Monday’s opening of the new embassy of the United States in Jerusalem should have been a moment to celebrate peace in the Middle East. Not an occasion to divide people by religion.
But such division, violent and political, has been the most obvious takeaway from the event.
The controversial decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a city that both Jews and Muslims claim as a holy city and rightful capital, was the spark that set off violent demonstrations in nearby (everything in Israel and the Palestinian territories is nearby) Gaza.
Dozens of Palestinians — not all of them terrorists or even demonstrators — were felled by Israeli bullets. The subsequent pointing of fingers, with Israel accusing the dead of fomenting terror and the Palestinians portraying them as innocent victims, only set back the cause of finding the peace that speakers at the embassy event claimed to be seeking.
And the clumsy choice of some of those called upon to speak at the ceremony was a slap in the face to religions other than Islam and Judaism.
As noted by the two main candidates for Utah’s open U.S. Senate seat — Mitt Romney and Jenny Wilson — it was wrong of the Trump administration to select a Texas Evangelical minister by the name of Robert Jeffress to offer a prayer at that already problematic event.
Jeffress is a leader in that branch of American Christianity that makes no secret of its belief that followers of other faiths — which in their view include not just Jews and Muslims but also Mormons — are quite literally on a path to eternal damnation.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the view of Jeffress, “is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He has also denounced Jews and Muslims as being unworthy of God’s love.
It was more than troubling that Utah’s two sitting senators — Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch — had only praise for the embassy relocation and showed no concern for either the poor choice of speakers or the violence at the border. Lee was even part of the event, and said nothing about either issue.
One is left to wonder if the support shown by Jeffress and many of his fellow Evangelicals to the embassy relocation is because it fits into their belief that it is one of the things that will lead to the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment. In which Jews, Muslims, Mormons, etc., will either convert or be destroyed.
Asked about the selection of a such a person for the ceremony, the White House was only able to blubber some gibberish about those views not being the same as the administration’s. Even though Jeffress is a member of President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board and his White House Faith Initiative.
The reliably conservative, reliably Republican voters of Utah have had their issues with this supposedly conservative, supposedly Republican administration. The events that took place in the Middle East over the past few days will do nothing to ease those differences. Nor should they.