In one of my first posts I argued that President Bush, in his heart of hearts, is a postmillenialist. Postmillennialism is the Christian teaching that prior to Christ's return there will be a thousand years of peace and justice (Jesus will return after--post--the millenium). This teaching is optimistic and predicts that the future will be better than the past. Postmillennialism has largely been replaced in American evangelicalism by Premillennialism: the belief that Christ will return before--pre--the period of peace and justice. This teaching is pessimistic about the future prior to Christ's return: in most versions it is believed that things will get worse and worse, reaching a crisis prior to the Second Coming.

Reading the President's speech before the UN today --full text here-- I was struck again by his optimism that the future could be much, much better than the past because of the spread of liberty including political self-determination and a free market. To quote

"This morning, I want to speak about the more hopeful world that is within our reach, a world beyond terror, where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, where the voices of moderation are empowered, and where the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority. This world can be ours if we seek it and if we work together."

This speech sounded like it could have been given by Woodrow Wilson. (Who, by the way, was a devout Presbyterian elder, a denomination in the Reformed tradition, a tradition usually postmillenial.)

I wonder what GWB's evangelical base thinks of his goal? On the one hand, American evangelicals in the 20th century have tended to premillennialism, and have made books detailing the deterioration of the world before Christ's return best-sellers. On the other hand, in spite of their theology, it seems to me that most American evangelicals tend to be optimistic about their own future and plan accordingly.