Any day now,
many Americans hope and believe, the Lord of Hosts will cleanse
the world with fire and brimstone and reward His Elect with
eternal life. For some believers, this joyful purging of
the wicked will begin with a sudden (or "rapturous") reunion
of the righteous with their King and Saviour "in the air" (I
Thessalonians 4.16). Others are not quite so certain of the teleportation
but are equally convinced that Judgement Day is imminent and are
making sure they are on side with Jesus before that terrifying
but glorious apocalypse.
Gone is the old "postmillenarian" idea
that human endeavour could create the heavenly kingdom here on
earth and that, after a thousand years of Christian goodness,
only then Christ would return to rule a perfect world. That dangerously
socialistic Christianity, popular from the 17th to the early
20th century, has no place in the winner-take-all society of
the early 21st century. Rather, we are in a "premillenarian
which the rough stuff comes first. Satan is already loose in
the world and the showdown is just around the corner.
Not since the
age of the crusades, which began when Pope Urban II goaded
the barbarous Franks into invading the more civilized Muslim
world, has global geopolitics so effectively intertwined
Christianity's claims to an exclusive and universal salvation
with a naked grab for global resources. Then, it was "the
riches of the east"; today, it is oil. Chillingly, all
the elements that characterised the earlier Dark Age have
their 21st century echo in a nouveau
foreboding, homage to Jerusalem, holy war, prophecy, faith
healing and the whole medieval circus of religious deceit.
Not for centuries has a faith-based agenda so closely meshed
with political imperatives.
Welcome to a Brave New Jesus World.
A Chosen People, a Hated Nation
"The liberty we prize is not America's
gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity."
– George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 28, 2003.
"Loathing for America
is about as close as we can get to a universal sentiment: it
is the one dynamic that unites fundamentalists and liberals,
Arabs and Latin Americans, Asians and Europeans, and even the
overshadowed Canadians, with the rest of the world." – Z.
Americans, like the Jews, think of themselves as
rather special, a chosen people, set apart by God for the achievement
of his Divine Purpose. If Allah has rewarded Islamic states with
most of the world's oil reserves because of their fidelity to the
precepts of Muhammad, then the Christian God has rewarded America
with all else. The foundation myth of America – political
freedom, unleashing the dynamic enterprise of its people, creating
unprecedented wealth – like all such myths, contains
an element of truth yet conceals more than it reveals. How
could America have failed – a "virgin" land
of vast resources, into which were poured the technologies that
Europe and the Middle East had developed over thousands of years?
And if the headlong scramble for material wealth has begun to exhaust
America's own riches then the habit of acquisition and accumulation
has rendered the whole planet an American resource, servicing U.S.
business and policed by U.S. military. Resistance is futile. You
will be assimilated.
In the American mind, if short-comings are acknowledged
at all, then they are as nothing compared to the correctness of
the American Way, a system so good that, in a million
movie houses and TV networks across the planet its image is held
up for the world to admire and emulate. In its self-image the U.S.
remains a haven of personal liberty and material comfort; a compassionate
nation, willing to sacrifice its "boys" for the
liberty of others; and an open society, drawing into itself all
who have the determination to "make it" and the will
to help themselves. As the US wrestles to impose its will on the
whole world, aggressive wars and full-frontal invasions, as ever,
are supplemented by covert operations, military coups, economic
sanctions and financial pressure.
Yet, damn it, the rest of the world refuses to share
in the conviction that the USA is the best of all possible worlds.
The world struggles to resist the embrace of Americanisation because
it resents the destruction of its own culture and the pillaging
of global resources to feed the appetite of the insatiable American
behemoth. The world sees through the illusion that the "American
dream" is not really theirs for the taking: that for every
billionaire there must be ten thousand worker bees; that most of
the world will never be like Orange County or Long Island; that
colonies might derive marginal benefits from imperial patronage
but in all essentials they will always be exploited by empire.
There can never be a world of only winners and no losers. And America,
we all know, is determined to "win".
