"It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotallers; [Islam], not Christianity, is the teetotal religion." — C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
In this intriguing article in New York magazine, Craig Horowitz explores the strange alliance between pro-Israel Jewish groups and conservative American evangelicals.
Without realizing it, Horowitz relates one howling faux pas from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews:
"More and more Jews see the Evangelical community as a strategic ally for Israel. … In fact, the Evangelicals may now be seen as even more important allies than the American Jewish community itself. But are Jews willing to have a beer with them? I'm not so sure."
A beer!?! Eckstein has spent more than 20 years working with evangelical Christians in America and he still doesn't realize that evangelicals don't drink beer?
This is a religious subculture that — despite its claims of a strictly "literal" hermeneutic — believes that Jesus and his disciples drank non-alcoholic grape juice at the Last Supper. They believe Christ's first miracle was turning water into Welch's at the wedding in Cana.
Drinking beer will get you kicked out of Biola, Bethel, Westmont, Calvin, Liberty and just about any other evangelical institution.
It Horowitz had asked Jerry Falwell, Richard Land, Tim LaHaye or any of the other right-wing evangelicals about sitting down to "have a beer" they would have explained that they can't do that because the Bible teaches them it's a sin.
Horowitz would, one hopes, treat such a claim with a responsible journalist's skepticism, something like: "The reverend explained that he did not drink beer because his interpretation of the Bible teaches it is a sin."
It would be a problem if Horowitz just accepted this teetotalling claim credulously, repeating it without qualification, as in: "The reverend does not drink beer, which is forbidden by the Christian Bible."
I bring this up because Horowitz, like far too many journalists, is just this naive and credulous when relating these evangelicals' bizarre theories about the End of the World. For example:
Many Jews believed that what the Christians really wanted was to convert them. Or to persuade all of them to move to Israel as part of some devious plan to hasten the coming of the end of days as laid out in the New Testament.
Or, even worse:
Evangelicals believe in the end of days as much as they believe in everything else in the Bible. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have written a collection of novels called the “Left Behind” series that use the Bible’s apocalyptic events as their core.
At one point Horowitz even uses the word "biblical" as a synonym for "Manichaen":
George W. Bush … is a born-again, Scripture-loving Christian who sees the world in stark, almost biblical, terms (“You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists”).
On what basis is Horowitz deciding that this "stark," dualistic view is "almost biblical"?
The problem with all of this is that Jerry Falwell spouts his theories of "the end of days as laid out in the New Testament" and Horowitz simply passes this on, uncritically, as the literal gospel truth. He accepts — without a hint of skepticism — that LaHaye's sensational brand of 19th-century Darbyism is "in the Bible" just because LaHaye claims it is.
Really? Ironsides' charts and Hal Lindsey's apocryphal checklists are in the Bible? Where? To put it in good evangelical language — show me chapter and verse. (Perhaps it's in the same chapter as the verse that says "Thou shalt not drink Yuengling Lager, for verily it is a frothy and refreshing abomination unto the Lord.")
The only Bible where you'll find LaHaye's weird apocalyptic fantasies is a Scofield Reference — and that's only in the convoluted and arbitrary footnotes below the text. Nowhere is this vision "laid out in the New Testament." It is the bastard child of "premillennial dispensationalism" — a tortured and torturous hermeneutic that carves up Scripture like a veg-o-matic and functions as a kind of American evangelical cabala.
"Secrets of Bible prophecy revealed" read the advertisements for the thousands of "prophecy seminars" promoting this nonsense every week across the country. "Secrets … revealed" — can you get any more gnostic than that?
We often refer to evangelical Christians as "conservative" — which accurately reflects their cultural and political views. But there is nothing "conservative" about the obsession with prophecy theories that has twisted so much of the American church.
It would be nice if journalists stopped pretending these people speak for all Christians everywhere.