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Preterism & Futurism


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Sometimes wrong ideas and misunderstandings are not dangerous. Sometimes they are. What I refer to may be related to Bush's "dangerous religion" but it is not exactly the same thing...

 

I'm reffering to the ever ongoing obsession with Left Behind Series, Tribulation, Omega Code, etc. How have beliefs in a rapture, a tribulation, a literal antichrist, a literal millennium, and the general "end of the world" hysteria affected the Church and our country for that matter?

 

Perhaps you progressives are not as exposed to this type of thing as some people. However, within the world of fundamentalism, conservatism and evangelicalism--these have basically become cardinal doctrines and according to some you have to believe in them to be Christian.

 

I disagree, obviously. My hermeneutic on the issue is preterism. However, what concerns me is not a difference in belief or interpretation; but in where such things could lead.

 

I would argue that they are leading in a bad direction. For example, if one really believes that the book of Revelation predicts that America will bomb the heck out of the Middle East in an Apocalyptic war--how will such a belief affect the actions of someone like Bush and other admitted fundamentalists engaged in politics? For crying out loud, people's misunderstandings of Revelation could lead to a nuclear war.

 

I am the only Christian concerned about such eschatological hysteria?

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I have to confess that Tribulation, Rapture, Left Behind, PreMillenianism, etc. etc. are so far off my radar screen that I have no sense of there being a substantial following for this nonsense at all. (Who's naive? Me!?!)

 

OTOH I realize that the book series is selling well. My best friend's wife belongs to an evangelical church, and she mentioned the book series in a conversation a couple of years ago. I think my "sensitivity to other people's feelings" meter was on the fritz and I said something dismissive, and she couldn't understand how I could consider myself Christian and not believe in Rapture. My response (sensitivity meter still somehow reading "0") was that I couldn't understand how someone could reconcile their life in the real world with such an irrational concept. Needless to say in the 15 or so times we've seen each other since, the topic has somehow never came up again.

 

But in truth I do not understand how people with any kind of modern world view could hold such ideas as being true. But again I don't understand how people can believe that Satan is any kind of real being either. I know that lots and lots of people do, including some in my church community.

 

I think that the huge gap between progressive Xtians and conservative evangelicals is an understanding of God as a Being that intervenes in the experienced world. I think the differing understandings of God make conversation difficult if not impossible.

 

Lou

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Left Behind by John Dart

 

Formerly religion religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, John Dart is news editor of the Christian Century magazine. This article appeared in The Christian Century, September 25-October 8, 2002 p. 9. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

 

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"I tell you, that on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will he two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left." Luke 17:34-35, NRSV.

 

 

The "Left Behind" fiction series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins borrows its title from passages like those in Luke 17 in which Jesus describes events of the end times. Verses 34 and 35 are widely interpreted to mean that those taken are the lucky ones. Moreover, Left Behind fans and others influenced by dispensationalist theology tend to see the ones taken as "raptured" heavenward to be with the Lord.

 

Not so, says New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III.

 

"A first-century audience would have understood [Luke 17:35] to mean one will be taken away for judgment, while the other will escape judgment by remaining where she is," he wrote recently in Bible Review. "This is clear from the context, which is about the coming judgment -- a judgment that, in Jewish literature, everyone is expected to face."

 

Witherington says it was very common in both Jewish and Greco-Roman literature of that era to see the phrase "taken away for judgment." The Asbury Seminary professor said he interprets the term ‘taken" in this context "of the long history of Israel’s being taken away into exile, and individuals being taken away for trial and judgment, including Jesus," he said.

 

"Those left behind are spared judgment or exile or the like," he said. "And, of course, nothing [is said] here about avoiding tribulation." In other words, even the ones remaining were likely to face eventual chaos and tribulation in end-time scenarios. He said he suspects that "Left Behind" theology attempts to harmonize this Jesus saying with Paul’s colorful imagery of believers being caught up, or raptured, into the clouds in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, as if the two scenarios envisioned the same thing.

 

Mainstream New Testament scholars are divided on who is the lucky person -- the one taken or the one left -- especially when attempting to interpret a following verse, Luke 17:37. The disciples ask Jesus, "Where, Lord?" He answers, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." The footnote in the HarperCollins Study Bible says: "This saying seems to mean that to find those left, one must look for the circling vultures." Yet it could also be argued that the disciples are asking where those taken will find themselves. The location of those left is known -- still in bed or at the grinding mill.

