For those that weren’t aware, Billy Graham is prophesying the end-times and the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the kind of crazy, magical thinking that Frank Schaeffer so masterfully portrays in his new novel, And God Said, Billy! and his memoir Crazy For God. These books emboldened me to speak out about Why I Won’t Be Celebrating Billy Graham’s 95th Birthday, and then wrote An Open Letter To Two Franks: Where Is The Grace? This is the third article in the series.

Billy Graham’s end-times prophecy is significant for four reasons: (1) the event that is predicted, (2) the time frame of the prediction, (3) the specific signs cited, and (4) the identity of the prophet.

The event predicted is nothing less than the “bodily, visible”  second coming of Jesus Christ as Lord:

God keeps his promises, and this is why we can be sure that the return of Christ is near. Scripture tells us that there will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord…

If Reverend Graham’s prophecy were to come true, it would be quite extraordinary. Jesus Christ’s return to earth would be the most significant historical event in 2,000 years since his first incarnation. It would turn the world upside down.But the historical significance of Jesus’ second coming would pale in comparison to the theological significance. If theology is the study of God, than predicting his second coming is the ultimate theological achievement. Imagine the ramifications: words written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek 2,000 years ago accurately foretold the end of times and the return of Jesus, and would be interpreted by a modern day prophet of God.

Not only is the event prophesied astounding, it comes with a clear timeframe: any time now! For most of his career, though Billy Graham frequently warned that the end is near, he always maintained that that the timing of the second coming was unknown.

All Christians do not agree on every detail of what will occur in the final events of this world’s history. Some of these events and their order of occurrence have simply not been made clear in the Bible.The details of this great event will be made known in God’s own time.

On the BGEA web site, Franklin Graham warned that the outcome of the 2012 would determine whether or not God would unleash his wrath on America:

This is a crucial hour for our nation. Above all, this is a time for deep, intercessory prayer on behalf of our great country, which is in grave danger unless we repent of our sins and turn back to the God of our fathers. …When America’s leaders actively promote and legislate immorality, restrict the religious freedoms that our country was founded on, and are openly hostile to men and women of faith, then I believe we are ripe for God’s judgment

So pray and then vote on Nov. 6, asking God for His mercy and grace upon our land. There’s still time to turn from our wicked ways so that He might spare us from His wrath against sin.

This could be America’s last call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who is coming again one day very soon to save His own and to judge those who don’t know and worship Him.

When Franklin Graham urged Americans not to “turn back to God”, it was clearly code for “vote for Mitt Romney.” So, it’s not surprising that the day after Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romey, Franklin Graham signaled that America’s choice had, in fact, triggered God’s wrath:

In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.

If we are allowed to go down this road in the path that this president wants us to go down, I think it will be to our peril and to the destruction of this nation

Unless we’re willing to repent for our sins, we will stand in his judgment I want to warn America: God is coming around. He will judge sin, and it won’t be pretty. We have God’s blessing as a nation. Scripture is clear. God blesses countries, but God also brings bedlam when countries turn their back on him. If we don’t obey his laws, he will withdraw his hand of protection.

Remember, “turning our backs on God” was code for “turning our backs on Mitt Romney”.Last month, Billy Graham did a complete 180 from his previous position of agnosticism about the timing second coming, and warned that all of the end-times signs are manifest now, today:

I believe all these signs are evident today… converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.

Franklin Graham agrees with his father:

The Bible gives us warning signs. Jesus told his disciples the things people should be looking for, and I believe all the prophecies that have to take place for Jesus to return have been fulfilled.

Just to be clear: up until now we could not know all the signs, let alone comprehend them. But now, “today”, Billy and Franklin Graham say that all the signs are evident, and finally converging. One could argue that these timeframes are metaphors. But they are never described as such by the Billy or Franklin Graham. They are “urgent” pleas.This would explain why all the false prophets throught history got the end-times wrong. Jeane Dixon’s astrology, Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s paranoia, and Harold Camping’s numerology didn’t stand a chance. If the signs of the second coming had not yet converged, how could these failed prophets get the signs right, no matter how hard they tried? They were just ahead of their time! (But, this time for real!)

