Another controversy embroiled night two of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 25 with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s brief appearance.
Pompeo’s backdrop – the old city in Jerusalem – drew fire from critics. He, too, broke a longstanding tradition of diplomats not making partisan speeches, and his message was recorded during an official trip to Jerusalem.
Offering a strong message of support for Trump as the defender of freedom at home and abroad, Pompeo did not hesitate to praise President Trump’s “America First” vision as a catalyst for American freedom and safety.
He told viewers, “President Trump has put his American First vision into action. And it may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it has worked.”
Yet, much of Trump’s foreign policy has been popular in Israel – one of the few U.S. allies in the Arab-speaking world – which has been under the leadership of President Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pompeo walked viewers down a list of achievements he sees as positive proof of the “American First” vision. He highlights foreign policy accomplishments that Pompeo argues are keeping our freedoms at home safe.
He started with championing Trump as the exposer of the Chinese Communist Party, referencing the “China Virus,” a pejorative, racist term being used by Trump and others in the administration.
Trump is a great negotiator with North Korea, Pompeo claimed, painting the president as a great military general with the bombing of Iranian Major General Quasem Soleimani and the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of the extremist group, Islamic State and Levant (ISIL).
He also praised the U.S. embassy being moved from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 and called the recent agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel “the deal our grandchildren will be reading about in their history books.”
Rhetorically centering talks of U.S. foreign policy in Jerusalem continues to feed the image of the U.S. and Israel as close allies and asserts our interests depend on their survival.
There is truth in this framing from a diplomatic perspective. Israel in many aspects proves to be a proxy state for the U.S. in foreign policy in the Arab-speaking region.
From a religious standpoint, this relationship is complicated. Christian Zionists see the second coming of Christ and the end of the world tied up in the existence of the modern state of Israel.
Texas evangelist, John Hagee, who also has advised the Trump administration, is one of these advocates.
Hagee teaches literal translations of the book of Revelation, which requires a return of Israel to its rightful land to trigger the second coming of Christ.
One big issue revolves around the idea that all will become Christian in that end time; everyone who does not convert will perish. In effect, Jewish communities are just a means to an end.
Further, this recognition of Jerusalem as the capital with the U.S. embassy complicates the continued struggle between Palestine and Israel politically.
This mix of theology and foreign policy delivered from Jerusalem will only cause continued conflict in the region and to a city where Jewish, Muslims and Christians seek to live together.
This union of political and religious symbolism in Pompeo’s address was exemplified in his closing remarks.
Recalling his time as a soldier seeing “people desperate to flee to freedom,” he argued that reelecting Trump would ensure our freedoms and compared this election season to recently released American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned in Turkey.
Pompeo quotes Brunson (who heavily paraphrased sections of 2 Timothy and other passages of the Bible), “Be faithful, endure and finish well.”
Christian rhetoric underwrites much of Trump’s Republican talking points. This is nothing new. Much of our current political climate can be traced back to the 1980s marriage of the Moral Majority and Ronald Reagan.
Once again, we see the lines blurred between American foreign policy and Christian theology as Pompeo stands in support of Trump in Jerusalem speaking during the RNC.