Photo by Edwin Kagin

Fundamentally Aware

 

Bringing America’s Own Religious Extremism to the Forefront

March 21, 2003

Volume 1, Number 3

 

“A blockbuster

exposé of the activities of the

Religious Right,”

says JOHN SHELBY SPONG best-selling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism

 

 

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“I have just read this brilliant book from start to finish, almost without a break, and I am stunned and horrified by what I have learned,” says RICHARD DAWKINS author of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

 

From the publisher

 

 

Welcome to issue 3 of Fundamentally Aware. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my complimentary newsletter, be sure to sign up. You’ll find details in the lower left column.

 

As expected, America ’s war with Iraq is now underway. But besides oil and personal vengeance, Christian fundamentalist and evangelical end-time beliefs may also be a motivating factor. Read an excerpt on end-time beliefs from The Fundamentals of Extremism.

 

As always, please feel free to share your comments with me.

 

Kimberly Blaker

 

KimberlyBlaker@chartermi.net

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

  1. Yearnings for Mayhem

 

  2. Politically Incorrect

 

  3. Christian Fundamentalist Agenda Likely Motivates War

 

  4. War and Prophecy

 

 

 

 

Yearnings for Mayhem

 

The following excerpt is written by Edwin Kagin from The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America .

The Second Coming of Christ is also associated with fundamentalism and is most often seen in either pre-millennial or postmillennial beliefs. Under pre-millennialism there are several competing theories dealing with “the Rapture” and “the Tribulation.” The Rapture is the time when true believers assume they will be lifted from the horrors of end-time destruction. It is “a mass migration of living and dead, born-again Christians . . .[who] will ascend through the air and meet Jesus Christ in the sky.”[i] Rapture is derived from the Latin word "rapare" and “means to take away or to snatch out.”[ii] According to this view, “Pilots would disappear from planes, truck drivers from their trucks; [and] people from automobiles. . . .”[iii]

 

The Tribulation is the belief the Antichrist will appear on Earth to begin a seven-year period of utter misery. According to pre-millennialists, the Second Coming of Christ will then occur in which he will rule for a period of 1,000 years, known as the Millennium. There is theological dispute over the timing of the Rapture. Some hold the Rapture occurs just before the Tribulation. Others say the faithful will be raptured after the horrors of the Tribulation. And others still, maintain the Rapture will take place midway, or forty-two months into it. [iv]

 

Pre-millennialism has become the dominant of the end-time beliefs in many Pentecostal and fundamentalist churches.[v] Martin observes the pre-millennial doctrine holds the view, “bad news—political anarchy, religious apostasy, increased wickedness, earthquakes, plagues, and the like,” are a sign of the Second Coming.[vi] It is perhaps for this reason James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior under Reagan claimed, “We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.”[vii]

 

Pre-millennialism generally fares better in bad times because it offers hope for those who believe.[viii] The Rapture, in the eyes of the fundamentalist, is a glorious moment for the chosen because it secures eternal salvation. Believers in Pre-millennialism imagine an Earth filled with general mayhem, blood-filled rivers, nuclear war, and strange beasts stalking the land.[ix] . . .

 

The pre-millennial doctrine appears to contain an inherent flaw for the fundamentalist believer, however. Christ can only return when things are at their most horrendously sinful state. While many pre-millennialists look forward to this wholeheartedly, at the same time, according to ReligiousTolerance.org:

 

they tend to be very outspoken and active in their opposition to abortion access, equal rights for homosexuals, pre-marital sex, adultery, sex education in schools, access to physician assisted suicide, the use of embryonic stem cells, etc. By their opposition to these "hot" religiously controversial topics, they are delaying Jesus' return to earth, the rapture and the 1,000-year millennium.[x]

 

Dr. Edward Hindson, Dean of the Institute of Biblical Studies at Liberty University , in “What Will It Be Like To Be Left Behind?” is a typical example of the pre-millennialist. He relies upon the Biblical book of Revelations in attacking the idea of a world at peace, a situation fundamentalists see as an anti-Christian “New World Order”:

 

While the desire for peace clings to the deepest crevice of the human heart, the prospects for global destruction are far greater than the prospects for global peace. Undoubtedly, men will continue to strive for peaceful solutions. But beyond the attempts at peace is the final holocaust. Those who are left behind after the Rapture will face a terrible future. . . . John’s description of the trumpet judgments (Revelation 8:2-11:19) sounds very similar to a global holocaust. The entire planet will be affected by massive destruction, loss of life, and human suffering. The chaos that results will destabilize both the global economy and the world government predicted in chapter 13. . . . John the revelator paints a picture of global devastation. He sees the vegetation burned up, a mountain of fire falling into the sea, stars falling from heaven and the darkening of the sun by a thickened atmosphere. It is no wonder that he hears an angel flying through heaven shouting, ‘Woe, woe, woe, to the inhibiters of the earth’ ( 8:13 ).[xi]

 

 

Read more on this and other characteristics of Christian fundamentalism in Edwin Kagin’s chapter The Gathering Storm in The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America.

 

 

Politically Incorrect

“Any citizen who's offended [by faith-based charities] . . . can leave the service.”

-- John Ashcroft, January 13, 2003, at a political function in Denver , Colorado , as reported in the Denver Post, January 14, 2003 .

