Is supporting war more important for evangelicals than their social values? Isn’t Ron Paul a social conservative? He opposes abortion, gay marriage and promiscuous sex, he has never been divorced and certainly supports family values, but he believes in limited government. Two of his brothers are ministers. Why then are evangelical leaders now opting for Santorum, and before him Gingrich? The one big area of disagreement with Ron Paul is war; foreign wars and the domestic one against drugs. For this they oppose him. Santorum supports unending war in Afghanistan, backing Israel without limit and a new war against Iran.
Earlier there was a major far leftist candidate who supported all the issues that evangelicals oppose, and was a vocal proponent for expanding Israeli settlements on the West Bank and promoting the war on Iraq. He was overjoyed when open homosexuality became allowed in the military, he supports abortion, gay marriage and the leftist agenda for big, intrusive government; power to labor unions as well as expanded, unconstitutional police powers within the U.S. Evangelicals adore him and went all out to support him 2006, when he lost his primary race and ran as an independent for the Senate. He is Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
All this shows how evangelical leaders put support for wars ahead of their social values. Their support includes every new law giving Washington ever greater police powers over American citizens, such as the Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act which tear asunder much of the Bill of Rights. Most also supported torture of prisoners of war (with the notable exception of Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship). All this comes with their "social values."
They loved George Bush. They were major supporters of the two wars against Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan. Fear and ignorance of the outside world joins together with a belief that God uniquely favors America. Mostly poorer Southerners they also have strong affinity for the American military and its industrial complex. In addition, author Chris Hedges has written about how they are joined by many Northern blue collar families hurting from new technology, globalization, and poor schools in seeing government as out to undermine their communities and social values. Their solace is to hope for Armageddon.
I know many of their leaders from the Reagan era when they joined in supporting his anti-communism, indeed in making his electoral victories possible. While the older ones consider my views against empire and for peace in the Middle East anathema, I find many younger ones much more receptive.
Pollster John Zogby also notes that there is a strong divide on issues between evangelicals over 40 and younger ones. Christian economist Gary North wrote some years ago that they numbered about 20 million. He told me also that younger evangelicals were not so enthused with end of the world dreams as their elders. If you think this view excessive see this video of Tom Delay hoping for the end times and others saying that the Anti-Christ is a leader who seeks peace in the Middle East.
This is the dark side to their religious world view. Their fantasy is often sung to uplifting gospel music of a soon-to-come Paradise. Its concomitant message (not openly discussed) is that God will then (brutally) kill the entire human race except for Christians (for many meaning "born again" Christians). The Left Behind book series dwells on how God will eviscerate, torture and kill all non-Christians. Why so many of them dwell on this is not clear. Perhaps it gives meaning to their lives. Or instilling fear is a way to keep them in line under their preachers’ domination. In any case they are cleverly used by the Israeli lobby, imperial neoconservatives and (more profitably) by the military industrial complex.
The Book of Revelation is the integral passion of their foreign policy, their belief that the founding of Israel foretells the imminent Second Coming, conversion or death for Jews and eternal happiness for themselves in Heaven. In their view America, as God’s instrument, should encourage wars and chaos in the Middle East in order to "hurry up" God and His agenda. One of their leaders is John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel. Senator Lieberman is a friend and favored speaker at his events. I have described The Strangest Alliance in History about how each side thinks it is using the other for its own ends.
Evangelicals like to quote a biblical text that God favors those who favor the Jews. However, for them they mean only Jews who make wars and contribute to chaos in the Middle East. Jewish peacemakers are cursed in their view. No tears were shed for Yitzak Rabin who negotiated peace with the Arabs until Israeli fanatics killed him. Indeed Pat Robertson said that Rabin was killed because he was trying to thwart God’s plans.
Herein lies their antipathy to Ron Paul, who in all other respects is a family values conservative. Indeed, most of them are Baptists who used to look upon Catholics with suspicion. Today they would prefer Senator Santorum or Newt Gingrich, both Catholics, to Ron Paul, who is Baptist.
Santorum is no libertarian believer in limited government (he would use government to enforce his social values) and urges absolute support for Israel and the military industrial complex.
These evangelicals don’t want peace because it would mean postponing Armageddon. That’s why their leaders oppose Ron Paul.
A version of this originally appeared at The American Conservative.