No one should be surprised or shocked that today US televangelist and Religious Right icon Pat Robertson blamed God for Ariel Sharon's stoke. Media Matters reports on Robertson's remarks:
On the January 5 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed is "dividing God's land." Robertson admonished: "I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU [European Union], the United Nations, or United States of America." Although Robertson professed that "Sharon was personally a very likeable person," he nonetheless declared that "God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' " Robertson called the 1995 assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "the same thing." A previous CBN news article, titled "Dividing the Land, Dishonoring God's Covenant," examined Sharon's decision to return control of the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority.
Robertson holds to a traditional millennialist interpretation of Scripture and as such believes that only the destruction of Israel will herald the second coming of Jesus. Therefore, the Religious Right, most often opponents of the peace process in the Middle East, has felt betrayed by Sharon's decision to withdrawal from Gaza. Peace, according to this thinking, is bad for Christianity.
Vincent J. Schodolski wrote about these issues in The Chicago Tribune last April (link no longer available):
Modern interpreters of Scripture sometimes speculate that current events are signs of ancient prophecies coming to pass. Some view the United Nations as a vehicle for the modern Antichrist. Others see the European Union in that role.
There were those who even singled out the late Pope John Paul II as the Antichrist. Others have cited former President Bill Clinton or former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, notably for the mark on his forehead. Some theorists see that as the "mark of the beast."
Part of the biblical interpretation indicates that a re-established Israel--within its biblical boundaries--must precede the end of the world because that is where the battle of Armageddon is to take place.
As a result, there is a relationship between these conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews in Israel. Some of these Christians support efforts by Israelis to occupy lands not part of the modern state of Israel because, in doing so, the Christians believe the Israelis are hastening biblical prophecy and thus the end of days.
The support is welcomed by some Jews, though there is a paradox in that these Christians hold that any Jew who does not convert to Christianity will be sent to eternal damnation by Christ upon his second coming.
When Sharon's conservative forces drove the Labor Party from power in Israel the Religious Right was ecstatic. Here was a man so driven by hatred - considered by many to be a war criminal because of his military conduct during campaigns in the 1980s in Lebanon - that he might personally drive the world right into Armageddon. Sharon, fortunately, didn't quite walk that path (though no one would really consider him a peace-maker either).
Unfortunately, people are going to be quick to dismiss Robertson's remarks as those of a crazy man (and on that charge there is fair ammunition).
But the geneses of his remarks are darker than the rants of a lunatic. This leader of the Religious Right and former Republican candidate for president spoke a deep truth that helps drive foreign policy towards the Middle East at the high levels of the Bush Administration:
Chaos in Israel is the real goal of the Religious Right - no matter who has to suffer.
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