When the state of Israel was formed, many Orthodox Jews were anti-Zionist. The reason was simple, in their logic: “the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world”. In other words: It was G-d’s responsibility to establish the state, not the actions of men.
I mention this because of an interesting article that came across my RSS feeds today exploring the Islamic view of Donald Trump, and how the Koran foretold his arrival. The d’var koran, if I can use a mixed term, describes how the Muslim scripture foretold someone who seems to fit the description of Trump, and notes:
“The individual described in the Quran did not meet a good end. The result of his cheap, mean-spirited ways was that God destroyed his garden overnight, and when he and his workers came to it in the morning they lamented: “nay we have been deprived of everything.” The only silver lining the Quran offers is that they, after witnessing the result of their evils, realized the error of their ways, reproached one another, turned to God and repented of their past injustices.”
Now, I’m not an Islamic scholar. I do not know if this is a conventional interpretation, or a fundamentalist interpretation. All I note is that it is an interesting interpretation, and one that might be used as an excuse for many things, from an Islamic ban to…
But apocalyptic interpretations of scripture are not limited to Muslims. Many devout Christians appear to support Mr. Trump precisely for the chaos he is bringing. You see, they view him as the anti-Christ:
Trump does fit several of the criteria attached to popular perceptions of the Antichrist. Many earnest sources of apocalyptic speculation, including the best-selling Left Behind series by the late Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, imagine the Antichrist as a truly modern figure. Although the wildly popular 17-book series, which was published between 1995 and 2007 and has sold over 65 million copies, is fictional, the vision embraced by LaHaye and Jenkins portrays the coming apocalypse as an event where non-believers are forced to reckon with the damage wrought by the Antichrist. Here, the Antichrist is a worldly, charismatic man, often of Eastern European and Jewish heritage, who embraces modern technology and institutions for his own sinister ends. This interpretation, which is common among a large subset of American Evangelicals, believes the Antichrist’s reign — a period known as the “tribulation” — will follow the rapture of true followers of Christ.
It’s easy to extrapolate this to Trump. He’s vainglorious, charismatic (at least in the eyes of some Americans), and obsessed with wealth. Kushner Companies, a real estate company jointly owned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is headquartered at 666 5th Ave. Trump, while not Eastern European himself, has a proclivity for Eastern European women and promises better relations with Russia, a country that figures prominently in 20th and 21st century apocalyptic tales. And while Trump says that his favorite book is the Bible, he did once note that he’s “not sure” as to whether he’s asked God for forgiveness of his sins.
In particular, Steve Bannon, Trump’s closest advisor, has such apocalyptic visions:
In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now.
War is coming, Bannon has warned. In fact, it’s already here.
“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance. “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”
To confront this threat, Bannon argued, the Judeo-Christian West must fight back, lest it lose as it did when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453. He called Islam a “religion of submission” in 2016 — a refutation of President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 description of Islam as a religion of peace. In 2007, Bannon wrote a draft movie treatment for a documentary depicting a “fifth column” of Muslim community groups, the media, Jewish organizations and government agencies working to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law.
And you wonder where Trump gets his ideas.
I have seen discussions on Facebook where the hope has been expressed for the rapture to occur, and for the true believer to be swept up to Heaven to live with Jesus. As for the rest of us: non-believers and liberals and such, well, it is the pits of Hell. And if not Hell, then Detroit or Cleveland.
Now, I’m not going to criticize anyone for their beliefs. This is America, and you are free to believe whatever you wish. Further, the government is not supposed to establish or favor any particular religion, so as to permit you to believe whatever you wish. More importantly, to permit me to believe whatever I wish. [Translation: This is not a Christian Nation; even though almost a third of Americans think you need to be Christian to be truly American. Sigh.]
However, your right to your beliefs stops when it impacts someone else. I take offense at people who deliberately elect someone unqualified, and with a dangerous narcissistic streak, just to hasten the Rapture and the Apocalypse. Here I side with the Orthodox: it is not your place to bring it about. If a Rapture and Apocalypse is going to happen, it is up to G-d to bring it about, not you or me. You are not G-d, and you are certainly not my G-d. If there is a G-d.
Note that there is a distinction between belief in G-d and faith. Although I sometimes question the existance of G-d, I certainly do have faith. In particular, I have faith that the American People and our Nation will survive the bumpy ride we’re in for with Trump. Resistance to his unilateral executive orders is growing, his unqualified nominees are not making it through the Senate, and the Democratic Congress has decided to resist Trump the same way the Republican Congress resisted Obama. Further, a number of Patriotic Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are standing up for American Values and saying: Trump’s behavior is not who we are.
Both the Muslim and the Christian interpretations of scripture above assume that all is ordained, with the implication that we don’t have the ability to stop it. But we are given the choice in Deuteronomy 30:19: “This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live;” We are given the choice — we can choose. We must and should choose the good, the blessing, the life, and not the evil.