Election 2008

[Note: The commentary below was published as the presidential politics of 2008 were heading into the rhetorical throes of summer. Religion was all over the map, with Obama’s Christianity being questioned and his supposed “Islamic” past salivated by the right. This time around religion seems to be taking a back seat to the economy, perhaps in large part because Evangelicals do not want to remind themselves they are about to vote for a Mormon. But the sentiments discussed below are still quite alive…]

For some partisans, no matter who is elected President to succeed George W. Bush, it will seem like the end of the world. We are in the apocalypse silly season once again. Take Tim LeHaye, the doctrinal inspiration of the WASP-friendly Left Behind book series (Jerry B. Jenkins provides the verbal inspiration in sci-fi style); he has been preaching the politics of biblical apocalypse for years. Indeed, since the apostle John allegedly first had his vision on the island of Patmos, the world has been teetering in the end times. This world is always going to hell; Jesus must be coming soon. Bible-belting believers and bible-belching evangelists constantly look to the heavens with rapturous delight for the mother of all shock-and-awe shows to begin. Up go the faithful in the twinkling of an eye and then it is open tribulation season on the Jews that will make the 20th century Nazi holocaust look like a sabbath picnic. Fortunately, most of the world’s Christians look at such a naive-ity scene with alarm. “Even so,” it might be said, “do not come Lord Jesus.”

Reverends Tim LeHaye, Pat Robertson and John Hagee are not the only mega-mouths who know deep down in their saved souls that they will not be left behind. Ironically, they share theologically-maddened space with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the shi’a-evangelical President of Iran. As noted in a New York Times article today by Nazila Fathi, the Iranian President’s “high father” is Imam Mahdi, the hidden 12th “twelver” Imam who occulted well over a millennium ago, but whose reappearance has been looked for year after year in popular imagination. Ahmadinejad, who loves to wear his religion on his sleeves, says that Imam Mahdi guides his day-to-day decisions as a president. In gratitude, Ahmadinejad has sponsored an institute to prepare Iran for the Imam’s immanent return. This would be like Bush asking his faith-based supporters to create a special office in Homeland Security on Eternal Security Risks to those Left Behind. (more…)

Just before the election last November there was an attempt by the extreme religious right to literally do a Jeremiah on candidate Barack Obama. One of the more bemusing commentaries, still prominently posted on the web on an apocalyptic website, is by a Protestant prophet whose visions from God have all come true, as he believes. Thus, either God’s message got garbled in the prophet Steve’s ears or we are living under the most ungodly president ever, in which case the rapture is only a nanosecond away (which may be the real reason Sarah Palin resigned). Take your pick and enjoy (probably not the right word here) the read:

A Prophetic Warning from Pastor Steve Foss

Date: Saturday, October 25, 2008, 12:49 PM

I am writing to you today an urgent message concerning the coming American election. God has released me to share with you a powerful prophecy He gave me eight years ago. I have shared this prophecy in a number of public meetings, but I have never published it for all our friends and partners.

In January of 2000 God gave me an incredible insight into what was about to happen in the coming elections in America over the next decade. I am not using this e-mail to tell you, who are citizens of America, who to vote for. However, you need to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. Never in my 22 years of ministry have I seen such a spirit of delusion released upon our country. (more…)

Palestinians walk in the rubble following an Israeli airstrike Wednesday in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo by Khaled Omar, The Associated Press.

Why did Israel start this War?
by Amr al-Azm, Brigham Young University

There are several answers to this question depending on which angle you look at it from.

The facts on the ground (Time Line) run as follows:

June 19 – An Egyptian brokered truce begins between Hamas and Israel. It calls for Hamas to stop cross-border rocket fire and for Israel to gradually ease its embargo on Gaza.

July 27: Israel kills Shihab al-Natsheh, a senior Hamas fighter, in his house in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil. Hamas protests action and Israel claims that the West Bank is not covered by the ceasefire.

