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The Clash of Kingdoms

The Clash of Kingdoms

Making Sense of the Global War on Terrorism

Today there are two significant global movements that enjoy a symbiotic relationship. The first involves America’s accelerated role as the world’s propagator of democratic values, and as a matter of national and international security the world’s enforcer of those values. The second is the not-so-obvious rapid global expansion of Christianity, a phenomenon that is aided by the expansion of democratic values while also facilitating the spread of those values.

Terrorism Revives America’s Sense of Destiny

Not a few American presidents have invoked “manifest destiny” to describe America’s political mission to establish freedom and democracy in every region and country of the world.[1] The war on terrorism has given this mission a renewed sense of urgency, as evidenced by President George W. Bush’s declaration after 9/11: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”[2]

During his Inaugural Address in January 2005, President Bush emphasized in no uncertain terms that America’s mission, its destiny,[3] is to market democracy to every nation, region, and corner of the world through diplomatic means, or by force if necessary.[4] To date, however, no American president has ever thematically employed the unilateral threat of force as a means of exporting democratic reform on a global scale, or made it the visionary cornerstone of their foreign policy. Indeed, despite persistent questions about the Administration’s stated rationale for invading Iraq—the enforcement of United Nations resolutions requiring Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction—few doubt the President’s commitment to prevail against terrorism, and to establish democracy throughout the Muslim world, beginning with Iraq.[5]

What doubts do remain would likely dissolve should America suffer another terrorist attack of serious magnitude. If the world was reordered after September 11, 2001, another catastrophic attack would only intensify America’s resolve to swiftly and decisively establish world order and security. Such an attack could also be expected to unite international sentiment and support for the American effort to secure peace and safety. The recent attacks in London have certainly heightened this sense of awareness among European community leaders.

Further terrorist attacks on American soil actually pose the greatest threat to Islamic countries and Islamic hegemony in the Arab Middle East. While Islamic terrorism may be motivated by a desire to establish authentic Islamic states, the opposite would likely result. The United States and the international community would only unite more fully to pressure the Islamic world to implement democratic reforms.[6]

Democratic reform has already become a linchpin of American foreign policy. As Fareed Zakaria observed in Newsweek, “The war on terror has given the United States a core security interest in the stability of societies.”[7] The United States appears committed to the task of enforcing international standards of conduct in the Islamic world, with or without United Nations support. The 9/11 Commission Report energetically adopts President Bush’s call for a global effort to win the war on terrorism by urging the U.S. to move more rapidly toward reforming the Middle East through the projection of American power.[8] As The Economist couch-phrases it, this is because “Terrorism against American interests ‘over there’ should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America ‘over here.’ America’s homeland is, in fact, ‘the planet.’”[9]

Colonel Qadhafi’s recent repudiation of terrorism by Libya is evidence that American policy is having some success. The Israeli-Palestinian situation has certainly calmed down during the last couple of years. And despite the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, the invasion of Iraq, following on the heels of a successful campaign in Afghanistan, appears to be slowly achieving its intended effect on other nations, including Egypt’s, Saudi Arabia’s, and Indonesia’s pledges and assurances to conduct genuine elections.[10]

Stung by the outrageous attack on American soil, the U.S. was compelled to dispel assumptions about its unwillingness to spill American blood in fighting terrorism.[11] These assumptions were grounded in decades of vacillating responses to terrorism. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman observed: “We invaded Iraq because we could.” The Iraq war was never really about weapons of mass destruction. Instead, the war put the Islamic world on notice that the United States was serious about dealing with terrorism.[12]

As Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, points out in his book, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the U.S. Defense Department sought to do more than route the Taliban and pound dust in Afghanistan. They sought a much more comprehensive strategy-a global strategy, if you will-in taking on and defeating the Al-Qaeda terrorist network worldwide and to effectively deal with its root causes. Like the use of an old-fashioned summer fly strip to catch and destroy flies on a hot summer night, Iraq was a central part of their twofold strategy: attract the global forces of Al-Qaeda to one strategic area and defeat them there, while democratically reforming the Middle East and instilling, with the help of Rome, the value of religious freedom.[13]

Like it or not, right or wrong, this prophetic trend regarding America’s induced boldness to renew its destiny by projecting power abroad is happening.[14] The American vision of its manifest destiny to export democracy and secure global peace has become the centerpiece of American foreign policy. Such a Messianic vision may well propel the United States toward its prophetic destiny of imposing a sort of global religious truce that is based on religious and political compromise. In this apparent clash of civilizations—indeed, during this time of increasing uncertainty—there is no rewind button, only painstaking national and personal sacrifices from this point forward.

The Clash of Civilizations

We should realize, however, that the projection of American power is not the only threat to the Islamic world. Although virtually unnoticed, Christianity has enjoyed explosive growth in recent decades.

