Sunday, February 09, 2003

The folks in the White House are Christians. But there are many kinds of Christians. There's the Martin Luther King variety, which stresses nonviolence, self-sacrifice, and turning the other cheek. Then there's the kind, like John Ashcroft and Nino Scalia, who start from "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord", take it to mean that vengeance is the State's, as the Lord's agent, and take that to mean that vengeance is theirs, as agents of the State.

And then there's the kind that expects the world to end soon, and doesn't much mind --- the buyers of books like "The Late Great Planet Earth", and more recently, the "Left Behind" series of novels by LaHaye and Jenkins, which can only be described as apocalypse porn. Some of these folks may even think that by trying to bring about the final battle and the second coming, they're doing God's work. It's a theme that's been seen in science fiction now and again, from the TV preacher in Dan Simmons's Carrion Comfort, to the secret society freaks in the Illuminatus trilogy grinding away behind the scenes to "immanentize the eschaton" (which, for those who didn't know, is more than just a card game).

And, as long as even the really respectable bloggers are having their tin foil hat moments, it might be fun to speculate what these folks would be like if they ever came to power. But I'm not sure it's realistic.

They'd have to conceal their agenda, of course. So, while they might speak openly of being Christian, and even nominate ideological soul-mates to scientific advisory panels, they certainly wouldn't run as the "river of blood" party. That line just doesn't get votes. Which would lead to a, perhaps, unusual degree of secrecy in the administration, and even a certain amount of apparent dissembling, as they tried to come up with explanations for, policies aimed at starting a religiously tinged war in the middle east.

Take the Islamist terrorists for example. They want pretty much the same thing that our Christian Millenarians are after. (Each wants a war; after that, both sides are convinced that, as a noted Christian once said, "God will know his own"). But that, shall we say, commonality of interests, won't exactly go over well in domestic politics. So they might find themselves proposing that, in service of a nominal "war against terrorism", the US should proceed by attacking an enemy of the terrorists in Iraq, while nominally allied with reliable sponsors of religious terrorists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

And of course, on the domestic front, we could reasonably expect a focus on the short term, since, say long-term fiscal prospects for the United States government just don't matter --- it's after the rapture. And might as well help your friends out in the meantime.

But, cute as it is to toss around a scenario like this, as I said, I just don't believe it's realistic, because there's one fatal flaw. The Christian end-of-the-world story already has a role for someone who comes to rule a great military power through dubious means, rules by deceit, and starts a massive war in the middle east for no good reason. And it's not one of the good guys. That isn't a role they'd want for themselves. Is it?


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