Jesus makes it better
The image the world sees of the USA, for all its
acknowledged achievements, is an arrogant superpower, selfish,
aggressive and heedless of the long-term consequences of its actions,
either for people or the environment. The world is not unaware
that U.S. commitment to "freedom and democracy" goes
no further than support for any oppressive regime that gives a
free hand to U.S. corporations and allies itself to U.S. global
strategy. A "freedom agenda" is only useful when the
local despot happens to be antagonistic to American interests.
It is not "freedom" but the requirements of U.S. business
which are paramount.
Bestriding the world in a way that no other nation
can, America has become more invasive, predatory, and repressive
than at any time in its history. Eight hundred U.S. military bases
garrison the globe. The
world's most parochial culture has assumed for itself the role
of "global policeman"– yet could there
be any worse choice to police the streets of Baghdad or Kabul than
a hick from Arkansas or N Dakota? Financial instruments,
the World Trade Organization and the IMF, intervene on behalf of
U.S. interests in every economy. The U.S. government treats the
United Nations with contempt and routinely eschews international
agreements. From the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, from the International Criminal Court
to the treaty to ban land mines, from women’s
rights to the ban on the use of child soldiers – the
U.S. rejects them all because they may place a restraint upon
the U.S. and its corporations.
Aware that it is unloved, America struggles but
fails to understand its critics. Unwilling to recognize that its
own greed is the harbinger of a hostile and violent reaction across
the world it creates simplistic bogeymen. Explanations are to be
found in "psychological factors such as aggression and fanaticism"
(Laqueur, p23), in dysfunctional personalities that suffer persecution
mania, misdirected libido and weak ego. They must "covet
the US lifestyle", they must "hate US freedoms",
as if an Islamist straps a bomb to his chest because he can't live
with the idea that Americans periodically elect a president, buy
handguns mail-order, or watch daytime TV.
The Christian ideology – the peculiar, late-evolving,
business-friendly, fundamentalist, Americanised Christianity – comes
to the rescue. It may not directly determine the political agenda
but it informs the climate from which that agenda emerges. Both
its "faith-based" domestic program – animated
more by hysteria over abortion than, say, concern for poverty or
social injustice – and
its proselytising "world mission", encourage and endorse
a predatory global capitalism and the assault on civil liberties.
Driven by an assumed rather than proven spiritual superiority over
more ancient creeds, it reduces all issues to a simplistic though
epic struggle of good
versus evil. It
is an "us" and "them" world. The
abortionist, the homosexual, the rights activist, are linked inexorably
with the serial killer, the revolutionary, the terrorist. All
are agents of the Devil.
National Christianism's reassuring message
is that its own devotees, whilst they may for ever remain "sinners",
are most certainly saved by their allegiance to the one
true god. If they err in this temporary earthly life, and, for
example, obliterate the life and liberty of a distant people, Jesus
will understand and forgive them. Not accepting
Jesus is by far
a greater sin than merely squandering the resources of the earth
or bringing misery to millions. An
almighty God, not restrictions on carbon emissions, will safeguard
the natural environment but only if He wills it. What matters,
anyway, is the everlasting life hereafter.
all, are citizens of God's favoured nation, which has been assigned
by the Creator with a mission on the world stage.
What more noble purpose could there be than that, even
if along the way there is a little bit of gluttony and corruption?
We all know the really bad
guys are out there. Satan and his earthly henchmen
wear the black hats or, more often, head scarves. And if the
conflict proves fatal for the late, great, planet earth, then
that too is all part of the divine plan.
Proof of the Holy Presence!
found in airport church!
The Toronto Blessing:
Naive and gullible
Christians are all too willing to see the presence
of "God" in any silly happening.
The "Vineyard Association" of
churches was established in the mid-1980s by ambitious
Christian evangelicals keen to offer a complete
range of "Spirit-led" product to
their innocent followers. Healing, prophecy and exorcism
joined "speaking in tongues" in their Jesus
portfolio. It was all rather enthusiastic and exuberant,
even by the traditions of evangelism.