The globalization of Christianity had its roots in the early Christian era, even before Constantine invested the prestige and power of the Empire in the church. After the fall of the Caesars, the church cloaked itself with the mantle of Roman glory, eventually fostering the Holy Roman Empire. The 1,260 years of Roman Catholic dominance in the West was punctuated by the Protestant Reformation, and then the Enlightenment. The first and second Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries unleashed a powerful missionary movement, continued by 20th-century American evangelicals and Pentecostals until the entire world has been quietly but steadily influenced.

Americans are often confused by the hostility and jealousy displayed by some in other nations. We fail to recognize that the United States is more than just the world’s superpower, but rather a vast multilateral empire (or leader of a worldwide coalition of nations). The United States is more powerful than ancient Rome, with which Europeans often compare us, because of its overwhelming political, military, economic, technological, and yes, spiritual influence around the globe.

America is the recognized leader of both the Christian and secular worlds—a colossal civil-religious power unlike any in history. America is a powerful combination of Caesar’s Rome, with its military might—currently present in 137 countries[15]—and the Holy Roman Empire, on account of its expansive Christian missionary might. Charles Krauthammer observes that “we live in a new world, a unipolar world of a sort that has not existed in at least 1,500 years. We have not seen this since the end of the Roman Empire, and I do not think we have adjusted our thinking to understand exactly what that means.”[16]

Although American missionary might operates mostly independently of its political structure, the close international cooperation escapes the notice of most Americans. American foreign aid is associated with the mostly religious charities that administer considerable disaster relief and development projects. Americans may conceive of a separation of church and state in functional and legal terms as our domestic reality, but foreigners, among them Islamic fundamentalists, are not wrong to associate American policy with its Christian missionary efforts.[17] The United States has emerged as a distinctly civil-religious superpower. The American commitment to propagating democratic values includes a respect for religious freedom, which in practical terms means expanded opportunity for Christian missionaries who are especially interested in the Muslim world. Radical Islamists perceive this civil-religious combination as a “crusade” and therefore a distinct threat to their own visionary quest to establish Islamic global dominance.

This new crisis between the Islamic East and the Christian West is the successor to the cold war, in the sense that it is truly global in scope. Indeed, it has been aptly described as “the clash of civilizations.”[18] From a prophetic standpoint, it would seem that Christianity is destined to prevail. The Gospel commission commanded by Christ Himself is clear enough: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” and “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”[19] Indeed, many Christian leaders have affirmed America’s “evangelical destiny” to evangelize the world for Christ. Taken together with the political side of America’s “manifest destiny,” and in the context of the war on terrorism, one begins to perceive anew the profound prophetic implications of American civil and religious might.

In The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Professor Philip Jenkins astutely observes: “Western evangelicals are talking seriously about spreading their faith within the ‘10-40 window,’ the heartlands of Islam.”[20]

The effective preaching of the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people is a major prophetic trend. Since the Islamic world has been largely resistant to the spread of Christianity for centuries, the global war on terror must be seen in more than geopolitical terms; it has prophetic implications as well.

Global Christianity

Jenkins observes that Christianity, especially Pentecostalism, is steadily capturing the hearts and minds of millions in Latin America, South America, Africa, India, Malaysia, China, and Eastern Europe, including Russia. Between 1900 and 2000, the number of Christians in Africa grew from 10 million to 360 million, and by 2025 is expected to reach 633 million.[21]

Jenkins contests Samuel Huntington’s thesis in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,[22] that “the relative Christian share of global population will fall steeply in the [21st] century, and that this religion will be supplanted by Islam.” Huntington predicts that “in the long run . . . Muhammad wins out,” mainly because Islam is advanced by “conversion and reproduction,” whereas “Christianity spreads primarily by conversion.” Based on statistical studies of current conversion rates, Jenkins concludes: “Far from Islam being the world’s largest religion by 2020 or so . . . Christianity will still have a massive lead, and will maintain its position into the foreseeable future.” Jenkins estimates that by the year 2050 Christians will continue to outnumber Muslims by a margin of three to two worldwide.[23]

The competing speculations of Jenkins and Huntington are mostly irrelevant to the significant prophetic trend. Regardless of which faith wins the numbers game, the opening of the Islamic world to the preaching of the Gospel would significantly fulfill the requirement that the Gospel must first be preached to all the world before the Second Coming of Christ.[24] Today, the most significant Christian communities within the Islamic world have come under increased pressure, including outright persecution.[25] American influence in the region has been to oppose persecution, and to advocate human rights and religious liberty. The success of American policy to spread democratic values can only mean increased opportunity for Christian worship and evangelism. Indeed, the Second Coming may be closer than many realize.

Crusade and Jihad: Is History Repeating Itself?

