Earlier today I posted some comments about the wrongheadedness of US policy concerning the UN's imminent recognition of Palestinian statehood. The WaPo has a story today about one of the prinicipal reasons for it: the rise of evangelical Christianity as a factor in presidential politics.
I am old enough to remember vividly the stir, and the unease, occasioned by Jimmy Carter's revelation ca. 1976 that he was a "born-again Christian." Could anyone have imagined then that we'd now reach a point where the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination would have presided (just prior to announcing his candidacy) over a "prayer meeting" where thousands would gather to implore the Almighty - and specifically under his form as their believed "Son of God" - to bless and guide the USA? More worryingly, could we have imagined then that those thousands would come together - and Texas governor Rick Perry would convene them - in Jesus' name? As the WaPo report notes:
There was no symbolic nod to other American faiths. No rabbi or Roman Catholic priest was among the evangelical speakers. It was a rare, full-on embrace of one religious tradition in the glare of a presidential contest.
One of the headlined supporters of this event, pastor John Hagee, has referred to the Roman Catholic church as the "great whore." One of Perry's chief opponents, Michelle Bachmann, is cut from the same cloth, having only recently abjured her membership in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran synod, whose website states that the Roman Catholic papacy is the anti-Christ. Fortunately for the country, Bachmann is not a truly viable candidate. She has little record to run on in terms of governing, as opposed to spouting off. (Of course, one could have said much the same about Mr. Obama only a few years ago.)
Pastor Hagee, by the way, is also the founder of CUFI (Christians United for Israel), perhaps the leading Christian Zionist organization in the US. And, of course, both Perry and Bachmann have declared their unstinting love and loyalty for the state of Israel - Perry even going so far (in his coming-out speech) as to denounce Obama for his alleged arrogance in trying to impose new boundaries in the Middle East. He was referring, of course, to Obama's speech declaring that the 1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinians ought to be the basis of an agreement between them. Perry seems to have forgotten that Jesus-thing about "blessed are the peacemakers." Not that Obama has accomplished that, mind you; but at least he seems to approach the problem with some semblance of fairness. Perry's fans would surely insist that Israel be allowed to finalize the occupation of the West Bank (and, if necessary, the extermination of Gaza). I mean, God gave all that land to Israel, didn't He? I mean, it's in the Bible. (And if you think I'm joking, consider the case of the senator from Texas's neighbor Oklahoma - and fellow neanderthal when it comes to Middle East foreign policy - James Inhofe, who literally quoted from the Bible on the floor of the US Senate in defense of Israel's policies.)
The fact of the matter is that the foundering US economy has the Obama presidency on the ropes - enough so that Obama's team, which once regarded him as undefeatable by the likes of a Bachmann or a Perry, is no longer making that assumption.
Be very afraid.