But how to push the envelope?
The idea of an exuberant or "fun-loving" Jesus
originated in the fertile mind of a character called
Rodney Howard-Browne, not in Canada but thousands
of miles away in his native South Africa. It seems
lucky Rod received an infusion of divine levity.
Presumably, the mirth-making Lord and Saviour could
have solved all kinds of problems in the Dark Continent.
But Rod had other ideas. His business
savvy took him to the U.S. where he could sell his laughing
Jesus to simple-minded Americans. In 1993
he launched his career at Carpenter's Home Church,
Florida, breathing new life into a stalled "Latter
Rain" movement (a sort of triumphalist form
Another sharp operator, Randy Clark,
took Rod's happy clappy franchise into Canada and
finessed the product into the "Toronto
Blessing", a ruse which attracted the
endorsement of some of the biggest scammers on the
Jesus circuit. Tens of thousands of Jesus groupies
flocked to a small unimpressive church on an industrial
park near Toronto International Airport. It seems
the Lord of Hosts shows up daily and getting them
all stirred up and giggly!
|After leaving their brains in
the parking lot, excited Jesus fans wait in line
for their blessing.
||Pastor passes out the Holy Spirit
||Instant Jesus © has
an immediate effect: euphoria, delirium, incoherence
Now rolling about
in the aisles, the happy clappies have all
the evidence of Jesus they will ever need. Same time tomorrow
for more Jesus fun?
|Weakness in the head is followed
by weakness in the knees...
||All fall down.
Have you ever
noticed that miraculous healings are so often "inoperable
tumours" and walking problems, never the
re-growth of a lost limb – now that WOULD be
The more restrained Vineyard Movement,
embarrassed by the childish antics at the Airport
Church, expelled the Toronto branch in 1994. But
by then those happy clappy Jesus dollars were rolling
in. Special deals were cut with hotels, travel companies,
local publishers and radio stations.
Who says Jesus has no sense of
Naturally, a "global mission" followed.
We can but hope that the next product to be added
to the wondrous range of Christian spiritual gifts
takes its cue from Mark 16 and that the
faithful will demonstrate to the skeptics of this
world their invulnerability to snake bites and the
quaffing of poison.
"They shall take up serpents;
and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall
not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick,
and they shall recover." – Mark
The Lord is with Us!
"And on my servants and
on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy." – Acts 2.18.
The salesman of Jesus is no different from the secular
entrepreneur, whose ambition to break into an established market
compels him to trumpet a "unique selling feature" in
order to draw customers away from established brands. Old-style Pentecostalism had
about run its course when a new strain of mental disease broke
out in U.S. communities rich in the fellowship of Jesus and void
of a rational understanding of the world. The "Charismatics" had
arrived. What they offered was the "Christian experience" – a
theme park for the spirit, where the roller-coaster ride was an
immediate, tangible display of the divine. A century or more of
scientific rationalism, and its abundant and obvious rewards, counted
for nothing. Switch off the brain. Feel the Spirit.
Not just "tongues" but holy laughter, healing hands,
ecstatic writing, fainting, shouting, spontaneous testimonials
of faith, weeping and animal antics were all "gifts
of the spirit", the visible presence of the
Lord on earth.
Not since the medieval "age of faith" had
so many otherwise sane individuals partaken in wide-eyed theatrics
in the name of religion. Throughout the Middle Ages, disasters
such as the invasion of Europe by the Mongols, the Black Death,
etc., had engendered a general sense of foreboding. In this climate
of fear and anxiety "ecstatics" and self-abasing flagellants,
agitated by a plethora of miracle-inducing relics, performed before
vast crowds anxious to be close to God's work. Their hysterical
fits before the bones of a saint had made them, fleetingly, the
centre of attention. Repeated often enough they might earn the
patronage of a local grandee, or at a minimum, establish for themselves
a new trade in "healing". More importantly, their behaviour
endorsed the "authenticity" of the saintly shrine where
they had put on their show. In consequence, throngs of gullible
pilgrims followed in their footsteps and Holy Mother Church happily
took the credit – and the cash.
