|The article below is copied from TIME. It is important
enough for this to appear in unec.net. We must change our attitudes towards each
other. The best way of learning this is found in a movie called "Jesus of
Nazareth." It is one of the best teachings sources available in movie form. Life
guidelines are given according to the history of the Bible.
|LAST JUDGEMENT: Detail of
the Sistine Chapel wall by Michaelangelo
|The biggest book
of the summer is about the end of the world. It's also a sign of our
Page 2 - Posted Sunday, June 23, 2002;
2:31 a.m. EST
The series has sold some 32 million copies—50 million if you count the
graphic novels and children's versions—and sales jumped 60% after Sept. 11.
Book 9, published in October, was the best-selling novel of 2001.
Evangelical pastors promote the books as devotional reading; mainline
pastors read them to find out what their congregations are thinking, as do
politicians and scholars and people whose job it is to know what fears and
hopes are settling in the back of people's minds in a time of deep
Now the 10th book, The Remnant, is
arriving in stores, a breathtaking 2.75 million hard-cover copies, and its
impact may be felt far beyond the book clubs and Bible classes. To some
evangelical readers, the Left Behind books provide more than a
spiritual guide: they are a political agenda. When they read in the papers
about the growing threats to Israel, they are not only concerned for a
fellow democratic ally in the war against terror; they are also worried
about God's chosen people and the fate of the land where events must unfold
in a specific way for Jesus to return. That combination helps explain why
some Christian leaders have not only bonded with Jews this winter as rarely
before but have also pressed their case in the Bush White House as if their
salvation depended on it.
Walter Russell mead is sitting in his
office at the Council on Foreign Relations in midtown Manhattan on a soft
June afternoon, at work on a book that was born last September. He published
an acclaimed history of U.S. foreign policy last year and was working on a
study about building a global middle class. But he has put that aside. Piled
around him now are the Koran, a Bible, books on technology and a stack of
Left Behind books. When Mead predicts that our century will be
remembered as the Age of Apocalypse, he does not mean to suggest that the
world will soon end in a fiery holocaust. "The word apocalypse," he
observes, "comes from a Greek word that literally means 'lifting of the
veil.' In an apocalyptic age, people feel that the veil of normal, secular
reality is lifting, and we can see behind the scenes, see where God and the
devil, good and evil are fighting to control the future." To the extent that
more people in the U.S. and around the world believe history is
accelerating, that ancient prophecies are being fulfilled in real time, "it
changes the way people feel about their circumstances, and the way they act.
The grays are beginning to leak out of the way people view the world, and
they're seeing things in more black-and-white terms."
At the religious extremes within Islam,
that means we see more suicide bombers: if God's judgment is just around the
corner, martyrdom has a special appeal. The more they cast their cause as a
fight against the Great Satan, the more they reinforce the belief in some
U.S. quarters that the war on terror is not one that can ever end with a
treaty or communique, only total victory or defeat. Extremists on each side
look to contemporary events as validation of their sacred texts; each uses
the others to define its view of the divine scheme.
59% believe the
prophecies in the Book of Revelation will come true
— TIME/CNN Poll
In such a time of uncertainty, it's a
natural human instinct to look for some good purpose in the shadows of even
the scariest events—and for some readers the theology of the Left Behind
books provides it. Some stumbled on the series by accident, and were hooked.
Deborah Vargas, 46, of San Francisco bought her first Left Behind
book in January at a Target, looking for a good read. She got much more than
she had bargained for, especially after Sept. 11. "It was almost a message
right out of the Bible," she says. "Something within me started to change,
and I started to question myself. What was I waiting for? A sign?" Since
then, she says, her life has been transformed, and she is now a regular in
the Left Behind chat rooms. "I want to talk about it all the time."
Talk to the people who were already
inclined to read omens in the headlines, and you hear their excitement, even
eagerness to see what happens next. "We sense we are very close to something
apocalyptic, but that something positive will come out of it," says Doron
Schneider, an Evangelical based in Jerusalem. "It's like a woman having
labor pains. A woman can feel this pain reaching its height when the child
is born—and then doesn't feel the pain anymore, only the joy of the happy
event." Even the horror of Sept. 11 was experienced differently by people
primed to see God's hand in all things. Strandberg admits that he was
"joyful" that the attacks could be a sign that the End Times were at hand.
