Sunday, December 26, 2004

Grooming the Next Generation of Vipers 

Via our esteemed colleague Bernard Rooney of Geoist: Don't look now, but charity's down and peace is on the ropes. A week ago we introduced you to the Chalcedon Foundation, a Christian dominionist think-tank promoting the conveniently Norquistian doctrine that "forced redistribution of wealth" in order to accomplish "social action" -- in other words, any sort of government program that might actually help the poor -- represents an unwelcome intrusion onto God's rightful turf. Now Fred Clark of the Slactivist dips into the oeuvre of Messrs. La Haye and Jenkins to explain why the prospect of world peace is regarded with open horror by the millions of premillenial dispensationalists who have learned to stop worrying and love the bomb:
That word -- "peacemaker" -- practically screams Antichrist. For LaHaye and Jenkins' intended readers, it wouldn't be any clearer if Carpathia [chief bad guy of the Left Behind series -- S.] had the number "666" tattooed on his forehead and went by the nickname "Horny Beast."

For those not initiated into the cabalistic logic of PMD prophecy freaks, this seems counter-intuitive. Peace, after all, is generally regarded by Scripture as a Good Thing. Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The Messiah is described as the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7). Peace is often spoken of by God's angels, including the heavenly host of the Christmas story in Luke 2 (cue Linus), who sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" . . . .

But none of this matters to the prophecy nuts who are convinced that the Antichrist will be a man of peace. And since they believe that the most important thing for Christians to do is to be on the lookout against the Antichrist, and vigilantly opposed to his evil ways, they believe that Christians must oppose anyone who speaks of, pursues, or tries to make, peace.

This is one of the most astonishing and dangerous aspects of the popularity of the End Times heresies promoted by people like LaHaye and Jenkins. It is one of this biggest reasons why this matters -- deeply, truly, seriously matters.

Tens of millions of copies of the Left Behind books have been sold. That doesn't just mean that tens of millions of our fellow citizens have horrible taste in literature. It also means they are being taught to oppose -- to condemn as immoral and ungodly -- any effort that goes under the name "peacemaking."

Since they believe the Antichrist will rule over a one world government, these readers are also being taught to fear, loathe and oppose the United Nations and anything that smacks of multilateral or international cooperation. (We'll see much more about the UN as we get further into L.B.)

Oddly, the PMD prophecy heretics often have a hard time explaining exactly why it is that they believe the Antichrist will be "a man of peace." They love to quote (and twist) the Bible, but if you press them on this point, they're far more likely to quote instead from the received wisdom of some other "prophecy scholar." LaHaye is just saying it because Hal Lindsay said it. And Lindsay was just repeating Scofield and Ironsides. And those guys were just repeating
Darby [originator, in 1827, of the notion of the "rapture" -- S.], who concocted the whole convoluted scheme and is notoriously hard to follow.
Fred Clark has been examining end-times mania through the prism of the Left Behind books for over a year now. His entire series is archived here.

UPDATE: You'll find more glad tidings in the Dominionism section of Liberal Agit-Prop (no individual permalinks; you'll just have to scroll down). "Blue State Jesus" cites an article by Carolyn Baker:
Were Jesus with us today, he would be an enormous problem for the Dominionists . . . . Railing against abuses of religion, he brashly threw the religious elite out of the temple because they were charging the poor for worshipping there. Constantly throwing the plight of the poor in the faces of the exploitative Pharisees, he blatantly argued that in God’s eyes, the poor were more valued than the rich—a spectacular inversion of Dominionist ideology which like the dogma of seventeenth-century American Puritanism holds that wealth is an indication of God’s blessing.
And "Bush as the Antichrist" has extensive quotes from Methodist Rev. Rich Lang of Seattle, whose sermon "George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism" is posted on his church's website:
[T]he power and seduction of this administration emerges from its diabolical manipulation of Christian rhetoric . . . the mirror opposite of what Jesus embodied. It is, indeed, the materialization of the spirit of Antichrist: a perversion of Christian faith and practice.
See also Jeffrey Sharlet's article "Jesus Plus Nothing" (from the March 2003 Harper's) about an "invisible" Alexandria-based organization known as "the Family":
Senators Don Nickles (R., Okla.), Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), Pete Domenici (R., N.Mex.), John Ensign (R., Nev.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Conrad Burns (R., Mont.) are referred to as “members,” as are Representatives Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.), Zach Wamp (R., Tenn.), and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.). Regular prayer groups have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries. The Family maintains a closely guarded database of its associates, but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities . . . .

In the process of introducing powerful men to Jesus, the Family has managed to effect a number of behind-the-scenes acts of diplomacy. In 1978 it secretly helped the Carter Administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and more recently, in 2001, it brought together the warring leaders of Congo and Rwanda for a clandestine meeting, leading to the two sides' eventual peace accord last July. Such benign acts appear to be the exception to the rule. During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand “Communists” killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise. “We work with power where we can,” the Family's leader, Doug Coe, says, “build new power where we can't.”

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