Almost immediately after President Obama's recent Middle East address, in which he reaffirmed his administration's commitment to a two-state solution in Israel, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) sprang into action. Blasting the president's "shocking display of betrayal towards our ally," the tea party icon attacked the speech (which did not actually represent a policy shift) in robocalls and online ads that appeared the key primary states of Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.
Bachmann's support for Israel isn't simply an embrace of an ally in a historically volatile region; it's rooted in biblical prophecy. As Bachmann explained in a 2010 speech, she believes that if the United States turns its back on Israel, "a curse" will be placed on the land. As proof, she cited Genesis 12:3, in which God says to Abraham, "The one who curses you I will curse." It was an uncommonly explicit blurring of policy and theology from a prominent politician—but for Bachmann, who's expected to formally enter the presidential race in the coming weeks, it was hardly an isolated incident.
Over the last decade, Bachmann has enjoyed an on-again off-again relationship with Olive Tree Ministries, an evangelical Christian organization dedicated to "interpreting current events from a Biblical perspective." Bachmann has appeared on Understanding the Times, the radio program hosted by Olive Tree's founder Jan Markell, at least half a dozen times, discussing topics like gay marriage, the war on terror, and biblical prophecy. As she told Markell in 2004, "We're seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time, where every man is doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy."
"We're seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time," Bachmann said, "where every man is doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy."
In an appearance on the show in 2009, Bachmann railed against a Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism, originally commissioned by the Bush administration, in part because she felt it singled out individuals who embrace end-times prophecies—that is, the idea that major events like natural disasters, wars, and international alliances are harbingers of the apocalypse, as foretold by the biblical Book of Revelation. Although subject to a range of often conflicting interpretations, many evangelical Christians believe that in the last days, the Earth will fall under the control of the Antichrist, a messiah-like figure who will rule the world before the second coming of Christ.
However, despite Bachmann's fears, the DHS report (PDF) didn't really say what she said it did. The report specifically cautions against the embrace of such theories by groups that believe in Christian Identity, a militant white supremacist ideology with no connection to mainstream Christian teachings. Those warnings were validated in 2010, when federal agents arrested nine members of the Michigan-based Hutaree militia, a "Christian patriot" network that intended to combat the Antichrist by killing police officers.
Markell's show is just a small part of her Olive Tree Ministries, which she founded in 1982. The organization's site covers everything from Harry Potter (a gateway to the "occult") to the Girl Scouts' moral vacancy (because of its associations with Planned Parenthood) to the New World Order. The commander-in-chief is an unpopular figure on the site, if not exactly end-times-worthy; he's not competent or popular enough to be the Antichrist, Markell cautions, but "Obama's efforts are a run-up to it." One story promoted by Markell's group warns that the president intends to declare himself "World President."
But the largest issue for Markell, who got her start in ministry as a member of Jews for Jesus, is Israel. The Olive Tree logo features a Star of David overlaid with a dove. A promotional video splashed on the site's main page links a national identification system, international climate change accords, the global financial crisis, and the continuing conflict in Israel to the end times. As Gary Kah, author of the apocalyptic tract En Route to Global Occupation and a speaker at Olive Tree's 2010 conference, warns, we're "living in the last of the last days." A two-state peace plan, he says, "will give rise to the Antichrist."