Holy War or Ungodly Mess


By Steve Matthews

The recent uptick in violence in the Middle East has resulted, predictably, in an uptick in calls to action from American neo-conservatives and dispensationalist Evangelicals.  Just today, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called for more decisive action from President Obama with regard to the Islamic State, calling the organization, “a direct threat to our homeland.”  On his program last week, Sean Hannity, among the most militant neo-conservative, pro-Zionist voices in the American media, breathlessly reported on current conflict between Israel and Hamas.  From the tenor of his reports, it was clear that Hannity’s aim was to gin up support from American conservatives and Evangelicals for the Gaza offensive being conducted by Israel.  Yellow journalism, it seems, did not die with William Randolph Hearst.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an organization founded by dispensationalist John Hagee and currently the largest pro-Israel group in the US, has launched an aggressive nation-wide advertising campaign with the same goal in view as Sean Hannity’s reporting, solidify Evangelical support for Israel in its struggle with Hamas.  According to the article, CUFI, “will be taking to Israel 50 pastors, one from each state, as part of a solidarity trip.  The itinerary, barring unforeseen developments due to the war, includes meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli soldiers…The trip affords CUFI a vehicle for expressing solidarity with Israel and then informing and energizing their flock back in the U.S.”

According to the CUFI website, there are Biblical and moral imperatives that obligate Christians to support the state of Israel.  Neo-conservative politicians columnists and academics call for further American military involvement in Middle East.  What is an Evangelical to make of all this?

Support for Israel

CUFI gives as its statement of purpose the following:  “The purpose of Christians United For Israel (CUFI) is to provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.” Under the heading Goals and Objectives, we find the following statement, “While millions of Christians support Israel, there are millions more who do not yet vocally stand up for the Jewish state.  It is crucial to educate Christians on the biblical and moral imperatives to support Israel and build Christian support for Israel throughout America.”  And by the term “support”, the group seems to mean principally political action.  The website continues, “While it is important that we pray for Israel, it is also important that we put feet to our prayers and speak truth to power about the need to stand with Israel at this critical juncture in history.  CUFI accomplishes these goals through:  CUFI’s annual Washington Summit CUFI members to personally speak with their elected officials on behalf of Israel. CUFI’s Action Alerts mobilize CUFI’s over one million members to contact their members of Congress or the Administration on critical policy issues.”

But while CUFI is very aggressive in making known its political support for Israel and encourages Christians to demonstrate their solidarity with that nation, oddly absent from its website is any mention of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s the 500 pound gorilla that Hagee and his colleagues would prefer to simply ignore.  One supposes this is due to the dispensationalist theology held by Hagee and his supporters who maintain the heretical doctrine that Jews already have a relationship with God through the law.  If CUFI and its members truly care about Israelis, they should be preaching the Gospel to unbelieving Israelis, not lobbying Congress to support the Jewish state’s offensive in Gaza.

Interventionist Foreign Policy

As a boy, I recall watching the nightly news in 1978 and seeing images of the scary mobs in Tehran.  Thousands of people in the streets were chanting, waving banners and denouncing the US as the Great Satan. It was disturbing to watch, but the joy of the Iranian mobs at the capture of the US embassy in Tehran also left me not a little bit puzzled.  I had no reason to hate Iranians, and it seemed to me that the vitriol directed by the Iranian mobs toward the US seemed completely unfounded.  It wasn’t until years later that I learned the root of the conflict between the US and Iran stretched back to 1953, when the CIA engineered a coup that deposed Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mosaddegh and imposed the Shah, who served as an American puppet.  While not excusing the actions of the Iranian Islamists, this bit of background at least made clear why many in Iran harbored a deep dislike of the US.

In the years since, the US has continued armed involvement in the region.  In 1983, the US lost hundreds of marines when a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the Beirut barracks of a US peacekeeping force.  Gulf War I and II followed in 1990 and 2003 respectively.  The war in Afghanistan, started in 2001, is still ongoing and has become the longest running military conflict in Americana history.  As if this were not enough, US backed NATO forces assisted in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.  The most recent US military involvement in the region was its attempt to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.  The US is also supports ongoing drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia.