The church militant has a worthy adversary in a revived fundamentalist Islam. Muslims are militant and do not accept the notion of the separation of church and state.[26] The Islamic legal tradition, Sharia, combines religious and secular legal principles, and has always been considered the fundamental legal code for government. Islam has its own vision of world dominance and believes in the superiority of the Islamic revelation. Democracy is not an Islamic political value, although shrewd Muslim politicians believe they can utilize democracy to restore Islamic dominance.[27]

Jenkins draws from the history of the Holy Roman Empire to describe the Islamic perspective on Christianity and its evangelistic fervor—as “forces of Crusade from the Christian Third World.”[28] This represents “a future Christendom not too different from the old, defined less by any ideological harmony than by its unity against a common outside threat.” The threat, of course, is Islam, regarded as heresy. He warns that “we must hope that the new Res Publica Christiana [Christian World Order] does not confront an equally militant Muslim world, Dar al-Islam [Allah’s Islamic World Order] or else we really will have gone full circle back to the worst features [the Crusades] of the thirteenth century.”[29] Correspondingly, Jenkins says that “we may be entering the great age of Vatican diplomacy.”[30] Written prior to September 11, 2001, Jenkins’s words are eerily prophetic. Indeed, Jenkins’s fears are borne out by popular Christian sentiment exemplified by Franklin Graham. In The Name, Graham writes: “Christianity and Islam are eternal enemies locked in a classical struggle that will end with the Second Coming of Christ.” He adds: “the war against terrorism is just another conflict between evil and The Name,” meaning Jesus.[31]

While many Americans are reluctant to engage in such a geopolitical religious conflict, many evangelicals are saying, in effect, “Bring it on!” President George Bush invoked the term “crusade” several times immediately after September 11, 2001, and that language evoked powerful responses from within both the Islamic and Christian communities. Since then he has been careful not to use “crusade” language, and has rightly emphasized that the war is not against a peaceful religion of Islam, but against terrorism. But whatever one chooses to call it, rightly or wrongly, the global conflict between Islam and Christianity is real. The war on terrorism has a profound religious dimension.

The Clash of Kingdoms

Huntington’s thesis in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is one in which the global conflict for political supremacy is not merely a conflict among nation-states, but civilizations. Culture and religion are the driving forces in this clash, rather than traditional sources of conflict such as territory or economics.[32]

Seen in this light, the global conflict between Islam and Christianity is more complex and intransigent than many realize. It is more a clash of kingdoms than of nations.[33] In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria wrote: “If envy were the cause of terrorism, Beverly Hills, Fifth Avenue, and Mayfair would have become morgues long ago. There is something stronger at work here than deprivation and jealousy. Something that can move men to kill but also to die. Osama bin Laden has an answer—religion. For him and his followers, this is a holy war between Islam and the Western world.”[34] Islam may covet Western economic development and technology, but resists the incursion of its political and cultural values.

The emphasis on the religious element in the conflict does not mean it is the only source of conflict. Of course, it is not. There is profound economic and political conflict along with the religious, but it is religion that has driven this from the diplomatic to the military field.

Franklin Graham may be rather blunt in his assessment, but he is at least partly right. There is a fundamental theological competition between Christianity and Islam, a spiritual struggle over the path to salvation of men’s souls. What Graham and many Christians do not realize is that Muslims and Christians alike are preparing to receive a counterfeit Jesus. Both expect this Jesus to establish a millennial reign of peace on Earth.

Bernard Lewis observes in The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, that although Western secularism is itself a threat to Islam, most do not understand that “Christendom and Islam are two religiously defined civilizations that were brought into conflict not by their differences but by their resemblances.” Moreover, Muslims recognize Christians “as having a religion of the same kind as their own, and therefore as their primary rivals in the struggle for world domination.”[35] Indeed, as Jenkins points out: “Muslims and Christians have so very much in common. Scarcely known to most Christians, the Muslim scriptures are almost entirely focused on the same characters who feature in the Christian Bible. The Quran has much more to say about the Virgin Mary than does the New Testament, and Jesus is, apart from Muhammad, the greatest prophet of Islam. It is Jesus, not Muhammad, Whose appearance will usher in the Day of Judgment.”[36]

Islam teaches that Jesus is a prophet whom Allah will send a second time to destroy the infidels and unite Islamic believers into a worldwide kingdom.[37] Few realize that of the five traditional pillars of Islam, the third (Zakat) requires Muslims to financially support jihad or holy war intended to annihilate infidels.[38] Christians are viewed as apostates, and therefore infidels. All religions are to be supplanted by the one pure and true religion, Islam.