Jesus Reality Show
The new generation of American religious shysters
have a glib but effective "rationale" for their pitch.
The world, it seems, had grown not only desperate for oil but lax
in its "appreciation of the supernatural" (too much
godless education?). God now chooses to send "spiritual
gifts" to reward the elect and strengthen the faith of waverers.
This repackaged flimflam is sold as "living faith", a
product designed to more than hold its own in the world of 24/7
mass entertainment. In fact it is 24/7 mass entertainment.
Like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster video, the business model is big,
brash, and lowest common denominator. No off-putting ritual, no
tiresome biblical study. The door to Jesus is open to everyone. Show
Perhaps these charlatans are successful because many
Americans are as parochial and poorly educated as medieval European
diet of limitless self-gratification leaves them unfulfilled and sends them headlong into spiritual pyrotechnics. A nation
of obese bodies and lost souls. Doubtless a large part of the allure
is egotistical, a desire to be part of the performance, just like
those medieval "ecstatics" before the shrine of a saint.
Roll on the carpet. Have your 15 minutes of fame. In
the process, of course, the con men for Christ carve for themselves
a fat piece of the pie, a "niche market" in the lucrative
world of Jesus sales.
With its brash new formula, "charismatics" spread
like a virus through the older denominations, Episcopal, Presbyterian,
Methodist – even Roman Catholicism! Though Catholic tradition,
in particular, favoured sobriety and solemn ceremonial when Christ
was in the building, popes Paul VI and John Paul II gave their
approval to a "charismatic" movement within the Roman
church. Perhaps, as business managers facing a crisis of declining
sales, they saw the urgent need to keep up with the competition.
Hell, they had invented all this stuff a thousand
Satan and his minions join the party
seems only right that if the Holy Spirit is active
in the world then the Prince of Darkness should
also be about his diabolic mischief. And in fact 21st century
America has resurrected the
medieval conviction that "malevolent forces" wait
menacingly in every corner, ready to subvert the righteous,
abduct the innocent, and enslave the weak. The devil now
assumes the form of a terrorist, joining and surpassing
yesterday's assortment of drug-crazed psychos, pinko radicals
and bad guys. Shades of grey do not exist, only a
simplistic, black-and-white political landscape of "good
guys" and "bad guys", security or peril.
The formula is uniquely American. By demonising
minorities (whether "Injuns", Catholics, blacks,
Commies, radicals, gays, Muslims) menace can be multiplied
and fear engendered. A handful of delinquent elements and marginal
threats are orchestrated into a global menace. A highly militarised
state, backed by major corporations and a wealthy elite, exploits
the public fear of foreigners, subversives and minorities to
create a high-tech version of medieval demonology,
in which an unseen enemy is poised to exploit any lack of vigilance.
Sale of indulgences
fund-raisers now bring in serious dollars for the Lord's
work. American Express will do nicely. A few shady
deals in the cupboard? Purge your guilt by donating a major
wedge to your local pastor. He may not only pray for you
but call in a few favours down at City Hall. It sure worked
for Charles Keating, the biggest fraudster in US history
(the Lincoln Savings and Loan scam). Keating chipped in more
than a $million to Mother Teresa's Missionaries
of Charity and she reciprocated with
a character reference for his day in court.
if you want to accrue a few extra credits in the Hereafter,
have you noticed all the assorted bric-a-brac and Jesus junk
replacing books in the Christian store? Better get your stock
of holy kitsch, just to be sure. The
Christian retailing industry is worth annually in excess
of $3 billion.
of the Saints
butt across the galaxy – an American dream.
Against the power of darkness crusade
the mighty Chosen Ones. The American hero has always been a
man with a gun. Popular movies and television shows are either
set in the US or on an alien world portrayed as an American
culture with better technology. Whether
it's "Charlie" in Vietnam or the evil Goa'uld on
the distant edge of the galaxy America likes to see itself
getting its own way. You
got a problem with that?!
