Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sure Beats Feeding the Hungry, Comforting the Sick, Etc. 

What ho! As the following story demonstrates, there is a thin line between scatology and eschatology, and it's getting thinner by the minute:
For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it.

Their endgame is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah.

For some Christians this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon.

With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission: to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message. Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades . . . .

Some religious scholars saw apocalyptic fever rise as the year 2000 approached, and they expected it to subside after the millennium arrived without a hitch.

It didn't. According to various polls, an estimated 40% of Americans believe that a sequence of events presaging the end times is already underway. Among the believers are pastors of some of the largest evangelical churches in America, who converged at Faith Central Bible Church in Inglewood in February to finalize plans to start 5 million new churches worldwide in 10 years . . . .

A growing number of fundamentalist Christians in mostly Southern states are adopting Jewish religious practices to align themselves with prophecies saying that Gentiles will stand as one with Jews when the end is near.

Evangelist John C. Hagee of the 19,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio has helped 12,000 Russian Jews move to Israel, and donated several million dollars to Israeli hospitals and orphanages . . . .

Given end-times scenarios saying that non-believers will die before Jesus returns — and that the antichrist will rule from Jerusalem's rebuilt Holy Temple — Jews have mixed feelings about the outpouring of support Israel has been getting from evangelical organizations.

"I sincerely recognize [Hagee] as a hero for bringing planeloads of people to Israel at a time when people there were getting blown up by the busloads," [Rabbi Brad] Hirschfield said. "But he also believes that the only path to the father is through Jesus. That leaves me out" . . . .

Over in Mississippi, [Rev. Clyde] Lott believes that he is doing God's work, and that is why he wants to raise a few head of red heifers for Jewish high priests. Citing Scripture, Lott and others say a pure red heifer must be sacrificed and burned and its ashes used in purification rituals to allow Jews to rebuild the temple.

But Lott's plans have been sidetracked.

Facing a maze of red tape and testing involved in shipping animals overseas — and rumors of threats from Arabs and Jews alike who say the cows would only bring more trouble to the Middle East — he has given up on plans to fly planeloads of cows to Israel. For now.

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