Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Going on in today's NYT Op-Ed section, Nicholas Kristof wrote today about the newest force in international politics, Evangelical Christians. I tend to stay away from issues of religion; it's too easy to offend those you don't mean to offend, and you aren't likely to change anybody's mind. (That's one of the reasons I tend to stay out of Israel vs. Palestine discussions; that first entry was an anomaly). The question of religion and politics is one that I feel is important, however, and this sort of thing worries me. There's no question that religious groups can and do benefit people both domestically and around the world. The problem is that there's usually a catch. Take a look at this example:

The evangelical movement encompasses one-quarter of Americans and is growing quickly. One measure of its increasing influence is that a newsstand in the United Nations has carried the "Left Behind" series of religious novels by Tim LaHaye. These books, which have sold 50 million copies so far, describe the battles that precede the Second Coming, and there is indeed a United Nations connection: In the novels, the Antichrist is the secretary general

This concerns me. I'm not sure how many people actually believe those "Left Behind" books are in any way an accurate portrayal of what a Christian apocalypse might look like, but their (literal) demonization of the UN and the beliefs the books reflect are worrying. The only way that many of the problems that are facing the world can get solved, and the only way that the world continues to function more-or-less normally, is through international treaties and international organizations like the UN. While those who mistrust the UN have every right to that belief, dogmatic fear of visible international institutions like the UN not only hurts the people who benefit from these organizations, but empowers those who oppose the UN and related organizations because it opposes their own ill-gotten and ill-used concentrations of wealth and power. These kinds of people can and do use the beliefs of the common man to forward their personal agendas. I would not want the United States to go down that road.

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