One of the most powerful symbols of Islamic aspirations is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the oldest mosque outside the Arabian Peninsula. According to Bernard Lewis: “The erection of this monument, on the site of the ancient Jewish Temple, and in the style and the vicinity of Christian monuments such as the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Ascension, sent a clear message to the Jews and, more important, the Christians.” The message from caliphate to Christian emperor: ‘Your faith is corrupted, your time has passed. I am now the ruler of God’s empire on Earth.’” As Lewis explains: “In the Muslim perception, the Jews and later Christians had gone astray and had followed false doctrines. Both religions were therefore superseded, and replaced by Islam, the final and perfect revelation in God’s sequence. . . . [More specifically,] just as the Jews had been overcome and superseded by the Christians, so the Christian world order was now to be replaced by the Muslim faith and the Islamic caliphate.”[39]

The term “caliphate” derives from the Arabic word chalifa, meaning “successor” or political and spiritual heir to Muhammad.[40] As The Economist magazine recently observed in an editorial: “Mr. bin Laden and his sort are impatient for the advent of the global caliphate.”[41]

More than a millennium after the completion of the Dome of the Rock in 691 or 692, the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia sent a profound symbolic message to Muslims, whose grasp of history is longer than many in the West. To Osama bin Laden and many others, American troops presented a profound challenge by the Christian West to Islam’s mandate of world domination: For bin Laden, “his declaration of war against the United States marks the resumption of the struggle for religious dominance of the world that began in the seventh century. . . . America exemplifies the civilization and embodies the leadership of the House of War, and like Rome and Byzantium, it has become degenerate and demoralized, ready to be overthrown.”[42]

To the Islamists, Christianity poses an even greater threat to their own imperial aspirations than do the secular materialist values of the West. To Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda forces, therefore, it is Christianity itself and America, the leader of the Christian world, which stand in their way. Islamists envision more than the caliphate restored in the Arab world, but as the ruler of a worldwide Islamic state, establishing Allah’s kingdom on Earth. In this sense, the notion of a clash of kingdoms—being synonymous with the civil-religious competitive clash of political and theological goals—is to be taken seriously. This is because American projection of power in the Middle East threatens to impose not merely democratic values, but a Christian kingdom of God on Earth. As Bernard Lewis observed: “You have this millennial rivalry between two world religions, and now, from their point of view, the wrong one seems to be winning.”[43]

Lewis explains further: “Islam has been on the defensive ever since 1683, when the Turkish Ottoman Empire failed to sack Christian Vienna in Austria.” Furthermore, for over “300 years Muslims have watched in horror and humiliation as the Christian civilizations of Europe and North America have overshadowed them militarily, economically, and culturally.”[44]Today, Muslims rightly perceive that Western democratic values include an emphasis on religious freedom. Exported to the Islamic world, what has been referred to as the “10-40 window,” democracy means having to tolerate Christian evangelism, which is unacceptable.

Manifest Destiny’s Inherent Problem

The war on terrorism has given the United States a renewed sense of commitment to the spread of democracy. The problem is that military force has become a primary means to that end. A democratic system imposed by overwhelming military force, through imperialistic means, is not only self-contradictory but holds little hope for ending the war on terrorism. The transition to a constitutional democracy in Iraq, even if successful, is not expected to dramatically reduce the risk of further terrorist attacks on Western soil.

The Bush Administration has recognized the danger of having the war on terrorism be perceived as a revival of the medieval Crusades. Yet, Muslims perceive this conflict in essentially those terms. As Thomas Friedman has frequently noted in The New York Times, the hands of terrorists will not be slowed as long as radical Muslims are allowed to continue to win the internal struggle between them and progressive Muslims in other Muslim countries in the “war of ideas.” Whatever geopolitical goals American projection of military power may achieve, it also fuels terrorist propaganda, and aids in their recruitment efforts.[45]

However, this may explain why Bernard Lewis, President Bush’s chief academic adviser on Middle East policy, has established what some Defense Department officials and foreign policy experts refer to as the Lewis Doctrine—the idea that “instilling respect or at least fear through force is essential for America’s security.”[46] In other words, in time it may become more and more apparent that if Mr. Bush’s experiment in democracy in Iraq, and thereby America’s destined war on terrorism, is to be successful, it may be compelled to take on a more draconian approach if democracy is truly going to have a widening influence in other parts of the Middle East. Certainly, diplomacy and democratic reform alone will not curb the terrorist attacks by Islamists.

Like the doctrine of preemption, this policy is capable of creating a wider region of conflict. The stalemate over Europe’s and America’s efforts to persuade Iran to end its nuclear program is one example. The recent economic sanctions placed on Syria for arming and allowing foreign terrorists to filter into Iraq, is another. Indeed, since the events of 9/11 the fog is slowly lifting from the eyes of many observers to the shocking realization that a clash of civilizations, an unintended holy war (at least on America’s part), has been revived and unleashed over the global war on terror.

