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Awaiting the return of the Prince of Peace

During the Christian Season of Advent, prayers are offered in churches throughout the world for the forgiveness of sins so that Christians might greet with joy the second coming of Jesus Christ.

There is disagreement, however, among America’s Christians as to the timing and form that that return might take. Most mainline and orthodox Protestants, Roman Catholics and Anglicans heed Jesus’ warning that “… about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) They are therefore reluctant to predict when and under what circumstances Jesus might return. Conservative evangelical Christians, on the other hand, profess that by applying unorthodox interpretations of certain biblical passages, they are able to discern the time and historical conditions of the second coming, some to the day and hour.

In a Pensacola, Florida, political rally on Dec. 8, for example, state Senator Doug Broxson suggested that President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is good news, because it will help usher in the biblical end times. “Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem — where the King of Kings [applause], where our soon coming king is coming back to Jerusalem, it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be capital of Israel,” Broxson said. The crowd cheered.

Most right-wing American Christians are as convinced that there is a link between the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the end-times as they are certain that there is not a link between the creation of humanity and Darwin’s theories of evolution. Trump’s action, they are assured, is an event that will unleash the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of The Book of Revelation to visit horrendous destruction on the earth and lead to the return of Jesus in triumph to “rule the world.”

For them, war in the Middle East is something to be wished for rather than avoided. The Battle of Armageddon, at which time Jesus will return to the Earth and vanquish all God’s enemies, is the Christmas gift that would keep on giving right up to the end of the world.

At which time the righteous (those who believe in a literal violent second coming) will be ushered to heaven; the reprobate (the rest of us) will be banished to hellfire. What concerns me is not only that people actually believe this but that they are so certain of the rightness of their convictions that they support political decisions that, they hope, will lead to wars in the Middle East and beyond in which hundreds of thousands of men, women and children on the “wrong” side of the religious divide will die — including many of their fellow Christians.

Conservative evangelical Christians look forward to the Rapture, the Judgment and the End, because to them, that’s actually the beginning — the beginning of their reward and heavenly bliss. Other religious groups might raise hell about the disruption of peace and stability, but right wing evangelicals don’t care because they’re anticipating peace in a world other than this one.

It’s past time that responsible, compassionate and orthodox Christians distance themselves officially and publicly from the evangelical right wing of American Christianity. To await with joy the violent slaughter of millions of people and call it Christianity is not only an abomination. Awaiting the return of the Prince of Peace while applauding events that may lead to war is also the zenith of hypocrisy.

Polk Culpepper is a retired Episcopal priest, former lawyer and a Washington resident.