 

Robert C. Tannehill of Methodist Theological School in Ohio wrote in a 1996 commentary that "being ‘taken’ would indicate deliverance. This, however, is not certain. Furthermore, there is nothing here about escaping a period of tribulation that is coming on the rest of the world, as in the current doctrine of the rapture."

 

In another book on Luke published the same year, British scholar Christopher M. Tuckett indicated that those "taken" face sudden judgment. Of the parables in Luke 12 on the thief at night and the waiting servants, he said that "both warn of an event which may come at any moment and catch out those who are unprepared with disastrous consequences. The same is to be found in the apocalyptic material in Luke 17:23-37, he said.

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Beam Me Up Theology by John Dart

 

Formerly religion religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, John Dart is news editor of the Christian Century magazine. This article appeared in The Christian Century, September 25-October 8, 2002, pp. 8-9. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at www.christiancentury.org. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

 

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The hugely popular "Left Behind" series of novels continues to frustrate mainstream pastors and biblical scholars who object to an "end-times" theology they consider just as fictional as the books’ genre. The readers are real, however. The tenth and most recent volume in the series, The Remnant, picked up 2.4 million orders in the two months before its July release.

 

In a little-noticed resolution passed overwhelmingly by the 2001 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), delegates declared that the theology of the series is "not in accord with our Reformed understanding" of the New Testament Book of Revelation. The resolution urged pastors to lead their congregations through studies of the novels if they are causing "confusion and dissension."

 

In addition, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod said the books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are "filled with very serious errors about what the Bible really teaches." A critical analysis in December 2000 by the late A. L. Barry, then-president of the church, remains on the synod’s Web site.

 

By contrast, the Assemblies of God Web site carries a friendly interview with LaHaye from 2000, along with the denomination’s stance on "the rapture" as a "blessed hope." For the sinner "to be left behind will involve indescribable suffering as God judges a rebellious and disobedient world" according to the Assemblies’ doctrinal statement.

 

Recently joining the fray was evangelical scholar Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary a prolific author of New Testament studies. In the August issue of Bible Review magazine, Witherington noted the popular appeal that apocalyptic literature has in unsettling times, "Unfortunately, not all apocalyptic thinking is good apocalyptic thinking, and this is especially true of the so-called dispensational theology that informs these novels," Witherington wrote. "The most distinctive feature of dispensational theology is what I call the ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ belief."

 

In a similar vein, Bill Hull, a Samford University research professor, told Associated Baptist Press recently that "dispensationalism," in which God tests humans in certain time periods, remains a minority view among theologians. The ideas, spread in the 1860s by English evangelist John Nelson Darby, gained popularity with the publication of the influential Scofield Reference Bible in 1909, which contains long footnotes outlining Darby’s views. A dispensationalist precursor to the "Left Behind" series was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth -- a record-breaking best seller in the 1970s.

 

The supernatural plot in the LaHaye-Jenkins novels, published by Tyndale House, has true believers taken from the earth in a "rapture" that precedes seven years of suffering -- the great tribulation -- for those left behind. Drawing on images in Revelation, the books predict an Antichrist demanding universal loyalty and acceptance of a "mark of the beast" on their bodies. Plagues and suffering ensue until Jesus returns to establish a 1,000-year reign on earth.

 

Hull, former dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, contends that the "Left Behind" series perpetuates "a massive misunderstanding" of scripture. Hull discounts LaHaye’s account of "a secret rapture where unbelievers don’t know why people have disappeared. He notes that Revelation 1:7 says that when Christ returns "Every eye shall see him." The present dean of the Louisville seminary, Danny Aiken, told the news service that he agrees with the books’ general theology, but is concerned about liberties the authors take with scripture.

 

"A well-informed minister should be reading the ‘Left Behind’ series, because his people are," Aiken said.

 

At least one survey has shown that only half of the series’ readers can be called evangelicals. But even nonevangelicals have at least a vague sense of awful predictions in the Bible. Months after the September11 skyjacking attacks, a Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that prophesies in Revelation will come true. Nearly a fourth think the Bible predicted the terrorist attacks specifically.

 

Two critiques of the novels have appeared over the past year in Bible Review. British scholar N. T. Wright, who has engaged in debates with liberal Jesus Seminar leaders, wrote in the August 2001 issue that the huge U.S. success of the "Left Behind" series "appears puzzling, even bizarre" on the other side of the Atlantic.

