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."
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.
War in Iraq:
- USS Lincoln crew renews faith under roar of jets | Religion provides solace in combat (The Detroit News)
- Pope cites peace movements in opposing war | The vast antiwar movement in the world shows that a "large part of humanity" has repudiated the idea of war as a means of resolving conflicts between nations, he says (Associated Press)
- Weaknesses and moral inconsistency led us to war | International alliances must be rebuilt so the world does not fragment again (Rowan Williams, The Times, London)
- Conversion plays a role in the war | There is a holy-war motif on the part of both the United States and Iraq (Leo Sandon, Tallahassee Democrat)
- Arab Christians squeezed by conflict | Beleaguered Arab Christians are finding their position among majority Muslim populations more precarious than usual as the US and UK pursue military action in Iraq (BBC)
- From the fear of being killed comes the fear of killing | There is a line early on in the Bible that encapsulates precisely the dilemma of the war in Iraq (Jonathan Sacks, The Times, London)
Religious thought divided on war:
- Faithful fall on both sides of war | Conflict splits local Christians into camps of peace, patriotism (The Denver Post)
- A test of faith | Onset of war with Iraq also highlights the divide among Americans (Grand Forks [N.D.] Herald)
- James Dobson supports war efforts in Iraq (Press release)
- Churchgoers seek solace and calm in face of war worries | They are images that can shake the rock of faith: A purported American serviceman sprawled dead, his arm reaching out. The worried faces of captured soldiers forced to tell the world who they are (The Orange County Register)
- Religious leaders play a part in shaping views on war | The United States has probably never gone to war with less backing from the nation's religious leaders (The New York Times)
- Christians not universally opposed to war with Iraq | Institute for Religion and Democracy publicizes new Gallup Poll (The Toledo Blade)
- Clergy grapple with Iraq war | Whether for U.S. attack or against it, they put their trust in God and prayer (Akron Beacon Journal)
- How faiths view the war | As the war against Iraq gets under way, the conflict within America's religious communities is escalating as well (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Worshipers struggle with idea of war | Diverse views emerge among congregations (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Religious leaders regret war, support troops | Religious leaders in Casper and elsewhere in Wyoming generally regret the failure of negotiations to disarm Saddam Hussein, but expressed support and offered prayers for the troops in the war with Iraq (Casper Star-Tribune)
Some Sunday sermons focus on war, some don't:
- Ministers don't skirt talk of war | The large war-time turnouts predicted by some ministers didn't seem to materialize, but that didn't keep preachers from touching on the topic in one way or another (The News, Stuart, Fla.)
- Bay Area residents wrestle with divisions | On the first Sunday since the United States invaded Iraq, many Bay Area pastors steered clear of sermonizing about the war (San Jose [Calif.] Mercury News)
- As war heats up, pastors face divided flocks, divided feelings | Church members are not looking for "the pastor's op-ed piece on the war," says Craig Barnes. "They are looking for something transcendent as a way to rise above the storm." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Local church services reflect on war | Sunday worship services drew somber Christians who turned to their faith to cope with the emotions of a nation at war (The Wichita Eagle)
- Local church leaders addressing war in Iraq | Even if they objected to the war in Iraq before it began, local religious leaders are turning their attention to members of their congregations with military connections (The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.)
- No rest on the Sabbath for Iraq war debate | Few things concentrate the mind on heaven quite like war (USA Today)
- Questions echo in Boston churches | If you're looking for black-and-white answers about the latest Gulf War, don't expect them from Greater Boston pulpits (Boston Herald)
- Some Wisconsin pastors spoke about war, others stuck to prewritten sermons (Associated Press)
- War in Iraq not prominent in N.H. sermons (Associated Press)
- Clergy stay neutral on topic of war | Local leaders reluctant to offend (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
- Nebraska churches struggle with war | As battle grows, pastors offer prayers, support for congregations (Associated Press)
- This war a difficult for N.C. ministers to discuss from pulpit (Associated Press)
- In uncertain times, clergy make prayer the focus | Leaders of Portland's religious communities began choosing their words carefully (The Oregonian)
- Sermons plumb morality of war, peace, respect for authority | Many clergy leaving tough ethical choices to those in the pews (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Worship and war also conflict | Churches across the country addressed the war Sunday, from all kinds of perspectives (Portland [Maine] Press Herald)
Prayer in war:
- Troops adopted in hearts of prayer team | Since its September 2001 launch, the Presidential Prayer Team already has enrolled 1.5 million members - roughly halfway to its goal of enrolling 2.8 million participants, or 1 percent of the American population (Arizona Daily Star)
- Moral uncertainties about war reflected in nation's prayers | As believers head to their houses of worship this weekend, there seem to be fewer "God Bless Americas" and more prayers for the citizens of Iraq (Newhouse News Service)
- For parishioners, right or wrong takes a back seat to prayer | In Catholic churches nationwide on the first Sunday since war began, priests and their followers seemed to have turned their focus away from the philosophical questions and had turned to a more basic, immediate need: comfort (The New York Times)
- Prayer - the common bond | Northeast Ohio Christians yesterday flocked to church services to appeal for a quick end to the war with Iraq and to find their own spiritual peace (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- L.A. churchgoers pray for speedy peace in Iraq (Los Angeles Daily News)
- As fighting in Iraq rages, parishioners cling to their faith | They seek strength in difficult times (Ventura County Star)
Luis Palau Beachfest:
- Luis Palau hosts an evangelical beach party in Fort Lauderdale | This party has no hangovers (Associated Press)
- 300,000 attend 'wholesome' Beachfest 2003 | Only slightly dampened by a Sunday shower (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale)
- Praises sung well in many beats at Beachfest | Christian music came in all shapes, sounds, colors and looks at mass-audience minister Luis Palau's Beachfest (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale)
- Evangelist delivers a message for the masses | Crowds swelled to upward of 100,000 for a Fort Lauderdale beach party Saturday, dancing to the music, cheering and praying, all at the invitation of Christian evangelist Luis Palau (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale)
- Beachfest crowd has strong Latin presence (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale)
- Spiritual fest a stunning success | Palau ministry attracts 110,000 to the beach (The Miami Herald)
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