Thursday, June 8, 2023

Evangelicals Are ‘Praying For Armageddon’ And Pulling Levers Of Power – Deadline

Evangelicals Are ‘Praying For Armageddon’ And Pulling Levers Of Power – Deadline


Imagine not only believing the world is coming to an end, but wanting it to happen. Eagerly. Then, take it a step further and imagine people with such a mentality engineering American politics and foreign policy to bring about the very thing they seek — the apocalypse.

It may sound outlandish, but there are many well organized fundamentalist Christian leaders and their followers working hard to make this doomsday scenario a reality, an alarming movement explored in the documentary Praying for Armageddon. The film directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei and co-directed by Michael Rowley makes its world premiere Monday night at the prestigious CPH:DOX festival in Copenhagen.

'Praying for Armageddon' director Tonje Hessen Schei

‘Praying for Armageddon’ director Tonje Hessen Schei

Courtesy of Marte Garmann

“What they are really pushing for is the destruction of our civilization. It’s quite outrageous and mind blowing, really,” Schei tells Sahu Entertainmentas we sit at a café in Copenhagen. “And I don’t think a lot of Americans realize that the sort of hidden end time Armageddon lobby… that they have real political power. They make up the backbone of the Republican party.”

Among the most prominent of these doomsday evangelists is Pastor John Hagee, who opined in an interview posted to YouTube, “We are in the last days… We are anticipating the rapture of the church at any time.”

United States and Israeli flags are projected on fortification wall of the Jerusalem's old city on the day the U.S. relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018.

U.S. and Israeli flags projected on fortification wall of Jerusalem’s old city on the day the U.S. relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018.

Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

If this sounds fringe, consider that Hagee enjoyed access to the Trump White House, and described the 45th president as divinely appointed. “I believe in the core of my being,” he has said, “that God put this man in office at this time.” Hagee personally lobbied Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a decision Trump went on to make over the fierce objections of Palestinians who regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state. Hagee was one of two pastors invited to the opening of the new U.S. embassy in 2018. 

In case there were any doubt about his motivation to relocate the embassy, Trump told a crowd in Wisconsin during a 2020 reelection campaign visit, “We moved the capital [sic] of Israel to Jerusalem. That’s for the evangelicals.” He added, “The evangelicals are more excited by that than Jewish people.”

Fundamentalist Christians believe that for the Second Coming of Christ to occur, Jerusalem must be controlled by the Jewish people. That’s a necessary precursor to the end times, when the Christian faithful will be “raptured” (i.e brought up to Heaven) before the Earth is destroyed.

According to this eschatology, “Israel has to be strong,” Schei explains. “For the evangelicals this means that the Jewish people need to return to the Holy Land and that the Palestinian people must be expelled from Israel. In their belief, Israel has to claim more land as is prophesized in the book of Revelations.” 

Televangelist John Hagee attends a Christians United For Israel (CUFI) summit in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2010.

Televangelist John Hagee attends a Christians United For Israel (CUFI) summit in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2010.

Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

Praying for Armageddon makes the case that fundamentalist Christian groups, including Christians United for Israel [CUFI] — an organization founded by Hagee — are providing both moral justification and economic support for Israel’s expansion into Palestinian lands. These doomsayers watch for indications of the coming apocalypse, but more than that, they are influencing policy decisions that will hasten the fulfillment of what they see as prophesy.

“Everything that happens is interpreted as signs of the end time,” observes Schei, who spent many years living in the U.S. and is now based in her native Norway. “With Covid, with Putin invading Ukraine — everything is seen as something that is moving us forward towards their end time goal. But for them the final conflict is set in the Middle East, so the way they fund settler projects and encourage conflict in this area and in this way adding fuel to the spirals of violence is very, very dangerous. Just the amount of money that goes into it as well, under the [guise of] selling salvation often to very, very poor Americans that are giving money towards megachurch empires like CUFI that then is funding right wing settlers in Israel.”

Capitol Ministries logo

Capitol Ministries logo

Capitol Ministries

This apocalyptic ideology has received a warm embrace from many conservatives in Congress. The documentary highlights the work of Ralph Drollinger, founder of Capitol Ministries, who leads regular Bible study meetings with members of Congress and did the same with Trump’s cabinet. According to the Capitol Ministries website, “Good legislation is important, but men and women can hardly be expected to make policies in accordance with sound, Biblically based principles if they are at odds with the author of Scripture… We believe that the objective of evangelizing and discipling political leaders is of the highest importance in the Capital Community.”

“Drollinger, he’s a big villain to me,” Schei comments. “Just to see the whole architecture of how they are grooming top level politicians with Bible studies and giving them biblical justifications and language in order to get their policies through.”

Televangelist and chair of President Trump's evangelical advisory board Paula White takes photographs during an event to mark the National Day of Prayer in the Rose Garden at the White House May 3, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Televangelist and chair of President Trump’s evangelical advisory board Paula White during an event to mark the National Day of Prayer at the White House May 3, 2018.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Politics is not the only arena where fundamentalist Christians are attempting to transform society. Televangelist Paula White, a spiritual advisor to Trump during his presidency, is among the adherents of the Seven Mountains Mandate, a movement that began in the mid-1970s with the intent to take over seven “spheres” of society.

“They want to take control of the most important institutions in the U.S.,” Schei says, including education, religion, family, business, government/military, arts/entertainment and media. “There is this mandate and there seems to be sort of an overarching plan that they are working towards.”

Praying for Armageddon indicates doomsday evangelicals are making considerable headway within America’s armed forces. In the film, investigative journalist Lee Fang interviews retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former advisor to Gen. Colin Powell, describing Wilkerson as “concerned about the role of evangelical Christian nationalists in the military.” 

“Chaplains are increasingly coming from the fundamentalist sects,” Col. Wilkerson points out. “These evangelical fundamentalist chaplains go to some place where basic training graduates and they say beforehand… ‘These troops are at their most vulnerable. They’ve been wracked and trained to death. Go get ‘em.’” Col. Wilkerson adds that at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, “they had something like 70 baptisms… at the end of basic training exercises. And they proselytize and get them, take them down and baptize them and then they’re part of the Christian nationalists.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made common cause with right-wing Christian evangelicals, seeing the alliance as useful to his policies. (Last month, the Biden administration described itself as “deeply troubled” by a reported plan to build “nearly 10,000 settlement units in the West Bank that were previously illegal under Israel law. Like previous administrations, Democratic and Republican, we strongly oppose such unilateral measures, which exacerbate tensions and undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.”). 

Praying for Armageddon devotes significant attention to U.S. policy in Israel and how it’s being influenced by apocalyptic Christian thinking, but Schei makes it clear, “I’m not against Israel. This is not an anti-Israel film. I’m against a lot what is happening in Israel. I do think it’s really important for us as a world community to look at what is happening in Israel, because we do have to protect human rights everywhere.”

Pastor Gary Burd anoints a Christian warrior in 'Praying for Armageddon'

Pastor Gary Burd anoints a Christian warrior in ‘Praying for Armageddon’

Courtesy of Up North Film

Similarly, the director doesn’t want her film to be misinterpreted as anti-religious.

“I do understand why people have a need for sort of a higher purpose,” she says. “It’s not also against certain people or a personal attack on anyone in the film. It’s more sort of looking at the whole movement and the power and the influence that this movement has.”

Praying for Armageddon is in competition for the CPH:DOX festival’s F:act Award. The film has secured a number of television deals with European outlets including the BBC, and it’s seeking U.S. distribution.

“We are really hoping to get this film out in the States widely,” the director says. “The American audience is the most important audience group, for me.”


Originally published at

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