 

The dramatic end-time scenario of believers being snatched up into heaven is an incorrect interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Wright said. That passage about meeting the Lord in the air "should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world" -- similar to residents meeting a visiting emperor in open country, then escorting him into the city, he said. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, according to Wright, are not the same as Gospel passages about "the Son of man coming on the clouds" (such as Mark 13:26 and 14:62), which "are about Jesus’ vindication, his ‘coming’ to heaven from earth."

 

Witherington’s column in Bible Review a year later seconded Wright’s interpretation of the Thessalonian verses, arguing that, according to Paul, those meeting Christ in the sky would return to earth to reign with him there. Witherington also disputed an "unwarranted" view by dispensationalists that the last generation of Christians are "exempt" from tribulation. "Why should the last generation of Christians expect to do less cross-bearing than previous ones?’ he asked.

 

"The idea that John of Patmos, the author of Revelation, intended his message to be understood only by a late 20th-century or 21st-century Western Christian audience is not only arrogant -- it flies in the face of what John himself writes in Revelation 2-3," said Witherington. "Here John states quite clearly that his intended audience was Christians in western Asia Minor at the end of the first century AD."

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And here's a GREAT article entitled When Truth Gets Left Behind, put out by the Christian Research Council (CRI) - a rather conservative Christian apologetics organization. It is interesting to me that even they speak out against this kind of premillennial dispensatitionalist mania. Simply cut and paste the following link: http://www.equip.org/free/DW257.pdf

 

Ultimately, what frustrates me about this current fad is 1) it claims to be "the" normative Christian view of things; and 2) it can lead to moral quietude; i.e. "if the world's about to get destroyed, then heck, why bother caring about the environment (note Bush's views of Global warming) and why bother caring about any one other than yourself (ignoring the needs of others)."

 

Now, if these Christians would pause to think a moment, they'd find that they could hold such views if they also were committed to living as FAITHFULLY as possible, including conintued wise stewardship of God's resources, and faithful tending to the needs of the least of these, etc.. Sadly, too many of them have a "beam me up scotty" individualistic mentality.

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There is a lot to worry about the "left behind" crowd. They inflame the middle east situation by blindly supporting Israel believing it will lead to Armegidon. They are indifferent to our declining environment; afterall, the world is ending right? They are also very judgemental of people on the margins of society, labelling them "sinners" and doomed anyway. The very people Jesus reached out to are the ones they exclude.

 

My impression of these folks are that they are feeling left out of the modern world. They are suffering from what Alvin Toffler called "Future Shock". Feeling that they have lost control of their lives, they attempt to simplify things down to black in white. The Bible is taken literally, sex roles are stereotyped, foreign relationships is good vs. evil, etc. Being part of the apocalyptic elite, gives them a sense of importance that they can't find in their ordinary life.

 

The challenge for the progressives is to understand the causes of their mindset and work to change those causes. The least effective thing we can do is to label those on the right as the "enemy". It is these causes that are the "enemy" and it against them they we need to mobilize.

 

Peace and Joy O:-)<

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, well, in this case I agree 100% with the preterism of NT Wright and others. I'm reassured that the Missouri Synod opposes futurism as being non-Biblical seeing as though they are really conservative compared to the ELCA of which I am a part. It's sad, because there really is a lot of truth in Revelation and a lot that all can learn from in it (interpreted in its historical context). Unfortunately, it now becomes an excuse for fundamentalist agendas. Sad.

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  • 1 year later...

I had never heard the term preterism until this week and now I am intrigued.

 

Most biblical interpretation is at least partly preterist.

 

Some scholars like NT Wright are heavily preterist, but still believe that some prophecy is pointing to our future.

 

Pacigoth (or anyone), can you recommend a book that looks at the bible through preterist lenses? I know I can do an amazon search, but I wondered if anyone had any recommendations?

 

Aletheia

 

 

PS: I was just at Barnes and Noble this week picking up a book from CS Lewis and watched about 6 people come down the same isle, go straight to the Christian fiction section, and pick up LeHayes books. Unfortunately it's still going strong. :(

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I had never heard the term preterism until this week and now I am intrigued.

 

Most biblical interpretation is at least partly preterist.

