Negotiating Armageddon: UN Nuclear Conference And The National Day of Prayer
May 3rd through the 28th is the UN review Conference of the parties to the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice reports that the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, applied for a visa in order to attend the conference in New York City. Although Iran has been a party to the treaty since 1968, recent developments regarding their emerging nuclear program has resulted in tensions with other parties to the NPT as well as with Israel.
Israel has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has never acknowledged that it has a nuclear weapons program, but experts generally believe that Israel has a significant stockpile of state-of-the-art atomic weapons. Peace activist groups inside Israel and around the world, as well as neighboring states, continue to raise this issue against Israel. Despite the negative propaganda, Israel’s policy against signing the NPT remains. As long as Israel’s security is under threat, Israel says it will not agree to a treaty that it feels will weaken its defense.
As Iran enters a critical phase in its progress toward achieving the ability to build a nuclear weapon, Israel’s nuclear program is thrust to the top of the agenda. The Egyptians plan to use this month’s conference to call on Israel to sign the NPT, open its reactor at Dimona to international inspectors and join regional talks, that would include Iran, to declare the Middle East a “nuclear-free zone”. Israel considers Iran a strategic threat because of its nuclear program, long-range missiles and frequent references by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to Israel’s destruction.
The historic tensions between the Jewish inhabitants of Israel and the Islamic population of Iran and other Middle Eastern countries is a constant source of conflict and barrier to lasting peace in the region. American military involvement in the area, and historic support of Israel, has damaged U.S.- Arab relations. Religious differences often provide the context for the articulation of these conflicts and exacerbate national, territorial and security issues. The Christian proselytizing of George Bush only made these matters worse. Such irreconcilable issues must be avoided in order to allow any opportunity for resolution or agreement to develop.
Religions do not bring the necessary spirit of tolerance and understanding to the table. They insist on it but they will not reciprocate. They can’t. It is against their very doctrine and dogma. Christianity, Judaism and Islam, in particular, are political systems as much as they are theologies. They come with prescriptions, not only for their adherents, but for society at large. Their doctrine, being divine, cannot be open to compromise or negotiation. Gods laws and prescriptions cannot be edited, abridged or altered. Gods laws and teachings cannot be subject to the laws of man, society, the state, and, most definitely, not compromised with another religions equally divine prescriptions and demands. Allowing religious differences to become part of the dialog would make cooperation between the parties an impossible challenge.
The last thing that one would want to do in this situation would be to further complicate matters by inserting more religion into this month long conference.
However, on Thursday, May 6, day three of this very important international conference, Barrack Obama is scheduled to recognize and proclaim a National Day of Prayer. With Iran, an Islamic theocracy, and Israel, a Judaic state based on biblical history at the center of the conferences controversy, the host country is going to recognize a Christian National Day of Prayer.
The ceremony is organized by a Colorado-based National Day of Prayer Task Force, which has been helping the Pentagon and is run by Shirley Dobson, the wife of controversial conservative Christian leader James Dobson. The Pentagon has apparently chosen to partner with this fundamentalist organization which presents the National Day of Prayer (established in 1952 by an act of Congress and a subsequent 1988 proclamation by Ronald Reagan) as a Christian right celebration. In 1999, Dobson’s NDP Task Force said that every one of its volunteers “must be a Christian” with a “personal relationship with Christ.”
Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist Billy Graham, who was scheduled to be the key speaker at the pentagon event, and still plans to attend, has repeatedly denigrated Islam. His comments have not been aimed at only Islamic fundamentalists who engage in terrorism, but the entire religion. In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, Graham said that Islam “is a very evil and wicked religion.” Five years later, he told ABC News this was still his view. In a CNN interview last year, Graham reiterated this sentiment, calling Islam a “very violent religion.”
The fundamentalist Christians that are involved in this organization are believers in scriptural end time prophecy and the battle of Armageddon involving Israel. A National event proclaimed by the White House, organized and conducted by Christian fundamentalists, while the president of an Islamic theocracy is in town to discuss nuclear weapons and the Jewish state of Israel is politically irresponsible and potentially disastrous.
In 1797, President John Adams had the good sense to proclaim that “the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.” Article 11 of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed at Tripoli continues by promising that “no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” This display of statesmanship, diplomacy and wisdom should be an example to our current politicians.
The only potential means of preventing a negative impact on the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference is for President Obama to make it clear in his statements regarding the National Day of Prayer, or in his address at the event, that it is not a Christian ritual that is being recognized. Domestic conflict over the unconstitutionality of the event, as well as its implications on foreign policy, require that the event, if it must proceed, be presented as inclusive of all Americans, including all adherents to religions as well as secular non-believers. The controversial National Day of Prayer must be re-cast as a national day of unified and inclusive reflection void of sectarian or denomination proselytizing.
Domestic as well as international politics are currently hampered and usurped by the intolerant and inflammatory rhetoric of competing theologies. Jews, Christians and Muslims have provided the lexicon for this political quagmire for hundreds of years. It is long past time that we bring an end to it.
We cannot afford to allow fabricated and petty differences based on archaic superstitions to usurp, defer or derail imperative action. It is well past time to remove religion and religious doctrine from public affairs and end tolerance and acceptance of manufactured conflict. We need answers for life where religion offers only prescriptions for conflict and death. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Conference faces challenges that must be addressed with a fully committed and cooperative effort. We cannot be so irresponsible as to subject these efforts to the inflammatory and divisive nonsense of religious verbiage. These issues are too important to be exposed to the influence of irrational delusions and the doctrines they have generated.