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So this is my first post, I had planned this kind of lengthy response to Newsweek's interview by Brian Braiker with Conservative Fundamentalist preacher and author of the Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye. Something was missing as to why I felt the need, other than my general frustration with Innerrantist positions and rapture hoopla, but then tonight's thin excuse for journalism by Jake Tapper and Dan Morris "Save Israel, for Jesus?"on Nightline rounded out the reason why this interpretation of the Revelation of John and Hebrew apocalyptic literature is so insidious in our current political climate.

First off it is my opinion that Protestantism has dropped this issue of Eschatology and backed away. The popular fringes of this brand of non-denominational (though once some sort of Baptist) has been allowed the PA system. Of course they get the news stories, they're the ones singing the loudest. But in journalism that deals with religion why do the follow up questions stop? Isn't it possible to ask another question or present the other side and further these claims without disrespecting the individual you are interviewing? For example in Newsweek's interview with LaHaye, Braiker asks:
...my understanding is that current biblical scholarship reads some of the apocalyptic scenes in the Bible as metaphorically addressing events that were taking place as the Bible was being written.
To which LaHaye answers:
These are usually liberal theologians that don't believe the Bible literally.

First off, aren't people who think that the Bible is addressing events taking place during the time of the Bible interpreting it literally? I mean, isn't that more literal than those who cryptically project its events onto the present? That kind of sounds like a metaphor if you ask me. Secondly, I could understand in LaHaye's mind that naming some of these `liberal theologians' who care about context and history (that is when it doesn't point to something occurring in the present that can assist you monetarily - i.e. creating a general fear of the future to sell more books) might make it look like you spent time thinking about these individuals, or that you do research, but what is more disappointing is that it appears as if Braiker doesn't know them either. He supplies no quotations or examples of what a liberal theologian might be or whom. Granted he does counter with the general consensus that the Revelation of John is a polemic against Rome which provides LaHaye with the mandatory leverage to get all paranoid about one world government, one world economy and of course one world religion (does LaHaye have a militia somewhere?).

I know this is perhaps a thin segue into the broader concern which was completely on display during Nightline's "Save Israel, for Jesus?" segment tonight. Not only was it imbalanced and poorly executed, I mean for all of the talk of Middle-East violence no Lebanese or for that matter any other Middle-Eastern ambassador or official was presented, it also came across as a giant free advertisement for Christians United for Israel.

CUFI, as it is referred to on it's own website, seeks to "provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, Para-church organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues." These groups aren't new Ralph Reed had his Stand Up For Israel, anyone who saw "American Evangelical Christians in the Bible Lands" on NOW in 2004 saw the Christian Coalition performing its realtor role for the end times. CUFI is lead by megachurch (of course) pastor John Hagee who makes one of my favorite quotes of the broadcast:

"Russia is going to get in that position and they are literally, with all that massive military force, going to attack Israel," Hagee said. "This is recorded in Ezekiel 38 and 39. God himself is literally going to destroy that army. Decimate it."

Hagee made me have to grab my history textbook and my Bible (yes I have some of them). Now, I just read Ezekiel and Russia is not in there. Alright I know that's an easy blow, but sorry. Maybe he's not a literalist after all. Now I know what Hagee is doing, he is giving us a supposed prophecy from a written text and instead of seeing that commonly this apocalyptic chapter does say "in that distant day" as if something will happen in the future it also uses traditional references to the understanding of nations of God's power. But, what gets me is no one quotes it, no one asks him anything further. Just continue on with the others stating the biblical mandate to support Israel unquestionably. No one goes to Ezekiel and gives the context that there is a lot of quotation from Isaiah, or Exodus, or that this is an account of a specific prophet at a specific point in time after the Babylonian exile and destruction of Jerusalem. I think I would predict it would eventually need to be rebuilt too if I had experienced that.

I know this isn't Sunday School or whatever but my questions remain why is journalism so inept when reporting on religious issues? Where is the counterpoint with an interview? Or in the narration? This isn't about small stakes, these groups influence a lot of people and give comfort to those who can justify killing and influence that killing into our national policy. Specifically from Christians who are supposed to have a different set of guidelines as far as encouraging, and engaging in violence is concerned. Where are the voices of compassion and moderation from Christianity? I do not explicitly blame the reporters for their ridiculous attempt at reporting this movement because I think that the mainstream clergy in Protestantism does not address the "End Times" movement's metaphoric translation of Biblical literary devices and historical situations into present politics very well. So you wouldn't know that there is a different position and that maybe the world could use some more of this position.

Originally posted to Suggestion For A New National Anthem on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 11:30 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  literalism is inaccurate in any context (0+ / 0-)

    there is always cultural and congitive bias.

    Obviously for many people  the most direct interpretation of the bible would be that John's Revelations would be addressing Nero-era Roman Empire or at least making analogous comparisons, for others it's something different.  

    But there was no "rapture" before the 19th century, and whether you're a Puritan or Wahabi or Gnostic it's always departure from the status quo (the big quo)+rejection or synthesis. (hegelian much?)

    You're a moron if you think I'm going to die for Israel or George Bush--Me.

    by Nulwee on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 11:28:25 PM PDT

  •  also it might be worth pointing out (0+ / 0-)

    that many of these people dont' actually read.  I dont' want to imply a number (impossible to quantify per se) or stand by it being a majority, (minorities can be influential enough) but I know in megachurches the tradition of taking a sermon and putting a bible passage into commentary about modern life has been expanded upon so much as to often lacking context.  

    Many conservative Christians have bible history studies and such, and really read up on things, but let's just imagine it's analogous to the amount of people that even do leisure reading for the sake of learning--I don't even mean heavy academics, just encyclopedias and non-fiction books and maybe even wikipedia, or just use the internet for information. Millions do, millions more don't at all.  By no stretch of the imagination anywhere near as many people as use the internet or go to church.

    You're a moron if you think I'm going to die for Israel or George Bush--Me.

    by Nulwee on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 11:33:23 PM PDT

  •  To Be Honest (0+ / 0-)

    I am very interested in your post, but I had to stop reading because you need to use paragraphs. My eyes were getting glossed over and I was losing my spot so often that I gave up.

    "Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities." -Erica Jong

    by iliketodrum on Thu Aug 03, 2006 at 11:50:52 PM PDT

  •  So where is the 'balance' to LeHaye? (0+ / 0-)

    Got me. The necessity for that seems to go out the window when GOP talking points or religious extremists are concerned. I think there are a few things at work here as far as the media response goes:

    1. Sensationalism. Sensationalism sells and it is hard to get more sensational than the end of the world.
    1. Fear factor. Gotta keep people afraid so they won't think. Granted, most people don't have that kind of religious leaning, but for those who might, it will serve the purpose.
    1. Ignorance factor. Most "journalists" don't have much background in religion, certainly not fundamentalist religions. It is intimidating to challenge people who can quote chapter and verse of the Bible ad infinitum, particularly if you are afraid of alienating your audience.
    1. Audience appeal. When people like LeHaye or Hagee are being interviewed, the audience is most likely either non-believers or believers, verdad? Non-believers aren't going to believe it anyway. However, challenging end-timers is going to really piss off believers, but it isn't going to change anyone's mind.

    What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain...Cicero

    by carolita on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 07:08:08 AM PDT

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