 

Some scholars like NT Wright are heavily preterist, but still believe that some prophecy is pointing to our future.

 

Pacigoth (or anyone), can you recommend a book that looks at the bible through preterist lenses? I know I can do an amazon search, but I wondered if anyone had any recommendations?

 

Aletheia

 

 

PS: I was just at Barnes and Noble this week picking up a book from CS Lewis and watched about 6 people come down the same isle, go straight to the Christian fiction section, and pick up LeHayes books. Unfortunately it's still going strong. :(

I was associated with a sect of Christianity which was connected to the root of dispensationalism and J.N. Darby. However, after some study I moved to the preterist position. Back then it was a very minority viewpoint but apparently has gained in popularity. Now, at this point in my theology, I view eschatology from a Process perspective.

 

I would suggest, if you want more information or some good sources for preterism, you check out:

www.theologyweb.com

and some of the topics by Dee Dee Warren.

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You are all right that as Progressive Christians this "Left behind" belief is very concerning for many reasons. And here are some of my reasons why...

 

A BELIEF SYSTEM THE FOCUSES ON AN ESCAPE HATCH TO HEAVEN LEADS TO SAYING ,"SCREW THE EARTH."

 

Job Ebenzer, director of Environemtnal Stewardship For The Evangelical Luthern Church of America said in the July 19, 1997 issue of the Ventura Star newspaper that, "Many times, heaven and not earth as been the churches' focus, but when you recite the Lord's Prayer, it actually says: "Thy will be done ON EARTH.as it is in heaven." He also explains how this theme of the earth is completely missing from the theological programs at the universities and religious colleges. Yet, the question is why? Especially why the Bible, both the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures are filled with such a wealth of information of this subject?

 

THE 'RAPTURE" BELIEF LEAVES OUT HOPE AND CARE OF ANIMALKIND

 

1. Psalm 36:5, 6 tells us that God is concerned for animalkind and humankind alike. The 'Rapture' belief takes in NO consideration for animalkind's wellbeing and how we fit into the web of life along with them as earth's family. Intersting that is the story of Noah that animals are made sure to have a safe escape plan by God but all a sudden in the "rapture' no one gives a damn about animalkind.

 

2. Psalm 145:15 and 37:29 speaks of God's plan that the earth is to "endure FOREVER."

 

NATIVE AMERICAN'S UNDERSTAND "THY KINGDOM COME" BETTER THAN EVANGELICALS...

 

3. The Native American author Sun Bear wisley points out in his book Black Dawn, Bright Day that in the Bible where the Bible speaks of Jesus talking about "The end of the 'world'," the word here "World" is actually a mistranslation. The actually Greek word found here is suppose to be this "AGE", taken from the Greek word "AEON". See the footenotes in the Living Bible or Living Translation Chapter 9 and 24 of Matthew.

 

So Jesus is talking about the end of this present system of things and 'NOT' the end of this physical planet earth, as the vast majority of Evangelical/Fundamental Protestants teach.So Jesus is talking about the end of this present system of things and 'NOT' the end of this physical planet earth, as the vast majority of Evangelical/Fundamental Protestants teach.

 

ANTI-EARTH THEOLOGY SEEMS TO ALWAYS ALSO CONNECT TO ANTI-FEMALE THEOLOGY

 

4. Because of the Evangelical churches' concern over the ancient theme of the Cananite cult and it's immoral and violant philosophies and practices that were against the God of the Bible, an extreamist parnoia of the femine type attributes of God such as compassion and empathy have resulted.

 

The fact is that the Bible does speaks very clearly that though God is Spirit and therefore is neither male nor female physically in gender, still God has the perfect blend of both fatherly and motherly qualities. After all, let us remember that in the Beginning God said to Jesus: "Let us created them (the humans) in OUR image. " And so, it says that "God created them both male and female." See Gensis 1:2.

 

Thus, it would seem clear that God does not consider femine attributes as inferior or insulting. Infact, Isaiah 49: 19 actually discribes God's love for the ancient people as being like how a nursing mother cares for her newborn baby, saying also that Israel people "were the child of God's womb." God's Son, Jesus, broke many of the ancient man-made rules of his times that were based on discrimination. See John 4:7-42.

 

McDonough speaks in his book how it has been tragic for women, for the church and for the wider earth community as a whole that the vast majority of churches have chose to based their their additudes on the earth and woman and those not in their groups on the social customs and traditions of the dominate views of their society instead of follow the example and creative lead and Gospel of Jesus.