No matter how one chooses to evaluate the global war on terror, it is evident that there are larger forces at play—two global phenomena that seem to be moving forward on their own momentum. The characteristic imagery of Revelation 13, verse 11 perhaps describes it best: “Then I [the apostle John] saw another beast coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but spoke like a dragon.”

If Seventh-day Adventists correctly assume that this verse is a description of the rise of the United States of America as the civil-religious leader of both the political and religious worlds—as “a lamb” possessing the spirit of benevolence in keeping with its Protestant and evangelical historical foundations, and as a dragon where its benevolent missionary and political zeal is carried out by force—then its prophetic destiny never needs to be in doubt in this apparent clash of civilizations.

For example, notice the following comparative lesson in diplomatic history involving the United States and its approach to foreign policy. In his book Diplomacy, which continues to be used as one of the standard textbooks in many university graduate programs in diplomatic history and political science, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger describes America’s traditional role in the world during the 20th century this way: “Almost as if according to some natural law, in every century there seems to emerge a country with the power, the will, and the intellectual and moral impetus to shape the entire international system in accordance with its own values . . . . In the twentieth century, no country has influenced international relations as decisively as the United States. No society has more firmly intervened in the domestic affairs of other states, or more passionately asserted that its own values were universally applicable. . . . No nation has been more pragmatic in the day-to-day conduct of its diplomacy, or more ideological in the pursuit of its historic moral convictions. No country has been more reluctant to engage itself abroad even while undertaking alliances and commitments of unprecedented reach and scope.”[47]

Did you take note of Mr. Kissinger’s use of the word “reluctant?” Seventh-day Adventists believe that America’s prophetic destiny is to repudiate its benevolent, generous, and yes, “reluctant” lamblike principles and become transformed into a dragon. But in what manner, and under what circumstances? As a dragon, it is interesting to note that since 9/11 and the ensuing global war on terrorism, America has shifted away from Mr. Kissinger’s definition of America’s manifestly benevolent and moral role in the world to the official, if not insecure, foreign policy of “preemptive strike”: the need to export democratic principles by force before another power rises up to threaten or compete with it.[48] In fact, it is interesting to note that The American Heritage Dictionary defines America’s historical experiment with manifest destiny as “a policy of imperialistic expansion defended as necessary or benevolent.”

According to Revelation 13, verses 11-15, American imperialism—if one could rightly call it that—is expected to lead to a religious compromise enforced by legislation and constitutionalized, both here and abroad. In the new Iraqi constitution, religion is expected to be blended with democratic reforms. Ironically, the Islamic approach to relations between the state and the religious establishment is an example of what Revelation 13 predicts, not only for the United States, but also for the world.

The advancing dual phenomena of steady democratic and Christian advancement throughout the world, particularly as embodied in America’s manifest destiny to lead the world, are having their effect. These dual phenomena represent more than just a threat to Islam. They clearly tell us that Christ’s coming is sooner, not later.

The Clash Between Heaven and Earth

While America’s global war on terror and the forced advancement of democratization in the Muslim world since 9/11 may open up the heartlands of Islam to Christianity, the most important question to ask is: “Which gospel will be preached, whose kingdom promoted?” Are we all striving for the same kingdom, or is it possible that much of the religious and political world—made up mostly of Muslims and Christians—are preparing to receive a counterfeit savior and a kingdom of their own making?

The Gospel is advancing on the heels of the American military, and whether or not military or other forms of force are effective in the spread of democracy, their use is foreign to the spirit of the Gospel. Only one Gospel is consistent with Christ’s declaration: “My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My Kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). Christ’s Gospel, Christ’s millennial Kingdom, is Heaven-based (see Revelation 20). Yet another, more popular, gospel proclaims that the millennial kingdom of God will be established on Earth. (Its adherents are also the same ones most adamant about tearing down the constitutional principle of the separation between church and state.)

Those proclaiming this popular gospel are among the most ardent supporters of American unilateralism and the expanded use of military power throughout the world. As Andrew Bacevich, Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University argues, American militarism emerged as a reaction by “various groups in American society—soldiers, politicians [Democrats as much as Republicans], intellectuals, strategists, Christian evangelicals, even purveyors of pop culture . . . as the antidote to all the ills besetting the country as a consequence of Vietnam and the 1960s.”

