Evangelicals believe this is the end, say papers. Oh really?
A Saturday article in the San Francisco Chronicle really is a classic. "War in Babylon has evangelicals seeing Earth's final days," says the headline. Religion writer Don Lattin begins, "America is embarked on a battle of biblical proportions—and in the eyes of a growing number of evangelical Christians, this long-awaited fight could actually bring about the fulfillment of ancient prophecies about the war of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ."

Only one problem: Lattin couldn't actually find any evangelicals who actually believe it.

Oh yeah, there's the book The Rise of Babylon by ArmageddonBooks.com, which has Saddam Hussein on the cover. Too bad it's a reprint.

Yes, the newest Left Behind book is titled Armageddon. But the series has been around for a decade and doesn't focus on Iraq. (If Lattin really wanted to hit the book beat, he could have also mentioned From Iraq to Armageddon, from charismatic publishing house Destiny Image.)

Yes, Prophecy Watch is holding its  International Prophecy Conference with sessions on Babylon, but the group says its view of the End Times emphasizes the rise of Babylon, not its destruction.

Lattin even suggests that Bush's calling Hussein an evildoer is evidence that evangelicals think we're at the end. He goes to such crazy lengths because no one he talks to is willing to say the war is a sign of the end.

He probably thought he had a sure thing in Dick Bernal, pastor of Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose. His Pentecostal church is "always looking for signs that line up with Matthew 24," Bernal admits. But no luck. "Some of what's going on today does look interesting," he says. "But some people in my camp get a little too carried away, and it makes us look foolish."

Lattin would have done better to crib notes from the The Washington Post's Bill Broadway, whose March 8 story on apocalypticism is still being republished in newspapers across the country. Broadway was at least able to quote Irvin Baxter Jr., founder of Endtime magazine, as saying "Iraq fits like hand in glove," in several biblical prophecies. But not in the way that some might think. He believes "other countries will take the opportunity to pursue their own interests—China trying to retake Taiwan, or India making an all-out assault on Kashmir—leading to World War III" and thus the destruction of one-third of humanity.

Broadway also quotes Mark Hitchcock, who says overthrowing Saddam will enable Iraq/Babylon to become a world power again.  But Crosswalk.com has Hitchcock saying, ""Some people will say this is the beginning of Armageddon … but my whole view is more of a stage-setting kind of scenario. There will be a rapture someday, but right now the curtain is down and the players are behind that curtain getting ready."

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Even the Kennebec (Maine) Journal was able to find more Christians who believe Iraq has apocalyptic overtones than Lattin was. (Other papers picking up the apocalypse angle are The Arizona Republic and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, but neither of them quote anyone willing to tie the Iraq war directly to the end times.)

But everyone seems to be missing the real story: there's actually much less apocalyptic talk about the war with Iraq than there was in 1991's Gulf War. And, in fact, failed end times hype over Saddam back then may be the cause of muted speculation today. Coming up later this week on our site, we'll have interviews with Dallas Theological Seminary president Mark Bailey and Rapture Index founder Todd Strandberg.

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