 

ANTI-EARTH+ANTI-FEMALE+ANTI-NATURE=ANTI-SOCIAL JUSTICE

 

Historians of women's equality rightly have pointed out how history proves that additudes that belittle and degrade women seems to come from the precise seem sources who also exploite the earth and hunt animals for mere cruel sport. Does the future salvation of our earth and it's preservation lie souly on imperfect humankind's effort? While we as individuals, and collectively do our part. Revelation 11:18

 

PRO-EARTH, PRO-NATURE=PRO-SOCIAL JUSTICE=PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY

 

Our understanding of the earth and all life upon it and the visualization of it's coming renewl and restoration and it's connection to God could and should inspire a call for a renewed earth-based spirituality appropriate for our time.

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BrotherRog, can you copy, and then cut-n-past this pdf link on here? Cause I presently can not access pdf formats. Thanks

 

And here's a GREAT article entitled When Truth Gets Left Behind, put out by the Christian Research Council (CRI) - a rather conservative Christian apologetics organization. It is interesting to me that even they speak out against this kind of premillennial dispensatitionalist mania. Simply cut and paste the following link: http://www.equip.org/free/DW257.pdf

 

:)BeachOfEden

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at this point in my theology, I view eschatology from a Process perspective.

 

Do you believe that the Bible teaches "the end of the world" from a Process perspective?

 

Or do you believe that the Bible teaches "the end of the world" at all?

 

That is what I'm curious about. I've never looked at the Bible book of Revelation (for example) from any view except futurist. Did the writer intend it be applied to the future? If not, then what was its meaning?

 

Thank you for the web page recommendation. I'm looking forward to researching.

 

On a side note: I've studied a decent amount of Process thought, but haven't ever come across anything on a process view of eschatology. What does it teach?

 

At a "mundane", physical level, I would imagine it would be the same as what science teaches concerning the end of the universe.

 

I guess I'm asking, specifically, what Process Theology teaches. Was Hartshorne Christian? Did he look at things from that perspective? Or did he step outside all previous views and try to get a fresh, unbiased perspective?

 

Aletheia

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Do you believe that the Bible teaches "the end of the world" from a Process perspective?

 

Or do you believe that the Bible teaches "the end of the world" at all?

 

That is what I'm curious about. I've never looked at the Bible book of Revelation (for example) from any view except futurist. Did the writer intend it be applied to the future? If not, then what was its meaning?

 

Thank you for the web page recommendation. I'm looking forward to researching.

 

On a side note: I've studied a decent amount of Process thought, but haven't ever come across anything on a process view of eschatology. What does it teach?

 

At a "mundane", physical level, I would imagine it would be the same as what science teaches concerning the end of the universe.

 

I guess I'm asking, specifically, what Process Theology teaches. Was Hartshorne Christian? Did he look at things from that perspective? Or did he step outside all previous views and try to get a fresh, unbiased perspective?

 

Aletheia

Tough questions! I tend to stumble over the idea that the Bible is a teacher. So, with your permission I will rephrase the question so that it asks: What do I believe was the writer's belief who wrote the book of Revelation?

 

My answer is that I believe the writer believed he had a mystical experience in which he became privy to truths which are normally hidden. John of Patmos was so impressed with his experience that he felt compelled to write it down and share it with his brothers and sisters for whom he apparently. I also believe that John's experience was influenced by the apocalyptic expectations of his day.

 

Do I believe that John's writing is a revelation of events that are certain to happen? No, I do not. I believe the future is open. Not even God knows what events are certain to happen.

 

Does the book of Revelation have any relevance to our situation today - or can the Spirit of Jesus teach us important truths using the words of John today? Yes, very much so. Personnally, I have been influenced the most by the book of Revelation through the interpretations of the Mennonites.

 

John Cobb recently answered a question about the Process view of eschatology which you can find here: http://www.ctr4process.org/pandf//nucobb_faq.htm

 

Harshorne considered himself to be a philosopher - not a theologian and not even a Christian philosopher. If you get a chance to look at his book, "A Natural Theology For Our Time" you will find this in the first paragraph -

 

If the philosopher's system or method leads him to formulate a conception having at least some analoy with the central operative idea in the practices, not simply in the theological theories, of one or more of the high religions, he may call his conception by the religious name.