While the rest of the world
can enjoy, and laugh at, American muscle-flexing superheroes,
with their cannon-sized handguns "wasting" every
bad guy in sight, the poorly educated, parochial American,
takes it all very seriously. He rarely, if ever, experiences
other cultures and meets only other Americans throughout
Hey, buddy, you've got
to defend you and yours – that's the American Way,
rich have always lived within the embrace
of high walls and private security.
Several centuries ago they were called
barons and their liveried private soldiers
were known as liegemen. For all their
security, they were often murdered.
rely more upon technology than manpower
but the principle is the same. Like
a redoubt in enemy territory, their
retreat is a "safe neighbourhood" or "exclusive" compound.
Having amassed their swag, they secure
it from prying eyes and thieving
fingers by hiding behind private
security guards, 24 hour video surveillance
and a raft of alarm systems.
than eight million Americans now
live in gated communities – and
no doubt still worry at night.
America – the
Evil: On Special this Week
is only one response to the lurking Powers of Darkness: love
of Jesus and awesome weaponry. Having
manufactured and magnified evil, commercial opportunity presents
itself. SELL the POWER to match the EVIL. "Security
products" flourish in a hot-house of endemic fear. From
the handgun to the "panic room", from the helicopter
gunship to the Bradley Armoured Fighting Vehicle, you just
can't be too safe.
The sappy American buys the power. Enough weaponry
to equip an army (never mind that the real consequence is domestic
homicidal carnage); an urban assault vehicle, to roll over
any obstacle (never mind the destruction of the environment,
that's somewhere else, sometime else); and, above all, he buys
into the religion of ultimate power, buys
into an alliance with an omniscient deity who, real soon, will
unleash his awesome arsenal on all who fail to embrace, well,
the American Way, of course. And like anyone surrounding
himself with a terrifying arsenal in order to be "safe",
the probability of violence is raised, not lowered, by the
availability of violent devices.
Crusade in the Holy Land
"I will gather all nations and bring them
down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgement
against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for
they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my
– Joel 3.2. Biblical basis for Israel's
grab of Arab land.
Israel, like America, was established by the elimination
of a native people.
At the beginning of the 20th century the land of
Palestine had been home to 700,000 Arabs and around 55,000 Jews.
The two peoples had lived peaceably alongside each other for centuries.
But in Europe, in reaction to an upsurge of anti-semitism in the
1880s, a Zionist movement had been established which sought (in
the words of the First Zionist Congress of 1897) "a home for
the Jewish people in Palestine guaranteed by public law".
Palestine, however, was not the only region considered for an
enclave for the Jews. Other possibilities included Argentina, Uganda,
the Soviet Far East and even the U.S.A. Initially, even the idea
of a Jewish homeland was opposed by many assimilated, notably
Reform, Jews, fearing that a Jewish state would undermine
their own position. But by the 1930s, and the rise of Nazism,
Zionism had "hardened" its
declared goal into the creation of a Jewish state within Palestine.
The problem then was what to do with the people already living
in the region. The solution came with the war of 1948, which allowed
the Jews to ethnically cleanse their new republic. With the expulsion
of most of the Palestinians, Israel began sixty years of conflict
with her neighbours.
map to Armageddon
The "Road Map" for peace
in the Mid East gets scant support from evangelicals
because it potentially restricts Israel to less
than than supposed biblical borders ("from
the Euphrates to Egypt").
In the fundamentalist scenario,
the Jews will be restored to Israel, the Temple
will be rebuilt (bye
bye Al-Aqsa Mosque), and only then (joy
of joy) will the Lord Jesus Christ return
On the Day
Christians will have to answer for how well they
have treated the Jews (the "root" of
which they are the "branch" - Romans).
It therefore behooves true Christians to support
the aggressive stance of Israel towards its neighbours.
"You see, the ... thing is what
they need to do is to get Syria to get Hizbollah
to stop doing this shit and it’s over."