"A lot of prophetic commentators have what I consider a phony sadness over
certain events," he says. "In their hearts they know it means them getting
closer to their ultimate desire."
People who were strangers to prophecy don't
always find as much comfort there. When Dave Cheadle, a Denver lay pastor at
an inner-city ministry, sent out an Internet letter after 9/11 suggesting
that Revelation was the relevant text for understanding what was happening,
he got a huge—and frightened—response: "People were asking themselves
whether they were ready to die. Very sane, well-educated people have gone
back to the storm-cellar thing to make sure they have water and freeze-dried
stuff in their basements." Some had trouble reconciling their warm image of
a merciful God with the chilling warnings they were reading. "They're asking
people to believe that we have a God who simply can't wait to zap the
Christian flight crew out of jets so they crash?" asks Paul Maier, a
professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and an author of
Christian fiction, who finds in the Left Behind books a deity he does
not recognize. "You can't believe in a God who would do this kind of thing."
Others, already believers, have come away
from this past winter feeling a need to change tactics, change jobs, find a
new way to get the urgent message across. Rick Scarborough, pastor of the
First Baptist Church of Pearland, Texas, a Houston suburb, resigned his
pulpit this month to put all his energy into recruiting Christians to become
politically involved. "I am mobilizing Christians and getting more
Christians to vote. I am preparing a beachhead of righteousness," he says.
Meanwhile Wyoming state senator Carroll Miller, a popular legislator from
Big Horn County, announced his retirement from politics in part so that he
could spend more time speaking at churches and men's clubs, helping people
come to grips with the prospect of the Second Coming. "It's very important
that we as a Christian nation know what the Scriptures have said about these
days," he says. "I'm putting forth my personal effort for my own sake as
well as for my family and friends."
Page 1 - Posted Sunday, June 23, 2002; 2:31 a.m. EST
Posted Sunday, June
23, 2002; 2:31 a.m. EST
What do you watch for, when you are watching the news? Signs that interest
rates might be climbing, maybe it's time to refinance. Signs of global
warming, maybe forget that new SUV. Signs of new terrorist activity, maybe
think twice about that flight to Chicago.
Or signs that the world may be coming to an
end, and the last battle between good and evil is about to unfold?
For evangelical Christians with an interest
in prophecy, the headlines always come with asterisks pointing to scriptural
footnotes. That is how Todd Strandberg reads his paper. By day, he is fixing
planes at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb. But in his off-hours, he's
the webmaster at raptureready.com and the inventor of the Rapture Index,
which he calls a "Dow Jones Industrial Average of End Time activity."
Instead of stocks, it tracks prophecies: earthquakes, floods, plagues,
crime, false prophets and economic measurements like unemployment that add
to instability and civil unrest, thereby easing the way for the Antichrist.
In other words, how close are we to the end of the world? The index hit an
all-time high of 182 on Sept. 24, as the bandwidth nearly melted under the
weight of 8 million visitors: any reading over 145, Strandberg says, means
"Fasten your seat belt."
It's not the end of the world, our mothers
always told us. This was helpful for putting spilled milk in perspective,
but it was also our introduction to a basic human reference point. We seem
to be born with an instinct that the end is out there somewhere. We have a
cultural impulse to imagine it—and keep it at bay. Just as all cultures have
their creation stories, so too they have their visions of the end, from the
Bible to the Mayan millennial stories. Usually the fables dwell in the back
of the mind, or not at all, since we go about our lives conditioned to think
that however bad things get, it's not you know what. But there are times in
human history when instinct, faith, myth and current events work together to
create a perfect storm of preoccupation. Visions of an end point lodge in
people's minds in many forms, ranging from entertainment to superstitious
fascination to earnest belief. Now seems to be one of those times.
of Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God and is to be taken
— TIME/CNN Pol
The experience of last fall—the terrorist
attacks, the anthrax deaths—not only deepened the interest among Christians
fluent in the language of Armageddon and Apocalypse. It broadened it as
well, to an audience that had never paid much attention to the predictions
of the doomsday prophet Nostradamus, or been worried about an epic battle
that marks the end of time, or for that matter, read the Book of Revelation.
