If you haven’t read Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s letter to President Bush you should do so. It is one of the most important political/religious documents of this century.
It is not important because it is coherent or profound but because it is, perhaps, the most revealing document to date of the symbiotic mix of religion and politics that undergirds Iran as an Islamic State.
Over the years we have become familiar with state documents written by atheistic states where the moral foundation is one that is shaped by the state alone and subject to change. In an atheistic society human rights and, in fact, all rights, are the creation of the state and applied is whatever way the state chooses at any given moment.
In the United States we have a theistic state where our fundamental moral foundation and declaration of human rights are grounded in our particular understanding of “Nature’s God.” This view, where such rights are declared to be “unalienable” and unchangeable by the state, while reflecting a biblical understanding of the Judeo-Christian faith, is nonetheless affirmed to be universal in its application.
With this Ahmadinejad letter we now can clearly see how a particular interpretation of the Muslim faith shapes an attempt to create an Iranian theocracy of Allah.
In Iran there is no distinction made between faith and politics. They are one and the same. Religious law is civil law. Governmental leaders are, if not spiritual leaders themselves, subject to the guidance and control of the established spiritual leadership of the country (in Iran’s case being the Shi’ite Ayatollahs and Mullahs).
The soon-to-be infamous letter reflects a thinking that has more in common with the Old Testament prophets (such as Isaiah or Hosea) than with anything else we have seen emerge from the political world in a very, very long time.
Just like the book of Hosea (for example), the letter presents charges of sin against a nation. In Hosea the charges are made against the northern Kingdom of Israel. In the “Iran letter” the charges are made against the United States. In Hosea the charges are made by God. In the “Iran letter” the charges are made personally by President Arbatjani but supported by the word of Allah in the Qur’an and the “Good Book” or “Injil” (ie the New Testament, especially as regards the teachings of Jesus).
The predictions of doom and destruction in the “Iran letter” also reflect an Old Testament/Qur’anic-style understanding of divine judgment and retribution.
Such Old Testament judgments were frequently carried out by God by means of other nations. Hosea’s prophecies against Israel were eventually fulfilled by the invasion and subsequent destruction of Israel by Assyria.
There is no doubt in my mind that President Ahmadinejad of Iran is sincerely and profoundly convinced that Allah is preparing to pour out his judgment and wrath upon the United States. It is also clear that Ahmadinejad believes that this judgment will be carried out by means of the nation of Iran and those nations and believers who are in sympathy with its religious/political beliefs.
I must strongly agree with Captain Ed when he says,
the arrogance of a Muslim leader posing as a lecturer on Christianity is quite deliberate and intended to humiliate Bush in the eyes of Iranians. Ahmadinejad does not want Iranians to see him as respectful or deferential to the Great Satan, but scolding and condescending.
It establishes him as Bush’s superior and shows Iranians that he does not fear the US, but is contemptuous of it. On the other hand, Ahmandinejad knows that the West will interpret this much differently – as an extension of dialogue, and a potential diplomatic opening. Ahmadinejad wanted Bush to respond to his missive with a plea for more contact, a reaction that would have had a much different impression in Iran and the Middle East than it would in the West.
And I must also strongly agree with Laura Mansfield at New Republic on-line that this letter implicitly carries with it a conditional threat of war, judgment and destruction against the United States.
The condition for averting such judgment is, once again, no different from that so often given in the Old Testament and the Qur’an: National repentance and a return of the rulers and their people to the ways of God/Allah.
In the case of Iran, American repentance would, of necessity, require a submission to Allah and the embrace of the Muslim faith.
When we read the many references to Jesus in the “Iran letter” we must not forget that, from the perspective of Ahmadinejad, Jesus is a Muslim whose teachings were, in their “original form” consistent and supportive of the teachings of the last prophet, Muhammed, who was yet to come.