– George Bush, G8 Summit 17 July 2006
early advocate of "Christian Zionism" was Charles
Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
and a promoter of the "ingathering" of
the Jews to their ancient land. One of today's
more prominent Christian Zionist mouthpieces is
John Hagee, who articulates a similar fundamentalism
in which the Jews remain the "chosen people".
"Christians must come
together and pray for the safety of the Jews.
The Jews are God's holy people, it was through
them that God came forth as Jesus Christ
to spread the message of Good News ... of
Heaven and truth and salvation."
Hagee's ministries claim
to have raised more than $8 million
to resettle Russian Jews in Israel. In
return, Hagee has received numerous accolades
from Jewish organisations.
Johnny is not glad-handing politicos in Israel
(he claims 22 visits) he regurgitates his doomsday
scenario in such money-making delights as "Beginning
of the End", "From Daniel
to Doomsday", and "The Battle
Historically, the Jews, as "Christ killers",
were often on the receiving end of Christian violence. Though
employed as slave traders, merchants, doctors, rent collectors
and money lenders throughout the Christian lands, in times of social
stress the prosperity of this despised minority was cause enough
for popular anti-semitic outrages.
The Jews, like others, were
drawn to the opportunities which America offered and
in the major cities of the eastern seaboard prospered in everything
from gangsterism to banking. On the west coast, a Jewish presence
was particularly strong in the nascent movie industry. New York
money and the Hollywood dream factory were especially benevolent
towards the newly established state of Israel and
Jewish nationalism became a favoured cause of U.S. foreign policy.
In contrast, Arab nationalism potentially jeopardised
the cheap oil supply upon which the entire world economy increasingly
depended. Whereas Israel represented an island of western interests
in a vital region of energy resources, aspirant Arab states were
problematic. For most of the 20th century, sponsorship of a corrupt
and fabulously enriched oligarchy made them "safe" but
an undercurrent of increasingly radical Islam introduced a volatile
element into a delicately woven matrix
of politics, oil and religion.
Today, the evangelicals articulate what politicians
think but dare not say: that the Islamic faith is a grave threat
to both Israel and America. Like on a medieval map, Jerusalem is
again the epicentre of the world. It is here that the final conflict
between God's truth and Satan's lies will be fought.
You see, it
has all been foretold, in that wonderful
book of mayhem and mania – the Holy Bible.
Thank God – We know how the battle of
Good and Evil will end!
Who can resist being told his or her "future"?
The Romans read victory or defeat in the entrails
of a chicken or the guts of a bull. For longer term forecasts they
consulted soothsayers and sibyls. The art of the diviner is to
remain enigmatically ambiguous, leaving it to the enquirer to make
the final judgement. Nostradamus was particular gifted in this
respect. Retrospectively his "quatrains" can be fitted
into almost any century. Christian soothsayers of the 21st century
read "signs" of the End Time in contemporary
events. But what's new here? The rise of Islam in the
8th century, the year 1000, the Black Death of the 14th century,
the Reformation of the Church in the 16th century, the French Revolution,
the First World War, the founding of Israel, etc., etc. – all have
been hailed as harbingers of the Apocalypse.
The Book of Numbers tells
a yarn about the Jews wandering in the wilderness. Numbers 19
relates the curious Rite of the Red Heifer.
is the ordinance of the law which the LORD
hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children
of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer
without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon
which never came yoke." – Numbers 19.2.
what do you do with a beast of such virginal
Apparently, sprinkling this
bovine's blood towards the front of the tent
with a forefinger seven times does a whole lot
However, for heap big
magic, the animal's ashes mixed with
water provides gallons of ritual purity.
What do you do with all this slurry? Why, purify
the whole of Israel of course!
nonsense? Well, some fundamentalists believe
that when a red heifer is born, the Temple will
be rebuilt in Jerusalem and Armageddon will
follow soon after.
Start worrying. A red heifer
WAS born in March 2002 – and was
declared ritually acceptable by the rabbis.