November 5: Israel raids supposed smuggling tunnels in the Hamas-controlled region. Six Palestinians killed in the attack. Hamas responds by firing several dozen rockets and mortar shells at western Negev in Israel in retaliation. No casualties or property damage is caused, but three women are treated for shock. (more…)

Art by Olaf Hajek for The New York Times

Why the Muslim World Can’t Hear Obama
By ALAA AL ASWANY, The New York Times, February 7, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” He gave his first televised interview from the White House to Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television channel.

But have these efforts reached the streets of Cairo?

One would have expected them to. Mr. Obama had substantial support among Egyptians — more than any other American presidential candidate that I can remember. I traveled to America several days before the election. The Egyptians I met in the United States told me — without exception — that they backed Mr. Obama. Many Egyptians I know went to his Web site and signed up as campaign supporters. (more…)

by el-Sayed el-Aswad, United Arab Emirates University

The historic victory of Barack Obama, the first African American president, is the outcome not only of a politically talented and eloquent leader hoping for and acting toward change but also of the relentless will and determination of American grassroots demanding openness, fairness, equality and freedom. American people, with their diverse, rich and dynamic culture, voted for change so as to have not just something new, but to attain liberation and reconstruct fair and peaceful relationships with all people. What is happening inside the most powerful nation in the world must be reflected and enacted in different parts of the globe. People around the world are hoping and expecting that the United States will work to promote peace and a healthy democracy through dialogue, diplomacy and persuasion after eight years of power mismanagement leading to unjustified intervention and irrational wars. (more…)

A bomb dropped by an Israeli air force F-16 jet exploding in Beit Hanoun, north of the Gaza Strip.

The Siege of Gaza: Barack Obama’s First ‘Test’?
John L. Esposito, Middle East Online, December 31, 2008

Until the Israeli government gets a message that the international community will hold Israel to the same standards as it does other nations and the Palestinians, there can be no hope for peace negotiations to work.

While some had predicted Barack Obama would be “tested” early in his administration by America’s enemy Osama, Obama’s first major foreign policy “test” has instead come from America’s ally, Israel. (more…)

Palestinian rescue workers carry a wounded prisoner in the rubble of the Saraya prison after it was hit by a missile strike on Sunday. Photo by Majed Hamdan / AP.

Gaza: the cycle can be broken

The Independent/, Sunday, 28 December 2008

More than 30 years ago, the American political philosopher Michael Walzer wrote: “First oppression is made into an excuse for terrorism, and then terrorism is made into an excuse for oppression.” It was a good description of the Israel-Palestine problem then, and a good description of the dynamic that would make it worse over the following three decades.

It is a dynamic that operates in contravention of the simple, comforting and wrong principle that two democracies have never gone to war against each other.

The conflict between Israel and the people of Gaza is driven by democratic impulses. Hamas, the Islamic political party and paramilitary organisation, won control of the Gaza Strip in free and fair elections in January 2006. Its charter famously calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and, although that was hardly the issue on which those elections were fought, there can be little doubt about the depth and extent of hostility towards Israel felt by the majority of the population of Gaza. (more…)

President-elect Barack Obama gestured during a news conference in Chicago, Thursday. He plans to deliver a major speech in an Islamic capital, perhaps within the first 100 days of his presidency. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Obama plans major speech in Muslim world to ‘reboot’ America’s image abroad

How Obama addresses sensitive issues of democracy and human rights could help set the tone for efforts to distinguish himself from President Bush’s administration.

by Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, December 11, 2008


During the campaign, President-elect Obama put the goal of repairing America’s image abroad – and in particular in the Muslim world – at the top of his foreign-policy agenda. Mr. Obama began defining how he intends to do that this week by discussing his plans to deliver a major speech in an Islamic capital, perhaps within the first 100 days of his presidency.

Obama’s plan, still in the formative stages, immediately set off speculation over where the new American president would choose to deliver his message and what he would say. (more…)

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