 

He used the term "God" for the conception to which he referred.

 

Did I answer all your questions? I hope you'll share some of your discoveries in the book of Hebrews!

 

Don

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Published on Monday, December 6, 2004 by

CommonDreams.org

On Receiving Harvard Medical School's Global

Environment Citizen Award

by Bill Moyers

 

On Wednesday, December 1, 2004, the Center for Health

and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School

presented its fourth annual Global Environment Citizen

Award to Bill Moyers. In presenting the award, Meryl

Streep, a member of the Center board, said, "Through

resourceful, intrepid reportage and perceptive voices

from the forward edge of the debate, Moyers has

examined an environment under siege with the aim of

engaging citizens." Here is the text of his response

to Ms. Streep's presentation of the award:

 

I accept this award on behalf of all the people behind

the camera whom you never see. And for all those

scientists, advocates, activists, and just plain

citizens whose stories we have covered in reporting on

how environmental change affects our daily lives. We

journalists are simply beachcombers on the shores of

other people's knowledge, other people's experience,

and other people's wisdom. We tell their stories.

 

The journalist who truly deserves this award is my

friend, Bill McKibben. He enjoys the most conspicuous

place in my own pantheon of journalistic heroes for

his pioneer work in writing about the environment. His

bestseller The End of Nature carried on where Rachel

Carson's Silent Spring left off.

 

Writing in Mother Jones recently, Bill described how

the problems we journalists routinely cover -

conventional, manageable programs like budget

shortfalls and pollution - may be about to convert to

chaotic, unpredictable, unmanageable situations. The

most unmanageable of all, he writes, could be the

accelerating deterioration of the environment,

creating perils with huge momentum like the greenhouse

effect that is causing the melt of the arctic to

release so much freshwater into the North Atlantic

that even the Pentagon is growing alarmed that a

weakening gulf stream could yield abrupt and

overwhelming changes, the kind of changes that could

radically alter civilizations.

 

That's one challenge we journalists face - how to tell

such a story without coming across as Cassandras,

without turning off the people we most want to

understand what's happening, who must act on what they

read and hear.

 

As difficult as it is, however, for journalists to

fashion a readable narrative for complex issues

without depressing our readers and viewers, there is

an even harder challenge - to pierce the ideology that

governs official policy today. One of the biggest

changes in politics in my lifetime is that the

delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from

the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval

office and in Congress. For the first time in our

history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of

power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions

that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to

a world view despite being contradicted by what is

generally accepted as reality. When ideology and

theology couple, their offspring are not always bad

but they are always blind. And there is the danger:

voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

 

Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first

Secretary of the Interior? My favorite online

environmental journal, the ever engaging Grist,

reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S.

Congress that protecting natural resources was

unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus

Christ. In public testimony he said, 'after the last

tree is felled, Christ will come back.'

 

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know

what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious.

So were his compatriots out across the country. They

are the people who believe the Bible is literally true

- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent

Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several

million good and decent citizens went to the polls

believing in the rapture index. That's right - the

rapture index. Google it and you will find that the

best-selling books in America today are the twelve

volumes of the left-behind series written by the

Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior,

Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a

fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by

a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate

passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative

that has captivated the imagination of millions of

Americans.

 

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British

writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant

dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding

to my own understanding): once Israel has occupied the

rest of its 'biblical lands,' legions of the

anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final

showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who

have not been converted are burned, the messiah will

return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted

out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where,

seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch

their political and religious opponents suffer plagues

of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several

years of tribulation that follow.

 

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the

literature. I've reported on these people, following

some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are

sincere, serious, and polite as they tell you they

feel called to help bring the rapture on as

fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have

declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish

settlements and backed up their support with money and

volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was

a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation

where four angels 'which are bound in the great river

Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of

man.' A war with Islam in the Middle East is not

something to be feared but welcomed - an essential

conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time

I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144-just one

point below the critical threshold when the whole

thing will blow, the son of God will return, the

righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be

condemned to eternal hellfire.

 

So what does this mean for public policy and the

environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of

reporting by the journalist, Glenn Scherer - 'the road

to environmental apocalypse. Read it and you will see

how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe

that environmental destruction is not only to be

disregarded but actually welcomed - even hastened - as

a sign of the coming apocalypse.

