Eschatology All the Way Down

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Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think Josh Marshall overstates the case in his discussion of Evangelical support for Israel, here and here:

Specifically, the religious right’s support for Israel is highly utilitarian — a means to an end. I think it would be wrong to imagine that evangelical support for Israel is so ‘thin’ that for some it does not contain real affection for Israelis and belief in the broader Zionist project. But fundamentally the support is about eschatology…

I think he’s attributing the eschatological views of some Evangelicals to all Evangelicals, or at least most, based on the high public profile of Pastor John Hagee and the Left Behind books.  Hagee leads a large church, and certainly there are many Evangelicals who share his eschatology, but I don’t think most do.  Most Evangelicals just aren’t that into eschatology.

Nor is the popularity of the Left Behind books a useful indicator of the number of Evangelicals who share its eschatology.  That popularity is largely due to: a) Evangelicals like to read Evangelical Christian fiction (just as they like to listen to Evangelical Christian music), and the first of those books was among the first to be published in that genre, thus hooking a huge number of people for the whole series; b) most Evangelicals don’t have good taste in fiction (just as they don’t in music, and just as most people in general don’t); and c) the books tell a vigorous Christus victor story, and people are drawn to stories about their own side winning, especially people who have a persecution complex.

All that to say I think a lot of Left Behind readers don’t share its eschatology and read past it, not for it.

I think the support for a maximal Israeli state among Evangelicals is fundamentally a result of the promises the Hebrew God of the Old Testament made to the Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews, in succession.  Evangelicals believe the Jews are entitled to all of Palestine; God promised it to them and wants them to have it.  If America isn’t helping them get it all, America is acting in opposition to God’s will.

So while Evangelical support for a maximal Israeli state is very much a function of their own religious convictions rather than any particularly pro-Jewish sentiment, I don’t think it’s “fundamentally” about seeing the Jews wiped out during the End Times.

For some Evangelicals it is, but not most.  I think.

Update (8/23/09 10:07 pm): Somebody wrote Marshall a correction, which he posted.

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