But, he contends—and rather convincingly—of this group the most significant contribution to the rise of the new American spirit of militarism has come from evangelicals and their passion-driven vision for establishing Christ’s Kingdom on Earth: “Conservative Christians have conferred a presumptive moral palatability on any occasion on which the United States resorts to force. They have fostered among the legions of believing Americans a predisposition to see U.S. military power as inherently good, perhaps even a necessary adjunct to the accomplishment of Christ’s saving mission. In doing so, they have nurtured the preconditions that have enabled the American infatuation with military power to flourish. Put another way, were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable.”[49]

When appealing in April 2003 for Pope John Paul II to intervene and prevent the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Mohammad T. Al-Rashid, an Islamic scholar writing from Saudi Arabia, also made the following interesting broadside: “Fundamentalism is not the exclusive domain of the Middle East. The Far Right in America has its agenda and now that they have control of the mighty American war machine, the problem is global.” He asked, “Will Iraq be the first drop of blood on the road to Armageddon?”[50]

No wonder Islamists view this as a religious war. Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, after beheading one of his captives, remarked in a recording that “we will carry on our jihad against the Western infidel and the Arab apostate until Islamic rule is back on Earth.”[51] The irony in all of this is that fundamentalist Muslims and Christians alike are susceptible of welcoming the same counterfeit savior, Satan appearing as Christ, and a counterfeit earthly kingdom.

This leads us to a more serious conclusion in this discussion. Far more important than the outcome of any earthly clash of civilizations is the clash of kingdoms between Heaven and Earth. Indeed, the real battle is to help people to understand the true nature and meaning of Christ’s Kingdom, and the eternal grace and character of the King. Only the righteousness of Christ can save mankind—not any militaristic, legislative, or utopian attempt to save the race. The three angels’ messages found in Revelation 14:6-12 can be summed up with these ten words: “The essence of all righteousness is loyalty to our Redeemer.”[52] Perhaps this is what Christ meant when He uttered that most sobering of truths: “He who stands firm [or endures] to the end will be saved.”[53]

That is why, during this time of seeming uncertainty, during this global war on terror, our prayers need to ascend to the merciful God of Heaven for global intervention and specifically for the personal courage to be used by the Holy Spirit to prepare the peoples of all the civilized world to receive the true Jesus, and His Kingdom prepared for them in Heaven, when He comes (see John 14:1-3). Indeed, understanding the present and future—however awkwardly or precisely—is not enough. During these difficult times, our faith experience must not shrink from the mission assigned to each of us by Jesus Christ Himself. His personal calling reaches all of us where we are.


