One thing has become as certain as death and taxes in recent years–religious kooks claiming major natural and man-made disasters are some sort of divine punishment. The coronavirus pandemic is no exception, with all manner of warnings that God is using it to render judgment on this nation. But one argument proffered by a religious right luminary is probably the looniest yet. According to this line, this pandemic is directly tied to a Donald Trump proposal that would allow the Palestinians to claim part of Jerusalem as their capital.
In January, Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu jointly announced a Middle East peace plan that would provide for an independent Palestinian state, while giving Israel sovereignty over West Bank settlements. Watch coverage from the BBC here.
The plan, crafted by First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner, reaffirms American recognition of Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital,” and also recognizes Israeli sovereignty over all territory that Trump “envisages being part of Israel”–including the settlements. However, Palestinians will see their territory more than double, with a long-term goal of creating an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians would be allowed to build a capital in eastern Jerusalem.
The proposal was condemned as insufficient by the Palestinians, who broke off talks with Washington after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the American embassy there from Tel Aviv. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas called the deal a “conspiracy” that sacrificed his people’s rights. BBC defense correspondent Jonathan Marcus characterized the deal as a “take it or leave it” offer that would likely “appall many students of the region.”
If this deal was not nearly enough for the Palestinians, it goes way too far for a number of Trump’s most diehard evangelical supporters. Among them is former congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Last Sunday, she drove the short distance from her home in Stillwater, Minnesota–east of St. Paul–to the Maple Grove studios of Messianic Jewish “prophetess” Jan Markell and her ministry, Olive Tree Ministries. On that day’s edition of Markell’s radio program, “Understanding the Times,” they discussed the recent turmoil in the country, including the pandemic and the demonstrations against systemic racism. They also wrung their hands over churches who were seemingly “promoting some of the escalating evil.”
It was almost a given that this program would go off the rails, especially with Bachmann as a guest. Well, the Mad Minnesotan didn’t disappoint. She claimed that the moment Trump announced his peace deal, it opened the door for the coronavirus scourge to reach our shores. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Bachmann claimed that ever since Trump rolled out this proposal, “we have seen nothing but distress” in this nation. She claimed that “various high officials” had been given fair warning that this plan violated biblical warnings against splitting Jerusalem. With those warnings having been ignored, Bachmann said, “new warnings” had been issued suggesting that things could get better if Trump rolled back the proposal for giving Palestinians a capital in eastern Jerusalem.
While reiterating her open and unashamed fealty to a man whom she once called the most godly president we’ve ever had, Bachmann urged Trump to scrap the maps in hopes that “the Lord in his grace and mercy may lift the distress upon our land even in our time, and resume his hand of favor.”
Let’s review what you’d have to believe in order to believe that coronavirus is some kind of plague unleashed for daring to “divide” Jerusalem. You’d have to believe that God convinced thousands of teenagers to crowd Florida and other warm-weather spots for spring break parties even as the virus mushroomed. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that the stay-at-home orders that ultimately affected over 90 percent of the country mushroomed when those kids fanned back out across the country to come home.
You’d have to believe that God himself planted it in the hearts of thousands of people to think they could go back out as normal once these orders were lifted. That’s what directly led to the spikes across the country. People forgot that reopening doesn’t mean “go back to normal.” It means “we can guarantee a bed for you if you get sick.” Are you saying God told people to think they could frolic at bars and beaches like normal, Michele?
Anyone who has followed the news would know that Bachmann’s argument is patently loony, even if Bachmann delivered it in her usual deceptively calm and pleasant manner. But you have to consider that she’s speaking to an audience that, with few exceptions, lives in a bubble. And in that bubble, critical thinking is a deadly sin. Nonetheless, the thought that this woman was once a sitting member of Congress is unnerving.
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