By Rodney M. Miller
The close link between dispensationalism and the American political scene cannot be denied. Dispensationalism is the form of premillennialism that has split the country and, actually, the Christian world in the last few years. The key to understanding the dispensationalist, like Hal Lindsey, is to separate the church age and the kingdom age. One could be a thorough premillennialist and not be a dispensationalist. Most of those in the church of Christ are premillennialists and not dispensationalists, such as Mr. Lindsey. The dispensationalism of the Late Great Planet Earth tells us that all the prophecies made to Israel were not fulfilled in the church age; that these prophecies must be fulfilled in literal Israel, the Jew, at the end of time. So, for this reason it is easy to see that the Jewish State of Israel and its political well-being is very important to the community of dispensationalists.
This was of little consequence until the last election, when the Moral Majority exerted its muscles and brought to the voting booth a certain amount of political power. The right of the Moral Majority to exist is not the thrust of this article, although one passing observation is in order. First, the liberal element of religion was a major force of resistance to the Vietnam war in the 1960’s as well as with the Civil rights movement of the 1950’s. No one was concerned about separation of church and state while they were being lead by the liberal theologians of the day. Yet, today, when Mr. Falwell seeks to influence the minds of this Nation, the fear of separation of church and state is bantered by every defeated politician’s lips. Secondly, we flount the right of every special interest group in the world (homosexuals, save the whalers, anti-strip miners, and abortionists) to lobby for their causes; yet, when is that a right for a certain section of the religious community? We may not agree with the political position of that community, just as we will not agree with this article. Why then, does one have the right and the other does not?
First, let us note the close tie between the dispensationalist and the political position on Israel. An article called Video Vicars, by Jeffrey K. Hadden and Charles E. Swann pointed to this close relationship between their religious beliefs and the political policy toward Israel:
Many of the major TV preachers, however – Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and most of the lesser lights of gospel broadcasting do believe in some form of millennialism. The “millennium” is a prophesied thousand-year period of events on the earth surround-ing the Second Coming of Jesus.
But before the millennium begins (some say seven years before), the last trumpet will sound and all the saved will be caught up instantly into heaven. This event is called the “rapture.”
In the classic view of these events, the seven-year tribulation after the sudden rapture of the saints will be filled with two major happenings. The gospel of the kingdom will be preached (by believing Jews), it seems, since all Christians have departed, and Israel will be converted. The second major event is the rise of the Anti-Christ, who will attack Israel. After the defeat of the Anti-Christ, Jesus will come down to establish his earthly throne at Jerusalem.
It is a complicated doctrine, and many of the TV preachers have their own variations on it. What makes these millennialist beliefs important to analysts is their connection to the U.S.S.R. and Israel in the modern world. Evangelical political support for Israel has been noted widely. Support of Israel, to the fundamentalist preachers, simply is cooperation with God in the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. A Christian America cannot do otherwise (RMM).
The fundamentalists often identify the Anti-Christ with communism.
TV religion, accordingly, has developed and refined a set of battle cries, an agenda for the 1980’s to conquer the sins of society and restore to America the strength it needs to fight the Anti-Christ.
Notice in this quotation,; “Support for Israel, to the fundamentialist preachers, simply is cooperation with God in the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. A Christian American cannot do otherwise.” This was taken from the Sentinel Star, Saturday, August 15, 1981.
Another example of this close connection was the meeting between Jerry Falwell and Prime Minister Menachen Begin in Washington this fall. The AP News reported that “Evangelical Christian leader Jerry Falwell reaffirmed his umcompromising support for Israel Friday at the Washington meeting.” Falwell told Begin that God will treat all nations on the basis of how they treat the Jews, and- saying, “If we could get Adolf Hitler out of hell for 30 seconds,, he’d say Amen to that. I believe the Soviet Union’s fatal mistake has not been her belligerence toward the United States but toward the Jews.” It is easy to see by these two simple statements that their religious belief will be the primary influence in the shaping of foreign policy. But, then again, so are the religious beliefs of the Mormons as well in the primary influence of shaping their political positions, and we have far more Mormons in higher realms of government than we do dispensationalists.
Secondly, we see that these fundamentalistic beliefs of the dispensationalists influence not only the foreign policy, but to some degree internal policy on the domestic level. James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior, who is the supposed guardian of the environment, told the Senate Committee when he was confirmed that future generations didn’t need to be concerned about what we did with our resources, because not many generations remained before Christ came for the second coming and to end the world. Needless to say, that blew the circuits of the liberal opposition to the influence and power of the new right.
In conclusion, what do we make of all of this? Well, by me, not much! It seems that whoever sits on the throne of power will wield its influence. It may be the Catholic who opposes abortion, and so do I. It may be the Mormon who opposes ERA, and so do I. It may be the fundamentalist who opposes homosexuality, and so do I. Or, it may be the atheist who opposes the Catholics, Mormons and fundamentalists, and so do I. Whoever is in power is going to hold his particular brand of presupposing over the people, and I do not find the leaning of the Moral Majority any more frightening than the leanings of the Kennedy era. We simply need to recognize them for what they are and quit worrying about Washington and start baptizing our friends and neighbors.
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 3, pp. 42-43
January 21, 1982