Since Sept. 11, people from cooler corners of Christianity have begun asking
questions about what the Bible has to say about how the world ends, and
preachers have answered their questions with sermons they could not have
imagined giving a year ago. And even among more secular Americans, there
were some who were primed to see an omen in the smoke of the flaming
towers—though it had more to do with their beach reading than with their
That is because among the best-selling
fiction books of our times—right up there with Tom Clancy and Stephen
King—is a series about the End Times, written by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B.
Jenkins, based on the Book of Revelation. That part of the Bible has always
held its mysteries, but for millions of people the code was broken in 1995,
when LaHaye and Jenkins published Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's
Last Days. People who haven't read the book and its sequels often
haven't even heard of them, yet their success provides new evidence that
interest in the End Times is no fringe phenomenon. Only about half of
Left Behind readers are Evangelicals, which suggests there is a broader
audience of people who are having this conversation.
A TIME/CNN poll finds that more than
one-third of Americans say they are paying more attention now to how the
news might relate to the end of the world, and have talked about what the
Bible has to say on the subject. Fully 59% say they believe the events in
Revelation are going to come true, and nearly one-quarter think the Bible
predicted the Sept. 11 attack.
Some of that interest is fueled by faith,
some by fear, some by imagination, but all three are fed by the Left
Behind series. The books offer readers a vivid, violent and utterly
detailed description of just what happens to those who are left behind on
earth to fight the Antichrist after Jesus raptures, or lifts, the faithful
up to heaven. At the start of Book 1, on a 747 bound for Heathrow from
Chicago, the flight attendants suddenly find about half the seats empty,
except for the clothes and wedding rings and dental fillings of the
believers who have suddenly been swept up to heaven. Down on the ground,
cars are crashing, husbands are waking up to find only a nightgown in bed
next to them, and all children under 12 have disappeared as well. The next
nine books chronicle the tribulations suffered by those left behind and
their struggle to be saved.
Back to Enter
UNEC Cyber Community
|Continued . . .
Page 3 - Posted Sunday, June 23, 2002;
2:31 a.m. EST
Miller knows people who have prepared Bibles with the relevant passages
indexed about what will occur during the Tribulation, so that their
left-behind friends and relatives will know to prepare for the earthquakes
and locusts and scorpions: when "the sun became as black as sackcloth and
the moon became as blood." After a while, sightings of the Antichrist come
naturally: when U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan tells the World Economic
Forum that globalization is the best hope to solve the world's problems,
when the forum floats the idea of a "united nations of major religions,"
when privacy is sacrificed to security, the headlines are listed on the
prophecy websites as signs that the Antichrist is busy about his business.
"He's probably a good-looking man," says Kelly Sellers, who runs a
decorative-stone business in Minneapolis, Minn. "I'm sure he's in politics
right now and probably in the public eye a little bit." Sellers has read
every Left Behind book and is waiting for the next one—"anxiously." "It
helped me to look at the news that's going on about Israel and Palestine,"
which, he believes, "is just ushering in the End Times, and it's exciting
His sister-in-law Jodie thinks technology
is a key to hastening the End Times. "'When Christ returns, every eye shall
see Him,'" she quotes from Revelation. Thanks to CNN and the Internet,
"we're getting to a place where every eye could actually behold such an
event." The books were enough to persuade Sandra Keathley, a Boeing employee
in Wichita, Kans., not to buy Microsoft's Windows XP, because she has heard
rumors that it carries a method of tracking e-mail. (In fact, the software
had an instant-messaging bug that was later fixed.) If the Antichrist were
to come, she fears, "and you want to contact another Christian, they could
see that, trace it."