The above is just a brief summary of US activity in the region.  There is much more to it.  But US involvement there is not limited to bombs only.  On the opposite side, it has been a longstanding policy of the US to provide foreign aid to the region.  For example, during Fiscal Year 2012, US taxpayers were forced to provide the following amounts to the nation of the Middle East,

  • Afghanistan             $12.8 billion
  • Iraq                           $1.9 billion
  • Israel                        $3.1 billion
  • Egypt                       $1.4 billion
  • Pakistan                    $1.2 billion
  • Jordan                      $1.1 billion
  • West Bank/Gaza      $457 million

And just what has the US to show for all this activity?  Are Americans better off today than they were before spilling their blood and treasure?  Hardly.  The Middle East is more unstable now than at any point in the last several decades.  In addition to the war in Gaza against Hamas, Israel is threatening to attack Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear arsenal.  The US backed Syrian rebels, many of whom have Al Qaida ties, have gone rogue, taken a significant stash of the most advanced US weapons, formed the Islamic State, and overrun a large portion of Iraq.  Their next move is anyone’s guess, but calls have already begun for the US to put boots on the ground in Iraq.  Meanwhile the civil war continues to fester in Syria.

Pre-emptive War

As if all this weren’t danger enough, the unchristian, neo-conservative doctrine of pre-emptive war, the notion that it is acceptable to launch a military attack on the grounds of a perceived threat to a nation’s interests, has taken hold in Washington and all but ensures more US wars in the near future.   Speaking to the graduating class at West Point in 2002, President George W. Bush made the following statement,

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best.  We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them.  If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long – Our security will require transforming the military you will lead – a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world.  And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.

Such a statement represents a complete departure from the Biblical and historic American stance on foreign policy given voice by President Millard Fillmore in the quote below,

Among the acknowledged rights of nations is that which each possesses of establishing that form of government which it may deem most conducive to the happiness and prosperity of its own citizens, of changing that form as circumstances may require, and of managing its internal affairs according to its own will. The people of the United States claim this right for themselves, and they readily concede it to others. Hence it becomes an imperative duty not to interfere in the government or internal policy of other nations; and although we may sympathize with the unfortunate or the oppressed everywhere in their struggles for freedom, our principles forbid us from taking any part in such foreign contests. We make no wars to promote or to prevent successions to thrones, to maintain any theory of a balance of power, or to suppress the actual government which any country chooses to establish for itself. We instigate no revolutions, nor suffer any hostile military expeditions to be fitted out in the United States to invade the territory or provinces of a friendly nation. The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us, and justice and conscience should form the rule of conduct between governments, instead of mere power, self interest, or the desire of aggrandizement. To maintain a strict neutrality in foreign wars, to cultivate friendly relations, to reciprocate every noble and generous act, and to perform punctually and scrupulously every treaty obligation — these are the duties which we owe to other states, and by the performance of which we best entitle ourselves to like treatment from them; or, if that, in any case, be refused, we can enforce our own rights with justice and a clear conscience. (Emphasis in the original)

Imagine that, a president who understood the foreign policy implications of the Golden Rule and actually took them seriously.  Today of course, if he is thought of at all, Fillmore and his foreign policy views are held in derision not only by the power brokers in Washington, which is not terribly surprising, but also by those such as John Hagee who claim to be Evangelicals. During a 2012 Republican Presidential debate held in South Carolina, candidate Ron Paul was roundly booed by the Bible Belt audience for daring to suggest a Golden Rule policy.


In his 2006 essay The Religious Wars of the 21st Century, John Robbins made the following sober observation,

Because this false thinking [Evangelical support for Zionism, activist foreign policy, pre-emptive wars] is so widely accepted, there is, humanly speaking, no hope for peace or freedom in the twenty-first century, but rather the spectre of global religious war.  The theology of the Prince of Peace, who is the author of liberty, has been rejected even by most of those who call themselves Christians.  If the Lord Jesus Christ does not return from Heaven soon – and not 10,000 years from now as the Postmillennialists say he will – devoutly religious, Antichristian men will kill hundreds of millions of souls in the bloody wars of the twenty-first century.  The Protestant Reformation is indeed over; the respite of peace, freedom, and prosperity it afforded the West from the long history of human brutality is drawing to a close; and the world is about to enter a new Dark Age of slavery, brutality, and war.  Only the second coming of Christ or an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit can prevent religious totalitarians from imposing their will on billions of people.