President Bush and all Christians are, in this view of things, simply misguided Muslims who need to cast off their “polytheistic” ways (Muslims believe that the doctrine of the “Trinity” makes Christians polytheists and, hence, heretics) and return to the true and pure faith in Allah. (Note: This is part of the stinging judgment implied by the frequent and sarcastic references to our common “monotheism.”)
This letter should be clearly read as a threat. It is nothing less than the prelude to a declaration of Holy War against the United States.
Ahmadinejad clearly believes that Allah is the true mover and shaker in this matter and that he (and Iran) are simply tools in Allah’s toolbox, created and shaped to be faithful in carrying out Allah’s will in this matter.
Traditional diplomacy will have no effect on such a religio/political theology.
In a worst-case scenario it is possible that Ahmadinejad has become convinced (or deluded) that he is, in fact, the Mahdi – the return of the “hidden” 12th Imam whose return signals the apocalyptic end of the world as we know it.
If this is true, then we cannot expect to “talk sense” with this man any more that we can talk sense to someone who believes that they are (to use CS Lewis’ analogy) a stuffed cabbage.
Even if Ahmadinejad does not see himself as the Mahdi we are facing an adversary who is convinced that “God is on his side” and that the impending conflict is unavoidable and divinely decreed.
The Question of Nuclear Weapons
The frightful question must be asked.
Would Ahmadinejad make such statements and extend usch judgements and threats iIF HE DID NOT ALREADY POSSESS AT LEAST ONE NUCLEAR WEAPON?
If there is a shred of sanity in his mind I believe that the answer must be “No.” He would only speak as he is speaking if he DID already possess such a weapon.
Where would this weapon (or weapons) be used? Israel comes to mind as being the most vulnerable. The mainland United States less likely. Perhaps the Straights of Hormuz could be effectively destroyed to the point where shipping would be prevented from entering or exiting.
This would effectively cut off the world from the oil that is needed for entire continents to function. Such a blow would be a very effective “hit” on China and Russia as well as the United States. Since the judgment is specifically on the U.S. it is unlikely that Iran would seek to inflict damage to other nations not on Allah’s immediate “hit list.”
I can conceive, however, of the detonation of a nuclear device in, nearby or off-shore from Tel Aviv. This would have the benefit of causing minimal harm to the Holy City of Jerusalem or the Palestinian people while producing the closest thing possible to a total destruction of the nation of Israel.
On a related note, the 6th Shi’a Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq, is reported to have said:
“Before the appearance of the one who will rise (ie. the Mahdi), peace be upon him, the people will be reprimanded for their acts of disobedience by a fire that will appear in the sky and a redness that will cover the sky. It will swallow up Baghdad, and will swallow up Kufa. Their blood will be shed and houses destroyed. Death will occur amid their people and a fear will come over the people of Iraq from which they shall have no rest.” (emphasis mine)
Am I being “whacko” here? I hope so! I would hate to be correct in this assessment. I am only positing that Iran is clearly a very real and present danger to the world and expressing my belief that Iran is not bluffing.
What Do We Do? How Do We Respond?
As Christians, we must respond with repentance, fasting and prayer, calling upon God to not only “deliver us from evil” but to also “lead us not into temptation” … especially the temptation to hate or demonize our Muslim friends and neighbors because of the lunacy of Iran.
As a nation, however, I have no wisdom or advice to offer those who lead the United States at this time. I can only pray that the God of love and mercy will intervene and render this threat impotent.
Personally, I am humbled by these events. For the first time in my entire life I am catching glimpses of what I can only describe as the “end times.” Tel Aviv, by the way, is not too far from the valley of Megiddo, where the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon is prophesied to take place in Revelation 16:16 (see also Revelation 20.7-10).
The good news is that Christ does intervene in that final conflict and, with a mere word, reclaims all power and authority for himself, renders evil impotent, ends the looming battle with a whimper and casts Satan into the Lake of Fire for all eternity.
God will only allow evil to do so much before God will reign it back in. The only question I have concerning Iran is just how far God will allow it to go on its current path to war with America.
In the meantime I will be praying mightily for God’s mercy and for the coming of our Lord in his glory.