The early Christians, too, had a particular attachment
to the arcane art of "prophecy", pouring over a pile
of ancient Jewish texts, not so much to discern the future as to
legitimise a supposed recent past. Lacking any hard evidence
for their godman's existence, they were obliged to reinterpret
and misinterpret Jewish scripture to provide "proof" that
God had in fact incarnated in human form and for a a year or two
had performed miracles and espoused the essentials of wisdom.
As it happened, the Jews had a rich stock of prophetic
literature, which invariably foretold the triumph of the
righteous and the ruin of their persecutors. The earliest Christians
shared the apocalyptic vision and adapted the Jewish tales of
an impending "Judgement Day" for their own
cause. The rambling nonsense of the Revelation
of St John (and other Old Testament books of "prophecy",
such as Daniel) were particular favourites. 3rd century
Church Father Tertullian no doubt spoke for many when he enthused
for the already impending Armageddon in which
non-believers would "liquefy in fiercer fires than they
ever kindled against the Christians."
But with the triumph of the Church and its acquisition
of an earthly kingdom, the End Time was postponed indefinitely,
save that in times of social stress the lurid prophesies were dusted
off and used to animate the current enthusiasm, whether it be for
a holy war or a cultic retreat to a mountain top. Throughout the
subsequent history of the faith, apocalyptic prophecy has always
retained a special appeal for a certain breed of Christian – one
more concerned with the punishment of sinners than with love for
his fellow man.
The Book of Revelation may be incoherent
bile but one prophecy at least is clear: though millions are doomed
to extinction in the Final Conflict, the Christian elect
will reap their reward – and surely they deserve
it, they have after all "accepted Jesus" – and
pass on to life eternal in the kingdom of the Lord. Scary,
"God's Bigger picture"
Apocalypse Now: "Dispensationalism"
Less it be thought that the current anticipation
of Armageddon is
feverish guesswork – as if – a complete "ideology"
underpins the doomsday scenario. According to the insanities of
so-called Dispensationalism, periodically
God works his magic outside the normal laws of the universe. Thus
the whole story of humanity can be seen as a number of episodes
brought to a close by the intervention of the Almighty. The Edenic period
was brought to a close by the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the
garden. The Antediluvian period
ended with the flood, the Postdiluvian by
the building of the Tower of Bable and the Patriarchal by
the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Fable stacked
We then enter the quasi-historical period of the
Jewish law, designated the Legal dispensation,
which ends with the imagined birth of Jesus. With JC's resurrection
begins the Ecclesiastical period – the
current epoch– which forecloses with the "rapture" of
the church, when "saved Christians" will be whisked
away to a joyous reunion with their Lord and Saviour and granted
ring-side seats from which to savour the ungodly in their agonizing
torment. Thus the final showdown is to be welcomed and encouraged
rather than delayed and avoided.
The final, awful period, Tribulation,
will be more terrible than any episode in human history.
In seven years of apocalyptic meltdown, the
bad guys will almost triumph. The
Antichrist will appear and he will take the guise of a "one
world" leader (see! can't trust the
Half of the human race will die, the seas
will turn to blood, and a third of the earth will be consumed by
fire (see! famine, global warming – it all
fits!). The shattering
climax will be the second coming of JC, "in Glory".
Such is the lurid gore-fest of dispensationalism,
the hope and anticipation of vindictive small minds who audaciously
abrogate to themselves a claim to the American-Dream-That-Never-Ends,
who think their own skins so precious and their souls so deserving
of immortality. Dispensationalism is by no means a new idea, but
a disturbing feature today is the mass support the delusion enjoys. Why
do anything about humanity's obvious problems when
the "King" is
coming to reclaim his kingdom and believing Christians will get
all the top jobs? Trouble is, the dispensationalists
want the rapture to happen real soon and
given half the chance would love to trigger Armageddon.
They are not harmless nuts; they are dangerous nuts.
