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March 14, 2007

Comments

Colyn Roberts

FWIW ... probably way more than you needed to hear about one passing paragraph in one weekly column!

I always look forward to "Tough Call". I really appreciate the fact that it's one of the few regular columns that's not strictly "navel gazingly" local in orientation.

However ... not to take issue with the overall concept of your column today, as I find myself rather appalled by some of what the Israelis are doing ... but it is surprising that a journalist in this so-vocally evangelical Bahamas would write that "Many Christian evangelicals' belief is that in order for Christ to return, the Holy Land has to be first swept clean of Muslims and then all Jews have to be killed or become Christians."

That is simply NOT a characterisation of Evangelical Christianity - one of the hallmarks of which is the belief in the "Rapture" (you may have heard of it ... "Left Behind" books, etc.) In other words, theoretically Christ's return could happen at any time. "May be morning, may be noon, may be evening, or may be soon" is the refrain from the well-known song, "Coming Again". I have heard more sermons in my life about the imminence of Christ's return than on just about any other subject.

Though there are at least four major currents of thought with regards to Christ's return, NONE of them have the characteristics quoted, and indeed I know of no minor ones either which would take those positions. Jimmy Carter would know, too, as his Southern Baptists hold to a pretty strict interpretation of a pre-Millennial rapture without any of the pre-conditions quoted above. On the other hand there is a belief in some quarters that AFTER the Rapture and during the Tribulation period the Jews will have to make a choice. I have never heard or read of anything or anyone who takes the position quoted on the Muslims in the Holy Land.

BTW ... just to emphasise that this is not a statement of my personal views, here's a quote from the relevant Wikipedia article on the Rapture (the one on Evangelicalism is also illuminating):

QUOTE

Imminent or not imminent?
The vast majority of those who believe in a pre tribulation rapture, believe that the rapture is imminent, that is to say, that nothing else needs to happen first, before the rapture. However, some others allege that certain warning signs must first take place, even before the pre-Tribulation rapture. The following is a list of these events:

The nations of the world must unify their currency onto a universal standard.
There will be peace in Israel according to Ezekiel 38.
There may be a one world government, something like the 7th beast of Revelation, prior to the antichrist's 8th beast government.
The Jewish temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt in its original place.
The Jewish people must be in control of the land of Israel.
Many Old Testament commandments must be performed in the temple. This includes the sacrifice of an unblemished red heifer.
The Antichrist must be walking the earth in human form.
UNQUOTE

What bothers me about the mis-characterisation in the article is that it gives the impression that somehow Evangelical support for Israel is motivated by the wish to hasten the End Times. Nothing could be further from the truth, though this is an oft-misused mis-characterisation of "religiously illiterate" American pundits - particularly those who wish to paint George W. Bush with the "religious fanatic" brush. (By the way, I carry no torch for that guy). This is - again simply put - wildly inaccurate.

Evangelicals by and large support Israel and the Jews as they are seen to be "God's chosen people". And of course there is some lingering sympathy as a result of the Holocaust.

One of these days soon I'm going to get back to my blog and write a few words about Marilynne Robinson's collection of essays "The Death of Adam" where among other things she writes about how contemporary American society pronounces frequently "on" a subject without really knowing much "about" it.

larry smith

Thanks for your comment. You are right that I have to plead guilty to not being an expert on the End of Days. However, the paragraph you refer to paraphrased a direct quote by Carter - a southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. And I was basically reviewing/explicating his book.

Here is an excerpt from a Carter interview conducted with the Seattle Times:

Q: Taking you back to what you said about the Christian element here in America. Obviously, a lot of people who have been strong supporters of the same AIPAC line have been the Jerry Falwells of the world. What has that done to foreign policy? Do you think the conservative fundamentalist movement has had some impact on that as well?

Carter: Well, there is no doubt about that. … I noticed that when Ariel Sharon was stricken -- he's still unconscious – Pat Robertson announced that this is a punishment of God because Sharon had advocated withdrawing from Gaza, which only comprises 1 percent of the Holy Land. But that at least demonstrates their attitude toward the Israeli situation.

Q: But a lot of their position is premised on "we want to save Israel," but not necessarily save the Jews in the Second Coming. Isn't that right?

Carter: That's right. Their purpose is to wipe out all non-Jews out of the Holy Land so Christ can return and then in the ultimate commitment, is that all Jews would either be burned in fire or converted to Christianity. That's the ultimate. It's an extreme and, I think, ridiculous interpretation of the scriptures.

This is from Beliefnet:

According to their reading of the Bible, God established a covenant with Abraham in the Book of Genesis. Essentially, says Beliefnet columnist Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader with close ties to the Bush Administration, evangelicals support Israel because they believe "God blesses those that bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews. Consequently, we believe America needs to bless the Jews and Israel, because if we bless the Jews and support Israel, God blesses us. And if we don't, God curses us."

But it goes beyond that. The establishment--and continuation--of the State of Israel is essential to set the stage for the imminent return of Jesus. At the time of the Second Coming, these Christians believe, Jesus will descend from heaven, subdue all of Israel's enemies and take believers to heaven in what is known as the Rapture--literally, they will ascend to the clouds to be in heaven. This series of events ushers in the end-times. According to conservative Christians' reading of the Book of Revelation, this won't happen unless Israel exists in the Holy Land.

EB Christen

Genuine problem solving in the Middle East went out of the window with the inception of the War on Terror. As long as everything is seen through this prism, the ability to tackle issues on the ground in separate sovereign entities will be clouded and the 'war' between the Muslim world and the West that Osama bin Laden wanted so badly will continue to expand in scope. The Iraq situation, the Iran situation, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the Saudi situation and the prevention of terrorism are all linked, but they are not one simple problem that can be lumped under 'war on terror', as CNN and FOX would have you believe. These issues are much older than 9/11 and their solutions are complex, but not impossible. Hopefully, with better leadership in the White House (and virtually any of the current candidates will be better than Bush), a lot more will be achieved. The price for failure is heavy and not to be ignored.

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