 

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Fundamentally Aware

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Kimberly Blaker

 

Editor/coauthor

The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America

 

 

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chartermi.net

 

 

 

 

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Christian Fundamentalist Agenda Likely Motivates War

Alabama has long been known for its ultra-conservatism and Christian-right politicians.  It was only a few years ago that Gov. Fob James (now former governor) threatened to call in the National Guard if anyone attempted to remove the Ten Commandments from Judge Roy Moore’s courtroom. 

Battles with Moore , now Alabama ’s Chief Justice, have gone on for years, especially since his 2001 erection of a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the state’s capitol.

But so extreme were Gov. James’ views, he had the audacity, during his term, to claim that the federal Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to the states. This was his rationalization for school-sponsored religious activity that had taken place in Dekalb County .

Then in 1998, mainstream Alabamians saw some relief when Don Siegelman, a democrat, defeated James in the race for governor.

Nonetheless, another religious extremist has once again taken seat in Alabama ’s state capitol.  Gov. Bob Riley, a Southern Baptist, is following in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s footsteps. Riley’s holding weekly Bible study classes with his senior staff members and cabinet in the state Capitol building.

Although the Sunday school sessions are held during nonbusiness hours and participation isn’t required, the intent isn’t above suspicion.

On March 8, at a Friends of the Family Celebration, an annual Christian Coalition event where Riley was keynote speaker, he called for prayer soldiers, not only for the impending war with Iraq, but for a war that he perceives is taking place in America—a war for the minds.

Riley asserted, “There is another war that is going on in this country. This one is far more insidious. It's one that you just can't go and attack. It's a war for the absolute soul of this country.”

He continued, God looked down on this country because this country was founded on the rock—and that rock was our lord and savior Jesus Christ. And when the storms came and the rains came, the rock, it did not move. But over the last 15 or 20 years, something began to erode.”

“If we are going to save this country, if we are going to re-establish that belief in God, it's up to us. If we don't do it, who will?” Riley concluded.

Riley’s particular reference to “re-establish” belief in God is a revelation of the intended purpose of his Bible Study conclave.  This seems especially apparent given that the most recent senses of the word “establish,” as defined in Webster’s dictionary, are “to make (a church) a national or state institution” and “to put beyond doubt.”

Riley might have chosen a less threatening word, such as “encourage,” “support,” or “promote.” But he didn’t.  And while even these particular terms could be seen as crossing the line, they at least suggest pursuing voluntary belief in God, versus forced or coerced.

Riley (who recently visited President George W. Bush) says that if the war with Iraq comes to pass, it would, in reality be fighting “for our right to worship as we see fit.”

 

I suspect there’s far more truth to his statement than he cares to divulge.  War can create more public fear, economic decline, instability, even utter chaos should it backfire, than anything. War can be an important ingredient to shake up a country and cause its citizens to desperately seek comfort in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. 

 

Could this be at least one of the underlying motives in the Bush Administration’s push toward war? I don’t think it’s as far fetched as we might like to believe.  But in the end, it’s a fight to worship as Christian conservatives see fit—not to worship in the vast ways that all Americans see fit. I also fear some see this as an opportunity to bring about the Armageddon.

 

 

Kimberly Blaker is editor and coauthor of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America . Visit http://www.NewBostonBooks.com for details.  Read previously published columns of The Wall™ at http://www.thewall-onchurchandstate/com © 2003, Kimberly Blaker

 

 

War and Prophecy

 

Fundamentalist and born-again Christians talk and forewarn about Iraq in relation to the tribulation.  In my search for fundamentalist sites regarding these views, I came across a couple of interesting articles in the Washington Post and the Indianapolis Star on just this topic.

 

 

http://www.indystar.com/print/articles/4/029285-9634-010.html

 

 

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1814428

 

Visit the following web sites and read Christian fundamentalist takes on the situation with Iraq and its relationship to the tribulation.

 

http://www.calvaryprophecy.com/q230.html

 

http://www.finalgeneration.com/bible_prophecy/the_end_times.shtml

 

http://www.tribulation.com/iraqbaby.htm

 

http://www.raptureready.com/rr-iraq.html

 

 

 

 

 



[i] “The Rapture: Hoax or Hope?” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance website [online] [cited 6 April 2002 ]; available at http://www.religioustolerance.org/rapture.htm.

[ii] “The Rapture.”

[iii] “The Rapture.”

[iv] B. A. Robinson, “Millennialism: Competing Theories,” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance website [online] [cited 6 April 2002 ]; available at http://www.religioustolerance.org/millenni.htm.

[v] Lattin, “Apocalypse,” 8.

[vi] Martin, With God, 7.

[vii] “They Said What?!? The Religious Rights Quotes,” The Humanist Society of Gainesville website [online] [cited 15 March 2002 ]; available at http://www.lipsio.com/gainesvillehumanists/quotes.htm.

[viii] Martin, With God, 7.

[ix] Charles B. Strozier, Apocalypse on the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 120.

[x] Robinson, “Millennialism.”

[xi] Edward Hindson, “What Will It Be Like To Be Left Behind,” The Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy website [online] [cited 14 May 2002 ]; available at http://www.schoolofprophecy.com/left_behind.html.


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