What would you do if someone was threatening to kill you? Imagine
that this person not only hated you vehemently, but was thought to
have killed many of his own family members in cold blood. You know
for a fact he owns several weapons and strongly suspect he has been
attempting to purchase more. On top of all that, he publicly
proclaims his desire to kill you on a regular basis. Would you take
his threats seriously?
The scenario I described might sound like the setup for a terrible
summer movie, but it almost exactly parallels the behavior of Iran
toward Israel and the United States over the past several years.
Iran’s leaders—President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—have openly declared their intention to
“wipe Israel off the map” on numerous occasions.
Less publicized are statements like Ahmadinejad’s from 2008:
“Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United
States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor
of power and wealth has started.” Their intentions toward the
United States and Israel could not be clearer.
A growing body of intelligence suggests that the Iranians, who
already possess a large arsenal of ballistic missiles, are in the
process of building nuclear weapons. While they may not have the
capability of striking the United States mainland from their own,
they could certainly hit Israel or pass off a nuclear weapon to a
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with President
Obama earlier this week, has openly threatened to strike Iranian
nuclear facilities rather than allow them to attain nuclear
capabilities on his watch. I think most reasonable people can
understand why he would make this threat.
An Israeli strike on Iran is a serious matter, one which would at
a very minimum disrupt an already unstable oil supply. So it is
understandable that the White House would want to avoid an Israeli
strike if possible. Yet openly disagreeing with the Israeli threat to
strike has two effects: It lessens the deterrent force of such a
possibility, and it treats Israel and Iran as morally equivalent
parties in a conflict. In reality, nothing could be further from the
Israel is a democracy, like the United States, which respects the
rights of individuals to freely practice religion and live as they
choose under the law. There are many Muslims and Christians—as well
as Jewish people—living and working in Israel. Iran, on the other
hand, recently condemned a Christian pastor to death for the crime of
converting to Christianity. As of this writing, the fate of Pastor
Youcef Nadarkhani is uncertain.
Why does Iran want to annihilate Israel? One reason is undoubtedly
the growing power of Twelver Shi’ism, a sect of Shia Islam. This
sect believes that the “Twelfth Imam”— who disappeared as a
child during the late 800s—will return soon to save the world and
establish the Islamic reign over the world. They hold the Twelfth
Imam to be the legitimate leader of Islam, but to prepare the way for
his coming, these Islamists believe they must destroy Israel and the
While many Iranians both inside and outside Iran reject Twelver
radicalism, the group has been growing in popularity in recent
decades. (As many as 85 percent of Shia Muslims worldwide are
believed to be Twelvers.)
Both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei invoke radical Twelver imagery and
vocabulary regularly in their speeches. Some analysts believe they do
this to stir up the emotions of their Twelver followers, while others
fear that the president and the supreme leader themselves may truly
believe this is the end of days, and that their job is to prepare the
way for return of the Twelfth Imam.
Twelver radicals in Iran believe the United States is weak, afraid
to fight and ready to fall. This belief emboldens plans to build
weapons for the purpose of destroying both Israel and the United
States, however insane that may sound to people in the West. By
continually offering to talk to Tehran and publicly abandoning
Israel, the current administration is playing right into the
If Israel conducts a preemptive strike on Iran, the U.S. will
undoubtedly be drawn into the conflict. Before we get involved in
such a volatile controversy, we must have the military will to
totally reduce the rogue nation to military powerlessness. We also
will have to be willing to endure $8-a-gallon fuel prices.
Let me be clear: Islam is not an evil religion. Nonetheless, the
men presenting themselves as the faithful in Iran are, in fact, evil.
Their disregard for human life and international peace is very
evident. Our nation will have to decide if it agrees with New
Hampshire’s official state motto, which was adopted at the close of
World War II: “Live Free or Die.”
Defending freedom will remain very expensive in terms of
petroleum, cash and American blood. As a preacher, I can never
promote war as the ultimate answer. But as a realistic Christian, I
can support St. Augustine’s Just War Theory. More specifically, I
must support the U.S. aligning militarily with Israel to avoid
senseless killings engineered by evil factions in the earth.
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, a 3,000-member congregation in the
Washington, D.C., area. He is also the guest editor of the January-February 2012 issue of Ministry Today about social transformation.