by Valerie Saturen
Recent polls show the previously little-known Mike Huckabee now running almost neck-and-neck with GOP front-runner Rudolph Giuliani. Huckabee, who now leads the polls in the key battleground state of Iowa, owes his rising star to a surge of support from evangelicals. Evangelicals, comprising about 25% of Americans, have formed the core Republican voting bloc since the 1970s. While most Americans are aware of the "family values" domestic concerns of this group, fewer understand its foreign policy agenda, which is tied to the powerful, yet little-understood phenomenon of Christian Zionism. Rooted in a literal interpretation of biblical "End Times" prophecy, this ideology carries profound implications for our role in the Middle East, and it is a crucial factor in the 2008 Republican race.
Christian Zionism stems from the belief that the catastrophic events depicted in the biblical Book of Revelation are humanity's literal destiny, and that two-thirds of the Earth's population will perish while the "saved" are "raptured up" to heaven. For Christian Zionists, this catastrophe is a necessary precedent to the Second Coming. This belief is a core part of evangelicalism, gaining unprecedented popularity after September 11 and increased Mideast violence within recent years. Aided by a surge in sales of books such as the best-selling Left Behind series, which portrays Revelation as a modern-day battle between good and evil, the view of Mideast violence as an apocalyptic "sign of the times" is rapidly gaining ground. It is significant that Huckabee recently received an endorsement from Left Behind author Tim LaHaye.
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Valerie Saturen is a freelance writer with an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona. Her thesis addressed Christian Zionism and U.S. Foreign Policy.