The hi-tech paraphernalia of secure and exquisite
comfort necessitates continuous innovation and social
change, but that change is seldom without surprises. Ironically,
the introduction of uncertainty is profoundly disturbing to those
who build their "comfort
conservative principles and traditional values. They simply cannot
handle unknowns which leave them ill at ease and uncertain how
to react. New ideas, unfamiliar people, novel situations are therefore
guns and semi-automatics only get you part of the way. For the
Big Showdown, just around the corner, you need to line up some
heavy-duty celestial dudes – God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Boy,
are they gonna kick ass.
Fundamentalism exploits this
psychotic need for certainty in an uncertain world. Family, Nation,
God have a reassuring glow of immutability
and permanence. They also absolve the individual of profound
thought or individual judgement. My family first,
my country right or wrong, in God we trust. Such individuals
respond to formulaic systems which have all the answers ready
Four hundred years of critical scholarship
can be brushed aside by the simple maxim that every verse of the
Bible is a literal truth, not a contention for debate, the word
of God to be accepted and regurgitated, not dissected and disputed.
The rational questioning of scripture is attacked as "arrogance", with
the caveat that revelation
transcends the mere logic of man. Thus the world of the believer
is kept "tidy" and uncompromised, his faith a fortress which will
withstand the assaults of science or rationality.
The fundamentalist showman invokes the
"family" metaphor at every opportunity, a "family" of
which, of course, he is the wise patriarch, with a hot-line to
God, and his adoring acolytes are "children".
It is "family" in a truly traditional sense of the word,
with emphasis upon rules, duties, dependency and obedience. It
is an island of rectitude in a world of immorality, anarchy and
The world is blessed to have an archipelago of such
islands in the USA. Now if only they could take over the government
Pax Americana – or a thousand
year Christ Reich?
"Dominion" (aka "Latter Rain", "Restorationism",
"And he gave some,
apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and
some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints,
for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body
of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and
of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto
the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
For the bigger personality, with more ambition than
merely orchestrating emotional funfests and amassing a personal
fortune, the prize of political power beckons. To rise above the
commonality of Christian showmen – and
there are a lot of them – special status
is required. The theological sophistry of so-called "Restorationism" provides
the required formula. Not content with "spiritual gifts" and
prophecy, according to Restorationism God
is restoring to his church the "fivefold ministry", which
means apostles and prophets are
again among us!
In simple terms, a return to the purity and structure
of the early church (as it is supposed) is presented as a necessary
precondition (and "sign") of the Lord's imminent return.
The key element is that an
apostle has elevated status – just
like Peter, Paul and the rest of the gang – which
over the church. An apostle or a prophet, like
a latter day Muhammad or Joseph Smith, can pronounce new doctrinal revelation with
divine authority, give a new interpretation to established scripture
and determine the whole direction of the church. And what purpose
does this serve? Why, the taking of supreme power:
"Our job is
to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost … As
the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion
and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government,
our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment
media, our news media, our scientific endeavors – in
short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries (Christian Science Monitor,
Under the banner of Christ, well-dressed demagogues
espouse dangerously intolerant policies.
One Church. A purging of wickedness. Judgement of the unrighteous.
Torquemada and his Inquisitors would have been proud. In the rival
brands of "Latter Rain", evangelical psychopaths wage
war on the entire fabric of modern culture.
science-led, secular 21st century, now
appear naively optimistic. The most powerful, richest, and most materialistic nation
on Earth has renewed its love affair with tribal superstition,
irrational paranoia and a morbid delight in hopes for an imminent
The terrifying future: a world gathered under
the hegemony of America, a world bending the knee to Christ.
Walter Laqueur, No End
to War. Terrorism in the 21st century (Continuum, 2003)
Laqueur, The New Terrorism (Phoenix, 2001)
Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian
Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew (1950)
Andrew Sinclair, A Concise History of the United States (Sutton,
Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty (Allen Lane, 2004)
Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of
David Domke, God Willing? Political Fundamentalism in the
White House, the 'War on Terror,' & the Echoing Press (Pluto, 2004)
Ziauddin Sardar, Why
Do People Hate America? (Icon, 2004)
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
For your copy order:
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Copyright © 2006
by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the author and no
material herein is sold for profit.