Birth Pangs

For those who are paying attention, this week’s comment by Condoleeza Rice, on the occasion of her holding out from what would have been a consensus about a call for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, containing the cryptic phrase “birth pangs of a new Middle East,” sends a coded signal to a huge number of American evangelicals that the United States is seeking to become a midwife to the onset of the Great Tribulation.

Disclaimer: “Rapture” is an evangelical technical term, and the entire dispensatonal-millenial belief system that promotes it is a latecomer to Christian theology. Suffice to say here that while I have an insider’s understanding of what all that is about, neither I nor the faith tradition that has nurtured me find reason to make use of it. I’ll leave for another day all the ins and outs of interpretation involved. However: even though this is rather an intramural discussion among Christians, it has huge implications for how people think about the course of world events.

Some of us would actually like to follow Jesus, and some want a ringside seat at fulfillment of prophecy. Many, no doubt, think the two are the same thing. And since biblical prophecies are replete with predictions of calamity, we have the bizarre sight of followers of the Prince of Peace acting as cheerleaders for more calamity. I wonder if this is what the Master wishes, when he comes, to find his servants so doing.


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