Although one could hope for evidence to refute this statement, the last eight years have seen the US and the world make great strides toward proving Robbins correct.  While this essay has focused on US involvement in the Middle East, there are other hot spots brewing in the world as well.  As of this writing, the US and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia for its support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and China is making noises about taking control of the South China Sea.  Far from being a holy war for freedom and truth, the interventionist foreign policy of the US over the past century has created an ungodly mess, involving this nation in a sequence of unnecessary and increasingly dangerous conflicts around the world, any one of which could erupt into full-scale war.   Baring the return of Christ or a second Reformation, it appears this is just where we are headed.

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18 Comments on “Holy War or Ungodly Mess”

  1. justbybelief Says:

    The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us,…

    Great article, Steve, especially the Filmore quote.

    I believe the founding of this country was the first major attempt, to my knowledge, besides the Magna Carta, to restrain government from immorality. Many quote from the Bible our duty as citizens but refuse to address the government’s responsibility to act ethically towards its citizens and other nations.

    I call into a radio talk show quite often and try to make the case publicly that government officials have no authority to use government as a cloak and mechanism for their theft and murder. Like at Nurmberg, and especially before God, no one will be excusable for their sins within a ‘system.’

    To George Bush (from his quote above) I’d say the following: One cannot claim to be fighting for liberty while violating the very principles established to protect it.


  2. Nikolai Says:

    Middle East intervention is bad enough. Unfortunately, lovers of democracy have set their eyes on Eastern Europe now, a place overloaded with nuclear weapons. Unlike previous Russian dictators, the current one is a KGB officer who doesn’t play nice under pressure.

  3. justbybelief Says:

    It seems Mr. Baldwin places the blame for the direction of our nation on America’s pastors…an interesting article based on Barna research.

    Please understand this: America’s malaise is directly due to the deliberate disobedience of America’s pastors–and the willingness of the Christians in the pews to tolerate the disobedience of their pastor. Nothing more! Nothing less!

    I’m not sure what Chuck would say to the fact of most pastors’ ignorance of the gospel and the means of its appropriation. They don’t know the gospel because they don’t understand the holiness of God, and they don’t understand the gravity of their sins.

    One thing’s for sure Jeremiah Wright and Billy Graham won’t hold their disciples to account.


  4. LJ Says:

    Last line hits home:

    So there are no proxies and there is no functioning Iraqi state. If the Washington war party decides to keep bombing just exactly what purpose will be served—other then defending a map which is now heading for the dustbin of history?


  5. justbybelief Says:

    Hey LJ,

    IMHO the purpose is that everything come to a predetermined end–global governance.

    “Order out of chaos”




  6. Steve Matthews Says:


    I’m glad you liked the article. That quote from Fillmore is pretty stunning. One hears nothing like it from anyone in the foreign policy establishment today.

    Many people seem to be of the notion that government officials are somehow exempt from the rules that govern everyone else. They’re not.

  7. Steve Matthews Says:


    The funny thing about the “lovers of democracy” in the US State Department is that they’re all for spreading democracy around the world…just as long as the elected officials of those democracies do what the State Department says they should do. If they leave the reservation the way Yanukovich did when he attempted to move Ukraine into the Russian orbit and away from Western Europe, bad things tend to happen to them.

    As to Putin, the folks running US foreign policy aren’t messing around with Iraq or Libya. They’re playing in the big leagues now,
    and I’m not sure they’re up to the task.

  8. Steve Matthews Says:


    Thanks for the Stockman link. I’ve come to have a lot of respect for his insights on matters related to foreign and finance. His article really highlights the foolishness of US nation building efforts. This is the same point Ron Paul made many times while he was in the House.