[1] President Thomas Jefferson used the metaphor “manifest destiny” to describe the continental, coast-to-coast vision of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, called the Corps of Discovery, whose mission began in St. Louis, Missouri, on May 14, 1804, and was completed when returning to St. Louis on September 23, 1806, nearly 200 years ago. However, Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were the first to internationalize the concept of “manifest destiny” in relationship to the marketing of democratic values, both militarily and diplomatically. This is well established in high school and undergraduate college textbooks in American history. For an interesting short discussion of the history behind America’s notion of “manifest destiny,” and parallels to today’s events in the global war on terror, see “Special Report: America and Empire: Manifest Destiny Warmed Up?” in The Economist, August 16, 2003, pp. 19-21.
[2] Office of the Press Secretary, September 20, 2001, Address to a Joint Session in Congress and to the American People, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 9:00 p.m. EDT. For a transcript of President W. Bush’s speech, visit the official White House Web site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/print/20010920-8.html.
[3] “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. . . . So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. . . . The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America’s influence is not unlimited, but, fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause. . . . We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies. . . . Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” See Office of the Press Secretary, January 20, 2005, Inaugural Address by President George W. Bush, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 11:59 a.m. EST. For a transcript of President Bush’s speech, visit the official Web site of the White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/print/20050120-3.html.
[4] Ibid. The traditional American theme of “manifest destiny” was unmistakable: “From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time. So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”
[5] According to speechwriters in the White House, the inspiration for President W. Bush’s speech was from former Soviet dissident and political prisoner Natan Sharansky. See Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (New York: PublicAffairs, 2004). The other source was Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), which provides on pages 85-103 America’s historical rationale for “manifest destiny” dating back to its founding. Kagan makes this significant observation: “Americans have always been internationalists . . . but their internationalism has always been a by-product of their nationalism.”
[6] This theme is prominent in The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Authorized Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), pp. 362-383. See also “In Search of Pro-Americanism: Why America Is More Loved Than You Think” by Anne Applebaum in Foreign Policy July/August 2005, pp. 32-40; and Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Vintage Books, 2004).
[7] Fareed Zakaria, “Arrogant Empire,” Newsweek, March 24, 2003: http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/newsweek/032403.html.
[8] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Authorized Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), pp. 362-383.
[9] The Economist, September 11, 2004, p. 32. The primary source for this quote can be found in The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 362.
[10] An excellent slate of articles entitled “Debating a World Without Israel” thematically titled on the cover of Foreign Policy magazine with “Is Israel What’s Wrong With the Middle East?” clearly demonstrates that democratic reform in the Middle East is not only desired by Islamic countries, but it is desired by Arab and Islamic leaders in part to demonstrate that Israel is, and always has been, the problem in this region of the world. This has certainly been Colonel Qadhafi’s underlying strategy. This merely confirms the historical, cultural, and psychological nature of the seemingly never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. See the lead article in the debate by Josef Joffe, “A World Without Israel,” Foreign Policy January/February 2005, pp. 36-42; and the articles responding to Joffe’s article in Foreign Policy March/April 2005: 56-65.
[11] The Economist, August 16, 2003, p. 19. “Stung by the events of September 11th, America is no longer shy about spilling blood, even its own. Weren’t the Afghan and Iraqi wars largely designed to show just that?”
[12] “Because We Could,” The New York Times, June 4, 2003; and “The War Over the War,” August 3, 2003.
[13] Douglas J. Feith, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), 688 pages. See also Spengler, “The Pope, the president, and the politics of faith,” Asia Times, June 17, 2008.
[14]  See Gregg Easterbrook, “American Power Moves Beyond the Mere Super,” The New York Times, April 27, 2003; and Fareed Zakaria’s explanation of why America’s unprecedented power scares the world: “Arrogant Empire,” Newsweek, March 24, 2003. Online: http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/newsweek/032403.html. Easterbrook puts it this way: “No other military is even close to the United States. The American military is now the strongest the world has ever known, both in absolute terms and relative to other nations; stronger than the Wehrmacht in 1940, stronger than the legions at the height of Roman power. For years to come, no other nation is likely even to rival American might. Which means: the global arms race is over, with the United States the undisputed heavyweight champion. Other nations are not even trying to match American armed force, because they are so far behind they have no chance of catching up. The great-powers arms race, in progress for centuries, has ended with the rest of the world conceding triumph to the United States.”
[15] The Economist, August 16, 2003, p. 19. International hegemony, influence and power “on a scale never seen before.” The article refers to America as the world’s “Globocop.” “What other country divides the world up into five military commands with four-star generals to match, keeps several hundred thousand of its legionaries on active duty in 137 countries—and is now unafraid to use them?” This article highlights a quote by Max Boot, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who refers to America as an empire, but only uniquely: “America’s destiny is to police the world.”
[16] What followed the demise of the Rome of the Caesars? The Rome of the papacy. America is both wrapped into one. This is my emphasis. See transcript of a panel discussion response by Charles Krauthammer: “Religion and American Foreign Policy: Prophetic, Perilous, Inevitable.” A discussion cosponsored by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and The Brookings Institution in conjunction with Georgetown University and The Brookings Foreign Policy and Governance Studies Programs, February 5, 2003. See also Charles Krauthammer, Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, Publisher for the American Enterprise Institute, 2004), pp. 1-28, from which his response originates.
[17] See endnote 19, second portion.
[18] The phrase “Clash of Civilizations” originated with Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis in a 1990 essay “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” and was subsequently popularized by Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington in a 1993 article published in Foreign Affairs called “The Clash of Civilizations?” See Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, pp. 22-49.
