Chuck Hagel, meet Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series. It represents everything that is most deranged about religion and thus about your confirmation hearing. Call this Jesus on acid.
It’s one reason why you’re being asked about your “support” for the State of Israel instead of being asked about your support for the United States. Sure McCain is a senile bitter jerk (who, BTW I worked for in his 2000 primary race against an even jerkier man called W) but the evangelical community is Hagel’s real problem.
When the final destruction of the State of Israel takes place – and it will unless they make peace and soon — blame American Evangelicals and Israeli intransigence fueled by right wing Christian fools who have folded their “biblical” ideas into American foreign policy by proxy if not directly.
The Left Behind novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children’s books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise in rube America that is. And that end times noise is being cashed in on – again and again – by the far right and xenephobic Israel lobby. It’s their passport to the people who think Israel is the “key” to the end times and that somehow we Americans are the key to that key.
Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fearing higher education because it deals in facts, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the “other,” as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism now cloaked as “protecting” our borders.
Feeding the paranoid delusions of people on the fringe of the fringe has been a gold mine for the evangelical movement. It’s why outfits like Christianity Today magazine are making money off advertising lots of junky stuff to the not-very-bright. It’s why a flake like Ralph Reed still gets on TV from time to time while not ripping off donors to Republican casues assuring them he can “win” elections for the far gay-bashing right.
It also contributes to a dangerous climate that may provoke violence in a few individuals. And convincing folks that Armageddon is on the way, and all we can do is wait, pray, and protect our families from the chaos that will be the “prelude” to the “Return of Christ,” is perhaps not the best recipe for political, economic, or personal stability, let alone social cohesion. Just ask some poor abused kid being raised in a “survavalist’s” benighted “home.”
It may also not be the best philosophy on which to build American foreign policy. Ask Chuck Hagel
The momentum toward what amounts to a whole subculture seceding from the union (in order to await “The End” and/or take American back from the black man who stole it) is irrevocably prying loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and their fellow citizens. It crops up in the gun debate, support for Israel, hatred of the “liberal” media and their inconvenient facts and is the tune the Tea Party Republicans in Congress who are ready to destroy our economy to make a point, dance to.
The End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Too bad. It’s a really silly book.
This weird book was the last to be included in the New Testament. It was included as canonical only relatively late in the process after a heated dispute. The historic Churches East and West remain so suspicious of Revelation that to this day it has never been included as part of the cyclical public readings of scripture in Orthodox services. The book of Revelation is read in Roman and Anglican Churches only during Advent. But both Rome and the East were highly suspicious of the book. The West included the book in the lectionary late and sparingly. In other words, the book of the Bible that the historical Church found most problematic is the one that American evangelicals latched on to like flies on you know what.
Given that Revelation is now being hyped as the literal—even desired—roadmap to Armageddon — when Evangelicals take time out from hyping their Creation Museum and/or anti-gay initiatives — it’s worth pausing to note that it’s nothing more than a bizarre pastoral letter that was addressed to seven specific churches in Asia at the end of the first century by someone (maybe John or maybe not) who appears to have been far from well when he wrote it. In any case, the letter was not intended for use outside of its liturgical context.
The evangelical/fundamentalist literalistic “interpretation” of Revelation is symptomatic of a larger problem: make-it-up-as-you-go-along biblical interpretation to mine the vein of fearsome End Times gold. How many millions of dollars has some outfit like the “respectable” Christianity Today magazine made over the last 35 years selling publishers advertising that in turn hafe fed America a steady diet of paranoia ?
A book called The Late Great Planet Earth was the 1970s incarnation of this nonsense. It was written by Hal Lindsey, a “writer” who dropped by my parents’ ministry of L’Abri several times. Even back then Dad called Lindsey a dangerous flake.
Lindsey’s book “interpreted” Revelation for a generation of paranoid evangelicals who were the precursors to today’s Fox News believers, now reduced the dwindling band of old white haters bent on keeping America stupid. But back then there were a few evangelicals left under 60 in places outside the South.
After everything predicted in the book came to nothing, Lindsey rewrote and “updated” his “interpretation”. This would be amusing, if not for the lives touched by this crazy nonsense.
For instance, a good friend of mine was dragged—at age five—to Alaska, where his parents huddled in an “End Times” commune, a place chosen to be out of the way of major cities so that when the bombs fell, his family (and some fellow “pilgrims”) could await the Lord’s return in safety. My friend’s life was almost destroyed by suffering through years of a cruel and bizarre lifestyle in which his family was reduced to eating their goats and bear meat hunted (with the many guns kept by the members of this particular cult) on the “mission’s” garbage dump. Of course, school was not a big concern since Jesus was on the way…
Knowingly or unknowingly, Jenkins and LaHaye cashed in on years of evangelical/fundamentalists’ imagined victimhood that Fox News later built a whole news organization catering to. I say imagined victimhood, because back then the born-agains had one of their very own, George W. Bush, in the White House for eight long, ruinous years and also dominated American politics for the better part of thirty years before that with a little help from my late father and others.
Today, every sane American should work hard to make sure that these victims actually have something to complain about! It’s time to actually vistimise them and exclude the loony right from all national debates.
From gun control to the Middle East we need to NOT hear their side of the story any more than we need to consult any local village idiot about what the school board should do next. The right – as the gun debate alone has proved – is way past redemption. The moral equivicating equvalance game played by the media must end. Some views don’t deserve an “on the other hand” hearing.
But this is good news: the end of the Evangelical pretend world is on the way. Just check the latest poll numbers of the evangelical youth exodus from their churches. But like a rabid dying dog the dead-enders can still bite. Just ask Chuck Hagel about who — besides the Israel lobby — is putting presure of Senators who should know better and probably do but who serve a dead end underclass they can’t buck.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back .To book Frank Schaeffer to speak at your college, church or group contact him at Frankschaeffer.com