Just to spice things up a bit, consider that if the 2012 election was our “last chance” before facing God’s wrath, wouldn’t that imply that God’s judgment will come before election day 2016?

The event and timeframe Graham predicts are extraordinary, and so are the signs that Billy Graham cites as evidence for the second coming. While Billy Graham talks about how the signs of the end times are everywhere, he tends not to be very specific, and he doesn’t put them in one place. Instead, Billy and Franklin Graham prefer dropping vague hints in media interviews.

“What are the signs of [Christ’s] second coming?” Franklin asked in a 2011 interview, and then continued to enumerate the signs that had not yet converged:

  • escalating war
  • escalating famine
  • escalating earthquakes (and specifically Fukushima)

Unfortunately for Franklin, he’s wrong about these signs. None of these signs are escalating, and in fact, they’re in decline. War and violence has been on the decline in modern times.
World hunger is also on decline.  And the USGS assures us that earthquakes aren’t on the rise.

Most importantly, there is the significance of the prophet himself. End time prophets are a dime-a-dozen, and no one pays attention to them. But this prophecy is coming from none other than the Reverend Billy Graham, “the world’s greatest missionary-evangelist” according to Christianity Today, “the evangelist of our time. God raised him up.”. And this prophet is claiming to be like Noah, “sounding the alarm for humanity to repent and turn from their sin … just as Noah did in ancient days.”

In summary: God has “raised up” Billy Graham, the “world’s greatest evangelist” (to use Christianity Today’s own words), who is accurately predicting the second coming of Jesus any time between now, and quite possibly election day 20116. Even if there’s nothing to the prophecy…the claim is astounding. So many Christians are treating this prophecy as real, that the outpouring of response is a story in-and-of itself. This phenomenon is not just huge… it’s ginormous.

So, why is Christianity Today ignoring Billy Graham’s end-times prophecy?

If Billy Graham’s prophecy is true, this is very important information for Christians today. While we all should live each day as if it were our last, many Christians might re-arrange their priorities if they knew that Jesus will return before the 2016 election. What could be more irresponsible than not passing on the most important message for humanity and the world in the last 2000 years? If the signs of time have converged to herald the Second Coming it is the ultimate in journalistic irresponsibility to ignore it.

Furthermore, if these signs are clear enough for Billy Graham to justify sounding the alarm, they should be clear enough to be understood by non-Christians who might come to believe. And who better than Christianity Today to help make sense of this complicated event for non-Christians and the rest of the world?

Other news media report on far lesser predictions all the time. When leaders make predictions about their area of expertise, it is routine to report it. For example, here are predictions from various members of Time Magazine’s Top 100 People Of The 20th Century, a club that includes Billy Graham:

In 1934, Henry Ford predicted “economic change for the better… following the revitalization of industry.”

In 1938, Albert Einstein predicted that “science is on the verge of discovering that matter is not the fundamental reality of nature.”

In 1981 Ronald Reagan predicted “hard times”, and, unsurprisingly, in 1988 he predicted “greater stability”.

In 2011 Alan Greenspan predicted that “we’re doomed” if we default on our debt. (And don’t forget it, teabaggers!)

Earlier this year, Bill Gates predicted that “iPad and Android users will switch to PC tablets” (Personally, I think the second coming of Jesus is more likely.)

And, about the same time this year, Steven Spielberg predicted the implosion of film.

Reporting predictions is a routine part of journalism best practices. And in which subject domain could reporting predictions be more meaningful and important than that of religion? If the Hollywood Reporter covers Steven Spielberg predicting the implosion of film, shouldn’t Christianity Today cover Billy Graham predicting the implosion of the world? Yet Christianity Today hasn’t said a word about Billy Graham’s prophecy. Nada. Zero. Zilch

At face value, this omission makes no sense. How can the entire staff play oblivious to this spectacle? Here are a few possible excuses for the omission that I came up with:

Excuse #1 – “Been there, done that” – This isn’t the first time Billy’s pulled this end of the world stunt!

Excuse #2 – “Out To Lunch” – We all went to college, so we don’t read “publications” like World Net Daily and Newsmax. We had no idea about this end-times mania!