[19] Matthew 28:19 and 24:14 (NIV).
[20] Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 168. What is sometimes referred to as the “10-40 window” is a description of the actual geographical region between ten and forty degrees latitude, consisting of a wide swath of North Africa, the Middle East, and including the largest Islamic countries in the world, Indonesia and Pakistan. As an example of the emphasis on reaching those in the 10-40 window, see the mission statements of Gospel Outreach and Adventist World Radio, respectively, by logging onto their Web sites: www.goaim.org and www.awr.org.
[21] Ibid., p. 5.
[22] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster, 1996).
[23] The Next Christendom, pp. 5, 6.
[24] Matthew 24:14.
[25] Sudan and Nigeria are prime examples of persecution. Indonesia has been fraught with violence between jihadists and Christians; while in Saudi Arabia it is very difficult for any Christian, even foreign workers, to worship in private, much less in public. In many countries, Muslims who convert may be killed. As Jenkins puts it in The Next Christendom: “We have to remember that for a Muslim to abandon his or her faith is apostasy, an act punishable by death under Islamic law. As the maxim holds, ‘Islam is a one-way door. You can enter through it, but you cannot leave’” (p. 168).
[26] Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage: Why So Many Muslims Deeply Resent the West, and Why Their Bitterness Will Not Easily Be Mollified,” The Atlantic Online, September 1990: http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/90sep/rage.htm.
[27] Ibid. Case in point: Iranian Shiites have carefully organized Iraqi counterparts, who are poised to take control of the new Iraq, shorn of its secular Sunni administration under Saddam Hussein.
[28] The Next Christendom, p. 6.
[29] Ibid., pp. 189, 190.
[30] Ibid., p. 159.
[31] Franklin Graham, The Name (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002). Quotes are from a Washington Post editorial, April 15, 2003.
[32] Huntington observed in his groundbreaking article in Foreign Affairs (Summer 1993), that “world politics is entering a new phase, in which the great division among humankind and the dominating source of international conflict will be cultural. Civilizations—the highest cultural groupings of people—are differentiated from each other by religion, history, language, and tradition. These divisions are deep and increasing in importance. From Yugoslavia to the Middle East to Central Asia, the fault lines of civilizations are the battle lines of the future. In this emerging era of cultural conflict the United States must forge alliances with similar cultures and spread its values wherever possible. With alien civilizations the West must be accommodating if possible, but confrontational if necessary” (contents summary, p. iii). Huntington predicted with amazing accuracy that “the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future” (p. 22).
[33] Ibid.
[34] Fareed Zakaria, “The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?” Newsweek, October 15, 2001. Read the article Online at: http://www.fareedzakaria.com/articles/newsweek/101501_why.html.
[35] Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (New York: The Modern Library/Random House, Inc., 2003), p. 43.
[36] The Next Christendom, p. 168.
[37] Harun Yahya, “Jesus Will Return,” IslamiCity.com–Communications & Services, April 16, 2003. Online at: http://www.islamicity.com/articles/articles.asp?ref=IC0303-1906&p=2.
[38] Zakat, which initially meant alms, later came to signify payment of taxes for purposes of war. See The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 372. “The Western notion of the separation of civic and religious duty does not exist in Islamic cultures. Funding charitable works is an integral function of the governments of the Islamic world. It is so ingrained in Islamic culture that in Saudi Arabia, for example, a department within the Saudi Ministry of Finance and National Economy collects zakat directly, much as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service collects payroll withholding tax. Closely tied to zakat is the dedication of the government to propagating the Islamic faith, particularly the Wahhabi sect that flourishes in Saudi Arabia.” The Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Saudi Arabia “uses zakat and government funds to spread Wahhabi beliefs throughout the world, including in mosques and schools.”
[39] The Crisis of Islam, pp. 44, 45.
[40] Ibid., pp. xvii-xix. See also The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
[41] The Economist, January 8, 2004: http://www.economist.com/PrinterFriendly.cfm?Story_ID=2330153.
[42] The Crisis of Islam, pp. 162, 163. Westerners have difficulty understanding that Muslims perceive Christian culture as thoroughly corrupt and decadent. Christians are seen as the ones who eat pork, drink liquor, and indulge in pornography and obsessive sexuality. This provides Seventh-day Adventists with a unique opportunity to build bridges, since we share the Islamic rejection of pork, liquor, and decadent Western values.
[43] The Wall Street Journal Europe, February 3, 2004, p. A10.
[44] Ibid.
[45] “War of Ideas,” a six-part series written by Thomas Friedman in The New York Times focusing on Islam’s internal struggle between fundamentalists and progressive moderates over the Western ideal of democracy emanating from the United States, Western Europe, and now Eastern Europe, January 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, & 25, 2004. See also “Hearts and Minds,” December 14, 2003; and “Winning the Real War,” June 16, 2003.
[46] The Wall Street Journal Europe, February 3, 2004, p. A10.
[47] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), pp. 17, 18.
[48] The Wall Street Journal Europe, February 3, 2004, p. A10. See also Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Vintage Books, 2004).
[49] Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), book jacket and p. 146. See specifically chap. 5, pp. 122-146. See also Daniel Yankelovich, “The Public Agenda Poll: What Americans Really Think About Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs September/October 2005, pp. 2-16.
[50]Dr. Mohammad T. Al-Rashid, “Christians & Muslims Must Unite,” Arab News (Saudi Arabia’s first English-Language daily), April 17, 2003.
[51] “Message Threatens Iraqi Interim Prime Minister,” The New York Times, June 23 2004.
[52] E.G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1941), pp. 97, 98.
[53] Compare Matthew 24:13 with Revelation 14:12, NIV. The insertion of “or endures” in Matthew 24:13 is from the King James Version (KJV).

About Greg Hamilton

Greg Hamilton
Gregory W. Hamilton has served as President of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association (NRLA) for 19 years. His graduate work at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Constitutional Studies at Baylor University culminated in the work titled "Sandra Day O'Connor's Judicial Philosophy on the Role of Religion in Public Life," which remains an original work of scholarship. The Northwest Religious Liberty Association is a nonpartisan government relations, and workplace mediation, program that champions religious freedom and human rights in the legislative, judicial, civic, academic, interfaith, ecumenical and corporate arenas, and is recognized as the premier religious liberty advocacy organization in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Greg’s abiding interest in U.S. foreign policy—specifically in U.S. international religious freedom policy—has led him to appreciate, as a pastor, how religion is a key component toward prophetically understanding how the world’s religious and political leaders seek to use religion to resolve major conflicts and bring about world peace.