President Donald Trump's evangelical base loves his self-created crisis in Iran because they believe a conflict could bring about the end of the world.
They see the Trump-ordered assassination this month of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani as a step toward the Apocalypse and the return of Christ, reported Mother Jones.
“Iran has this big part to play in biblical history,” said religious historian Diana Butler Bass. “There are these particular prophecies from Ezekiel, where there is talk of a war that will happen at a very important moment in Israel’s history, and that war is going to kick off the End Times. People in this prophetic community believe Iran is going to be one of these aggressors.”
Only about 60 percent of white evangelical Christians believe Christ will return to Earth by 2050, according to a 2010 poll, but more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016.
“When Iran gets into the news, especially with anything to do with war, it’s sort of a prophetic dog whistle to evangelicals," she said. "They will support anything that seems to edge the world towards this conflagration. They don’t necessarily want violence, but they’re eager for Christ to return and they think that this war with Iran and Israel has to happen for their larger hope to pass.”
The White House frequently hosts a network of preachers who tell their followers that Trump was "chosen" by God to hasten the End Times, and Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top administration officials have close ties to the Christian Zionist group Christians United for Israel.
“I think that Trump likes it when people think he’s close to God — he called himself the ‘chosen one’ — and to think that all of this has some sort of divine backing,” Bass told Mother Jones. “I don’t think there’s ever been a president who was quite influenced by this stream of evangelicalism as Trump has been.”
Administration officials have struggled to justify Suleimani's killing, and foreign policy experts have struggled to see a benefit, but the assassination was hailed by Trump's evangelical base.
The killing came shortly after Trump was impeached and the evangelical publication Christianity Today called for his removal on moral grounds, and just hours before he appeared at the launch of his campaign’s Evangelicals for Trump coalition in Miami.
Trump's own relationship to evangelical Christians is transactional, but Pence and Pompeo are both devout believers, and the secretary of state frequently speaks about the Rapture and other End Times prophesies -- which alarms some religious experts.
“If it brings the end of the world, it brings the end of the world,” said André Gagné, a theology professor at Concordia University in Montreal. “They’re ready. They can’t wait for the Rapture to happen. For them it’s the ultimate reunion with God.”