The growing audience for apocalyterature
extends even into mainline Protestantism, a tradition that has spent little
time on fire and brimstone. "I would go for years without anyone asking
about the End Times," says Thomas Tewell, senior minister of the Fifth
Avenue Presbyterian Church in midtown Manhattan—hardly a hothouse of
apocalyptic fervor. "But since Sept. 11, hard-core, crusty, cynical New York
lawyers and stockbrokers who are not moved by anything are saying, 'Is the
world going to end?', 'Are all the events of the Bible coming true?' They
want to get right with God. I've never seen anything like it in my 30 years
There has never really been a common
religious experience in America, and that is as true as ever now: some
ministers report that these days when they announce they will be preaching
on the Apocalypse, attendance jumps at least 20%. But elsewhere church
attendance is back down to where it was before Sept. 11, and those pastors
see little sign of existential dread. Pastor Ted Haggard, who started a
church in his Colorado Springs, Colo., basement that now has 9,000 members,
attributes the surge in End Times interest to the Christian media empire as
much as anything else: "Because of the theology of our church, I don't think
we're close to a Second Coming," he says. "But many of the major Christian
media outlets believe that there is fulfillment, and people respond to that.
People love gloom and doom. People love pending judgment. No. 1, they long
to see Jesus, and No. 2, they look for the justice that Jesus will bring to
the earth in his Second Coming."
35% say they are paying
closer attention to news events and how they might relate to the coming end
of the world since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11
— TIME/CNN Pol
Go into a seminary library, and it's hard
to find scholarly books on apocalyptic theology; academics tend to treat
this tradition as sociology. They see End Times interest rising and falling
on waves of cataclysm and calm. Masses of people became convinced the end
was nigh when Rome was sacked in 410, when the Black Death wiped out
one-third of the population of 14th century Europe, when the tectonic
shudders of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 caused church bells to ring as far
away as England, and certainly after 1945, when for the first time human
beings harnessed the power to bring about their total destruction, not an
act of God, but an act of mankind.
America, a country born with a sense that
divine providence was paying close attention from the start, has always had
a weakness for prophecy. With its deep religious history but no established
church, this country welcomes religious free-lancers and entrepreneurs. Both
the visionaries and the con artists have access to the altar. It took the
shocking events of the last mid-century to draw apocalyptic thinking off the
Fundamentalist margins and into the mainstream. The rise of Hitler, a wicked
man who wanted to murder the Jews, read like a Bible story; his utter
destruction, and the subsequent return of the Jews to Israel after 2,000
years and the capture of Jerusalem's Old City by the Israelis in 1967, were
taken by devout Christians and Jews alike as evidence of God's handiwork.
Israel once again controlled the Temple Mount, a site so holy to Islam and
Christianity as well as Judaism that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
simple act of visiting the mount was sufficient to ignite the current
Palestinian uprising. The Temple Mount is the location of al-Aqsa Mosque,
one of the holiest sites in Islam, and is also the very place where
Christians and Jews believe a new temple must one day be rebuilt before the
Messiah can come. An Australian Evangelical once set fire to the mosque to
clear the way, and to this day security remains exceptionally tight for fear
that those who take Scripture literally might not just believe in what the
prophets promised, but might also try to help it along.
But it took something more, a pre-eminent
theological entrepreneur, to bring a wider American audience to the
apocalyptic tradition. Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth, published
in 1970, became the best-selling nonfiction book of its decade; Time called
Lindsey "the Jeremiah of our generation" for his detailed argument that the
end was approaching. "That's the first book I ever read about last days, and
it changed my life," says George Morrison, pastor of Faith Bible Chapel in
Arvada, Colo., where average Sunday-morning attendance is 4,000. "All of a
sudden, I was made aware that wow, there's an order to this thing."
Lindsey's explanation of the Bible's warnings came just as a backlash was
stirring against '60s liberalism, an echo of the 18th century reaction to
the Enlightenment. Lindsey caught the moment that launched a decade of
evangelical resurgence, when for the first time in generations believers
organized to put their stamp on this world, rather than the next.
The election of Ronald Reagan brought
"Christian Zionism" deeper into the White House: Lindsey served as a
consultant on Middle East affairs to the Pentagon and the Israeli
government. Interior Secretary James Watt, a Pentecostalist, in discussing
environmental concerns, observed, "I don't know how many future generations
we can count on until the Lord returns." Secretary of Defense Caspar
Weinberger affirmed, "I have read the Book of Revelation, and, yes, I
believe the world is going to end—by an act of God, I hope—but every day I
think time is running out." It was no accident that Reagan made his "evil
empire" speech at a meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Page 4 - Posted Sunday, June 23, 2002;
2:31 a.m. EST
It never seemed to hurt that Lindsey's predictions passed their "sell by"
date: during the Gulf War, sales of his book jumped 83%, as people feared
Saddam Hussein was rebuilding Babylon and dragging the world to its last
battle. Nowadays Lindsey sees his early warnings being vindicated almost
daily. "The Muslim terrorists are going to strike the U.S. again and strike
us hard so that we cease to be one of the world's great powers," he says.