Excuse #3 – “The Bean Counter’s Dilemma” – If we tell this story with a straight face, we’ll lose half of our subscribers. But if we point out the absurdity of the prophecy, we’ll lose the other half, even after it doesn’t come true! It’s best to lay low.

Excuse #4 – “Editorial Calendar Constraints” – Sorry, we don’t cover end-times prophecies until March.

Excuse # 5 – “Who Writes This Stuff?!” – Normal people will think we’re just making it up.

Excuse # 6 – “What will the neighbors say?” – We better keep Crazy Uncle Billy in the basement, so he doesn’t embarrass himself and the rest of the family.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet largely on #6 with a little bit of #3. My guess is that Christianity Today is fully aware of the prophecy, but it does not fit with Christianity Today’s brand image as educated academics making sense of faith and culture in a reasonable and dignified fashion.

No matter how you slice it, reporting on the prophecy is a losing proposition for Christianity Today. Reporting the story for what it is, the world’s greatest evangelist making urgent proclamations about the end times… and getting it wrong, erodes the credibility of Christianity Today. If Christianity Today reports the prophecy as true, it erodes their credibility directly. And if they treat Billy Graham as crazy, it erodes the credibility of the faith they profess. It’s a catch-22, so, they choose to treat the prophecy like a footnote.

Billy Graham’s end-times prophecy is not a footnote of a greater Gospel message. Rather, it is the exclamation point at the end of a lifetime of predicting the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the centerpiece of Billy Graham’s “My Hope America.” I’m not the only who thinks so:

“Mr Graham told WND that the theme of his My Hope America evangelistic outreach in early November is the world is ‘coming toward the end of the age.’”
World is Coming to an End: Billy Graham’s Main Message in November My Hope America Evangelistic Outreach“Graham, 94, who is giving what may be his last message to the world as part of the My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic outreach in early November, said the world is “coming toward the end of the age.”
Billy Graham Sounds Alarm For 2nd Coming

“The latest portent of doom from Graham forms part of an event entitled ‘My Hope’ – a series of video sermons and testimonies by America’s most famous veteran of the God business.”
Billy Graham: Armegeddon Warning Signs Converging on Second Coming of Christ

“Believing that America, like Nineveh, also has a window of time to repent and return to God, Graham is holding the My Hope America with Billy Graham evangelistic outreach the week of Nov. 7, his 95th birthday.”
94-Year Old Billy Graham’s Warning For America

It’s important to note that these articles are the result of direct interviews with Billy and Franklin Graham.Christianity Today’s silence betrays the absurdity of, and the true purpose behind, Billy Graham’s end-times prophecy. If this prophecy had any real significance for Christians today, Christianity Today would write all about it; but Christianity Today’s editorial silence invalidates the prophecy by default. At least this silence is a reassuring sign that there is no need to take Billy Graham’s end-times predictions seriously.

But Christianity Today’s silence is not only betraying, it is also enabling. The true purpose for this prophecy is to use it as recruiting tool that manipulates vulnerable people of faith into supporting the extreme right-wing tea-party that is destroying our political process. If people knew about this aspect of MyHope, they might not not choose to participate.

By only promoting the feel-good part of, and not the crazy apocalypse part of the MyHope crusade, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association can receive the benefit of a Christianity Today endorsement and apply that capital to ongoing hijinks like this one, not to mention the political activity like the government shutdown, sabotaging obamacare, gerrymandering, minority and female voter suppression, et. al.

Recently, on an excellent segment of Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation, Frank Schaeffer (author of And God Said, “Billy! ) emphasized the importance of not remaining silent in the face of this folly:

The problem is the village idiot has taken over one of our political parties. …I fault the media, and the evangelical “respectable leaders”, …I fault the people who are supposedly “responsible” for not speaking out.Where is the mainstream evangelical leadership saying “Ted Cruz and his dad are nuts, they don’t represent us?” Where are the people talking against the apocalyptic fantasies that Jesus is coming back at any minute?

Where are you, Christianity Today? Where are you?!

 

Follow me on twitter: @johnholland

First published in the Daily Kos, follow John on twitter: @johnholland

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.