    One would think that the manifest failures US foreign policy in the Middle East might cause someone in the State Department to question the efficacy of neo-con driven interventionism. That it doesn’t simply makes the point that John Robbins liked to make: events don’t change people’s minds, only new ideas do.

  9. justbybelief Says:

    That quote from Fillmore is pretty stunning.

    Indeed! I was reading the whole quote–a second, or third, time–to a friend over the phone today and two things struck me. First, the years this guy lived, was president and was saying this, and second, how it seemed almost like a prophesy concerning the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. Then again, the same kind of things may very well have been going on in his day.


  10. Steve Matthews Says:


    Fillmore’s statement is from his first State of the Union address in 1850. Here’s a link to the full text. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29491#axzz1jjQWCRBI

  11. Denson Dube Says:

    What is so sad in all this is that Christians in those countries suffer persecution and untold hardship including martyrdom. I know of a case of a Jewish family in Israel who came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and had to move accommodation 17 times in 2 years, because of their unbelieving Jewish neighbor’s hostility. John Hagee and his Biblically illiterate and clueless snake handling red necks(2 Peter 3:16) should be channeling their considerable resources to these Christians.

  12. Steve Matthews Says:


    You’re right about the persecution of Christians in Israel. I know of a pastor of a Jewish congregation in Israel,
    who has had no end of trouble with the local authorities over the simple act of constructing a building for his church.

  13. Fred Zorch Says:

    @ Steve Matthews: One would think that the manifest failures US foreign policy in the Middle East might cause someone in the State Department to question the efficacy of neo-con driven interventionism.

    Steve, one would indeed think someone, somewhere in the hallowed halls of American government would learn from the mistakes. But I fear, and I hesitate to write this for fear of being called a conspiracy monger, the vested military and industrial interests control much, much more than the average American knows. Most but not all of the politicians have their hands in the pockets of various lobbyists in order to get the money they need to get re-elected. Add to that the lack of moral character throughout all branches and sub branches and subs of those branches and, well, there’s a perfect storm of ungodliness. Add to that the fellow travelers within mainstream media supporting the status quo and the opportunity for the average American to get enough information to become incensed is, well, slim.

    I think it’s going to take a catastrophic economic, political, and societal breakdown in this country, maybe the world, before real change takes place. Since the Almighty works through ordinary means to achieve his holy ends, those means may very well be the destruction of our country.


  14. Cephash Says:

    While I’m also suspicious of plans for further Middle East interventions (even if I am pro-Israel on grounds other than Dispensationalism), I’ll note a few things before we get too weepy about the Mossadegh regime.

    While Mossadegh was a bold lion towards US and British oil interests in Iran, he and his friends in the Tudeh Party held that to take a similar line against Soviet oil interests in Iran would be a betrayal of internationalist solidarity. Hence, in the midst of a Cold War (precipitated, among other things, by Soviet attempts to detach southern Azerbaijan and Kordestan from Iran), could the US have done other than aid a coup when it had the means (and the internal Iranian support) to do so?

    In hindsight, we can probably say that much past US policy was wrong. Perhaps it would’ve been better to have let Mossadegh have his way (an perhaps let the Soviets have their Afghanistan War in Iran during the late 1950’s and 19060’s instead of in the 1980’s). But no statesman has the gift of prophecy.

  15. Steve Matthews Says:

    Hi Cephash,

    Thank for your thoughtful response.

    You mentioned that no statesman has the gift of prophecy. I agree. And this points us to the main question in foreign policy: how does a statesman know what to do in a given situation?

    When we ask the question, how do you know?, we’re entering a discussion about epistemology.

    John Robbins argues, and I agree with him, that the Bible has a monopoly on truth. And if a statesman wants to know how to act when faced with a particular situation, the proper thing for him to do is to consult the Scriptures.

    The Bible teaches us that nations are to mind their own business and stay out of foreign wars. Had this been heeded by the US in the 1950s, it is likely that much of the mess in the middle east could have been avoided.

    You may find this article interesting, as it makes the case for Christian epistemology in foreign policy http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=74

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