 

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a

handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden

to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before

the recent election - 231 legislators in total - more

since the election - are backed by the religious

right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the

108th congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval

ratings from the three most influential Christian

right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority

Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch

McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of

Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House

Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt.

The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the

Christian coalition was Senator Zell Miller of

Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of

Amos on the senate floor: "the days will come, sayeth

the Lord God, that i will send a famine in the land.'

He seemed to be relishing the thought.

 

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002

TIME/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans

believe that the prophecies found in the Book of

Revelation are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter

think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive

across the country with your radio tuned to the more

than 1,600 Christian radio stations or in the motel

turn some of the 250 Christian TV stations and you can

hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come

to understand why people under the spell of such

potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts

it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about

the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and

pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of

the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about

global climate change when you and yours will be

rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting

from oil to solar when the same God who performed the

miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few

billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

 

Because these people believe that until Christ does

return, the lord will provide. One of their texts is a

high school history book, America's Providential

History. You'll find there these words: "the secular

or socialist has a limited resource mentality and

views the world as a pie

that needs to be cut up so

everyone can get a piece.' however, "[t]he Christian

knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that

there is no shortage of resources in God's

earth

 

while many secularists view the world as

overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the

earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to

accommodate all of the people." No wonder Karl Rove

goes around the White House whistling that militant

hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out

millions of the foot soldiers on November 2, including

many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving

force in modern American politics.

 

I can see in the look on your faces just how had it is

for the journalist to report a story like this with

any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level.

I myself don't know how to be in this world without

expecting a confident future and getting up every

morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have

always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my

friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you

think of the market?" "I'm optimistic," he answered.

"Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered:

"Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

 

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric

Chivian and the Center for Health and the Global

Environment that people will protect the natural

environment when they realize its importance to their

health and to the health and lives of their children.

Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to

believe that - it's just that I read the news and

connect the dots:

 

I read that the administrator of the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency has declared the

election a mandate for President Bush on the

environment. This for an administration that wants to

rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the

Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and

animal species and their habitats, as well as the

National Environmental Policy Act that requires the

government to judge beforehand if actions might damage

natural resources.

 

That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone;

eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections; and ease

pollution standards for cars, sports utility vehicles

and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.

 

That wants a new international audit law to allow

corporations to keep certain information about

environmental problems secret from the public.

 

That wants to drop all its new-source review suits

against polluting coal-fired power plans and weaken

consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies.

 

That wants to open the arctic wildlife refuge to

drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island

National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped

barrier island in the world and the last great coastal

wild land in America.

 

I read the news just this week and learned how the

Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend

nine million dollars - $2 million of it from the

administration's friends at the American Chemistry

Council - to pay poor families to continue to use

pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been

linked to neurological damage in children, but instead

of ordering an end to their use, the government and

the industry were going to offer the families $970

each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing,

to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

 

I read all this in the news.

 

I read the news just last night and learned that

the administration's friends at the international

policy network, which is supported by ExxonMobil and

others of like mind, have issued a new report that

climate change is 'a myth, sea levels are not rising,

scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are 'an

embarrassment.

 

I not only read the news but the fine print of the

recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with

the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a

clause removing all endangered species protections

from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review

for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental

review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider

pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial

habitats in California.

 

I read all this and look up at the pictures on my

desk, next to the computer - pictures of my

grandchildren: Henry, age 12; of Thomas, age 10; of

Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the

future looking back at me from those photographs and I

say, 'Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.'

And then I am stopped short by the thought: 'That's

not right. We do know what we are doing. We are

stealing their future. Betraying their trust.

Despoiling their world.'

 

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care?

Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our

capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain

indignation at injustice?

 

What has happened to out moral imagination?

 

On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: 'How do you see the

world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see

it feelingly.'"

 

I see it feelingly.

 

The news is not good these days. I can tell you,

though, that as a journalist, I know the news is never

the end of the story. The news can be the truth that

sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the

future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote

to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to

those faces looking back at me from those photographs

on my desk. What we need to match the science of human

health is what the ancient Israelites called 'hocma' -

the science of the heart

..the capacity to see

.to

feel

.and then to act

as if the future depended on

you.

 

Believe me, it does.

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A 2002 TIME/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true.