"It's not far off." When he wrote his best seller, he says, not many people
took prophecy seriously. "I was called a false prophet for saying there'd be
a United States of Europe back in 1970, but there is one now. People have
watched this scenario continue to come together, and that's why so many
people today are believing we are in the midst of last days."
Actually, the more Evangelicals became
involved in politics, the more they engaged with the world here and now, the
more interest in End Times theology drifted back into the realm of
entertainment. And many argued that was a healthy sign. Not all Evangelicals
embrace End Times theology, and some see in it a dangerous distraction.
Jesus said that when it comes to the time of judgment, "no one knows, not
even the angels in heaven, but My Father only." In that light, if Christians
are called to put their faith in Christ, whatever trials they face, then it
undermines that trust to try to read the signs, unlock the code, focus on
what can't be known rather than on what must be done: heal the sick, tend
the poor, spread the Gospel.
It is one thing to become politically
active to deploy that Gospel to improve people's lives, another to try to
promote a specific religious scenario. Intercessors for America, a
30-year-old prayer ministry, helps keep people politically connected through
e-mail alerts and telephone-prayer chains. The June 11 Prayer Alert
implored, "Lord, raise up government leaders in Israel, the United States
(and worldwide) who will not seek to 'divide the land,' and who would
recognize the unique significance of Jerusalem in God's end-time purposes."
A refusal to consider Israel's withdrawal from any occupied territory would
tend to complicate the peace process: virtually every proposal has involved
a land-for-peace swap. Yet at the same time, "if this wave of terrorism
continues without a meaningful peace treaty soon," predicts John Hagee,
pastor of the 17,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, "the
sparks of war will produce a third world war. And that will be the coming of
the End Times. That will be the end of the world as we know it."
To the true believers, that seems less a
threat than the fulfillment of a promise. "If we keep our eyes on Israel, we
will know about the return of Christ," says Oleeta Herrmann, 77, of Xenia,
Ohio. "Everything that is happening—wars, rumors of war—in the Middle East
is happening according to Scripture." Herrmann is a member of the End-Time
Handmaidens and Servants, a group of global missionaries who preach the
Gospel with an emphasis on End Times teachings. Sept. 11 is proof of her
belief that the Second Coming of Christ is "closer than it ever has been,"
And therein lies the central paradox in
this wave of End Times interest. If you believe the end is near, is the
reaction hope, or dread? "Even though the Left Behind series has been
popular, many people still think of the End Times as negative," wrote Kyle
Watson on his prophecy news website, AtlantaChristianWeekly.com. He thinks
believers should be excited about the end of the world. "Try viewing
prophecy and current events [as] how much closer we are to being with Christ
That impulse to hope for a good ending is
one Cal Thomas, the conservative columnist, sees even in the disciples'
questions for Jesus. He cites Bible passages in which the Apostles press
Jesus for clues about how the future unfolds. "This is intellectual comfort
food, the whole Left Behind phenomenon, because it says to people, in a
popularized way, it's all going to pan out in the end," he says. "It assures
them, in the midst of a general cultural breakdown and a time of growing
danger, that God is going to redeem the time." Evangelicals who had felt
somehow left behind in secular terms, by a coarse culture and a fear of
general moral decay, welcome arguments that even the most tragic events may
be evidence of God's larger plan. In fact, you don't have to be religious to
be hoping for that as well.
—With reporting by Amanda
Bower/New York, Rita Healy/Denver, Marc Hequet/St. Paul, Tom Morton/ Casper,
Adam Pitluk/San Antonio, Matt Rees/Jerusalem, Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles,
Melissa Sattley/Austin and Daniel Terdiman/San Francisco
Go to time.com
. . .
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