian world dominion harbored by evangelical elites like Tim LaHaye and his ‘intellectual’ heirs. Such ‘leaders’ already live like the sons of God in the United States; sadly, that is no impediment to their will to conquer the suffering and displaced in the Holy Lands.
Donald Trump, at least, makes no pretense about his absence of faith. He merely seeks a New World Order of minority rule and the end of democracy, and he’s willing to pit the nations of the Middle East against each other if that’s what it takes to get there. Hopefully, The United States and its democratic institutions are stronger than false prophets and fake tweets and can undo the toxic legacy of the Council for National Policy and its unholy scripture, Left Behind.
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