Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gog, Magog and President Bush – how Europe sees American fundamentalism

This picture of President Bush (extended to show the hands of the President and the solider behind him folded in prayer) appeared today in “Le Matin Dimanche” (A French language Swiss Sunday paper)

To understand the impact of the picture, you have to bear in mind that Europe is a much more secular place than the US. To give an example, it is illegal in France to wear anything at school that indicates religious affiliation, be it a Christian cross or a Muslim headscarf.

You would never see a European President praying with the troops (although you will see them with heads bowed on 11th November, the day that commemorates the end of World War I). The Europeans do not have Christian armies. They do not assume that God is one their side.

So this picture of the Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces and Head of State, at prayer with Christian troops on the soil of a largely Muslim (though under Saddam a secular) State, was chosen for its shock value. It is meant to portray Bush as leading the US in a Holy War against Islam

I was ready to write that off to French xenophobia and move on when the title of the article caught my eye: “When President George W. bush saw the prophesies of the Bible coming to pass” is a rough translation from the French. The full article is available in French here.

The article arises from Professor Thomas Römer of Lausanne University. In 2003 he received a call from the staff of Jacque Chirac, then the French President, asking for information on Biblical prophecies associated with Gog and Magog. It seems that, when President Bush called President Chirac to ask for his support in invading Iraq, he positioned this initiative in the context of being on the right side in the long-prophesied war between Gog and Magog.

Those of you who have not read Ezekiel 38 and 39 recently may need reminding, as Chirac clearly did, that the war between Gog and Magog will take place in Israel. God, of course, will be on the side of the Israelis. The (probably Muslim) enemies of Israel will be lead by the anti-Christ.

It seems President Bush sincerely felt that he could persuade President Chirac to be on the right side by portraying the events then unfolding in Iraq as the start of the Gog Magog war.

In this context, it is hardly surprising that Chircac felt that having America as an ally in a holy war, lead by a President who took his foreign policy from Biblical prophets wasn’t the right course for France, where only about 30% of people claim any sort of religious affiliation and many of those are Muslim.

If this situation were not so frightening, it would be funny. Can you imaging the Chief of Staff meeting where the General and Admirals, and Commanders are asking “So tell me again, are we Gog or Magog and which one has the weapons of mass destruction?”

The pop charts in Switzerland are based on air-play time. The number 2 song in the charts is Pink’s “Dear Mr. President”. If you’re not familiar with the lyrics go here.

It worries me that American politicians, including those now standing for election, have no understanding of how they are characterised in Europe, which increasingly finds itself in the middle between two sets of heavily armed religious fundamentalists, the Muslims and the Jews to the East and the American Christians in the West.

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