A Layman's Guide to World War III
By Kevin Filan
Left Behind, an apocalyptic series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry
Jenkins, has sold over 45 million copies; Hal Lindsey's Late
Great Planet Earth has sold some 30 million. Speculation on
the End Times has been popular in America since the Pilgrims;
even today over 40% of all Americans believe that the world
will end at Armageddon as per the Book of Revelation. This
has had a profound effect on America's foreign policy in the
Middle East. According to most of these "Prophecy Scholars,"
the Messiah can only come when Jerusalem is ruled by the Jews.
This is combined with a deep-seated fear of Islam and a perception
that all Moslems are the undying enemies of all things Christian.
As a result, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians tend
to be passionately devoted supporters of Israel. (For their
part, the Israelis welcome the support, although they could
live without the belief that all Jews will convert to Christianity
before the Messiah comes and the attendant missionary efforts.)
Christianity is a proselytizing religion, which not only
welcomes converts but actively seeks them out. Since Islam
also seeks converts, the two faiths were bound to collide
at some point. Much of the Islamic world believes the current
conflict is a battle between Christianity and Islam - a conception
which was only strengthened by George W. Bush's reference
to a "crusade" against terrorism. These tensions
may well get worse should the U.S. become involved in war
in Somalia. U.S. troops will likely be stationed in Ethiopia
and Kenya, both of which are majority Christian nation: this
could well be seen as one more sign of a Christian superpower
attacking defenseless Moslems.
There are still substantial Christian communities in Lebanon
and Egypt. By tradition, Lebanon's Prime Minister is always
a Maronite Christian, while the President is a Sunni Moslem
and the National Assembly Speaker a Shi'ite Moslem. There
are also a fair number of Palestinian Christians, particularly
in Bethlehem and Nazareth: they appear to live in relative
peace and harmony among Moslem Palestinians, although there
have been scattered reports of incidents between the groups.
More dangerous Christian/Moslem hotspots can be found in Nagorno-Karabakh,
an enclave of Christian Armenians located in territory claimed
by Moslem Azerbaijan. Since Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence
in 1992, it is estimated that some 16,000 people have been
killed; hundreds of thousands have lost their homes. There
has also been ongoing strife between the Moslem Chechens and
Ingush and the (nominally) Orthodox Christian Russians: as
always, these battles owe as much to ethnic and cultural differences
as to doctrinal disputes.
About Orthodox Christianity
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Kevin Filan is a freelance contributor to hybrid based in
New York. Last month, Kevin wrote a piece entitled The
Thermonuclear Men's Club.
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