 

THAT is why I want to learn about a preterist view of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. I want to be able to say: "NO! The writer of Revelation wasn't talking about the end of our world. He was talking about _______ "

 

I wish Martin Luther had managed to get Revelation tossed out of the Christian scriptures when he was busy "reforming". :angry:

 

I'm trying to think of anything "nice" that can be said about it as a book?

 

Anyone?

 

As an ex-JW I know how Revelation is read to point gleefully to the future when the "great tribulation" culminating in "God's war" will destroy all the non-JW's. (They don't teach the rapture, but something pretty dang close!) And then afterward think of all the houses and clothes and cars they'll have to choose from when they inherit a paradise earth. <_<

 

And what is really sad is that it is GOOD PEOPLE that think this way. Not sociopaths, but normal everyday folk who don't see the sickness, the perversion of this view.

 

Aletheia

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Don,

 

Thanks for your reply!

 

Do I believe that John's writing is a revelation of events that are certain to happen? No, I do not. I believe the future is open. Not even God knows what events are certain to happen.

 

I don't believe that John's writing is a revelation for our time. I'm just wondering if John believed his writing was for the far off future or for his contemporaries.

 

Again, thanks for the wonderful info you've shared! :D

 

Aletheia

 

PS:

I hope you'll share some of your discoveries in the book of Hebrews!

 

I'm going to attempt to study the Hebrew Scriptures, not the Bible book of Hebrews (although I'm sure I'll get to that soon enough). :P

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Aletheia, as an XJW myself...I can understand where you are coming from..that is disguist with fundamental faiths using end-of-the-world threats to scare members into not questioning them. But it is noteworhty that there ARE many liberal religions that believe in millennialism but it's positive. For example the Bahia, the Hopi Native Americans, and many New Age New Thought groups. I have found that many of these groups also believe in a renewl of our earth but withOUT the JW-style members-ONLY catch added to it.

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The best book (by far) I've come across about Revelation is...

 

The Navarre Bible: Revelation

 

The focus of the book is putting the text in its historical/cultural setting and presenting the general consensus of scholars. If I recall correctly (I loaned mine out and never got it back), it has the entire text of Revelation in it and follows it as a commentary.

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That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -

Lenny Bruce is not afraid...

 

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

 

Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,

return, listen to yourself churn...

 

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

 

The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.

Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.

Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic,

slam, but neck, right? Right.

 

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine...fine...

 

(It's time I had some time alone) :blink:

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_times

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eschatology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_eschatology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_of_the_world

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennialism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preterism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispensationalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgement_day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armageddon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribulation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming

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I don't believe that John's writing is a revelation for our time. I'm just wondering if John believed his writing was for the far off future or for his contemporaries.

 

Again, thanks for the wonderful info you've shared! :D

 

Aletheia

 

PS:

I hope you'll share some of your discoveries in the book of Hebrews!

 

I'm going to attempt to study the Hebrew Scriptures, not the Bible book of Hebrews (although I'm sure I'll get to that soon enough). :P

Aletheia,

 

John writes that his revelation was given him to show "what must soon take place". With that and the fact that it was written to provide encouragement to the "seven churches in the province of Asia" - his contemporary brothers and sisters in the faith, I do NOT believe that John had any concept that his writing would be viewed over 2000 yrs. later as a prophecy of events yet to come.

 

Ahhhh, the Hebrew Scriptures, eh? All of them? Wow.

May I recommend the book by Leo Trepp - A History of the Jewish Experience? I thought it was an excellent view of Judaism from their perspective.

 

Don

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Ahhhh, the Hebrew Scriptures, eh? All of them? Wow.

 

Yup. I doubt I'll go into them in the depth that many Jewish theologians would. But I would like to learn to look at them from a Jewish perspective. It took me 10 years to see them from a JW, Christian perspective. It just might take me 10 years to let go of the Christian "lense" and be able to read them with new eyes.

 

May I recommend the book by Leo Trepp - A History of the Jewish Experience? I thought it was an excellent view of Judaism from their perspective.

 

Thanks for another recommendation.

 

I just bought Harold Kushner's "To Life" this week. It's not about Jewish theology, but Jewish life and heart. Despite the obvious fact that I've asked a lot of metaphysical questions (in this thread and others), deep inside I'm just a simple girl looking to find her niche, a sense of community. I hope to be able to find that again within the Christian faith.

 

Aletheia

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