Forcing God's Hand
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Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 12:12:28 PM EST
Southern Baptist Professor Ergun Caner has long been pouring fuel on the fire of religious conflict.  Recently he said, the war in Lebanon "is against the God of Israel."  He's one of a number of Christians who are ratcheting up the rhetoric of holy war in the Middle East.

Caner is a "Christian Zionist."  He's one of the millions of Evangelical Christians worldwide who pray for a quick rapture and destruction of planet earth.

Some of them are doing more than praying for the end of the world.  John Hagee and other evangelical leaders are currently "lobbying for Armageddon."

Grace Halsell was among the first to warn about the threat that Christian Zionists posed to world peace.  Her book Forcing God's Hand, first published in 1999, has a picture of a mushroom cloud on the cover.  When it first came out, most people scoffed at the idea that Christians long to see nuclear weapons used in the Middle East.  No one is scoffing now.

The theological and exegetical incompetents leading American evangelicalism could be considered harmless as long as they were content to roll out their end-times charts, impersonate fortune-tellers, and sell books.

Now that they are rolling into Washington and lobbying to have our government launch wars to fulfill their warped fantasies, they are dangerous.

They are dangerous because they elected a President who takes them and their theological delusions seriously.  Karen Armstong, author of The Battle for God:  A History of Fundamentalism, is right when she says, "Bush's Fondness for Fundamentalism is Courting Disaster at Home and Abroad."

Now, more than ever, it is time for moderate and progressive Christians to pray for peace, raise their voices, call their representatives in Congress and press for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon.

Warmongering Christian Zionists and other Armageddon loving evangelicals do not faithfully represent the Prince of Peace.

My concern is for the fallout if something happens that directly contradicts what they expect.

So many people have their faith wrapped up in a certain understanding of the scriptures, and I've heard time and time again "if any part is false, then you have to reject the whole Bible"- so if something that contradicts their understanding of the Bible comes along, they may fall away and reject anything to do with Christ.

That would be a disaster.  I am very concerned about that possibility- and the way things are going, I almost am expecting something that will shake their faith.

As far as the reasons why people are so wrapped up in "Last Days"... a friend of mine once said that it was "the fascination of the horrible".  I also think that there are a few other things involved:

  1. escapism
  2. revenge and seeing the people that they consider evil being tortured
  3. validation of their beliefs

What is lacking is Love... concern for those who they expect will be "PUNISHED".

We need to pray for them as well as for peace in the Mideast.  God does not wish that ANYONE should perish, but that all should attain eternal life.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 10:59:55 PM EST

I wholeheartedly agree that what is missing is concern, and love, compassion.

You listed some motivations, but I wonder about some contributing causes:

  1. lack of knowlege. What about many people that do not have internet access? If they are trying to get their news from TV they will never see the damage. And if you do have internet access you have to search for the truth, it isn't apparrent to people unless they take an interest.

  2. they haven't heard the warning cry. Because churches are afraid of losing their tax-exempt status (in my opinion) they are cowed into saying next to nothing against the wars and atrocities done in our name and in the name of God. Because the news media is afraid from fallout from their corporate sponsors they are afraid to fully report how absolutely and unacceptably horrible the situation really is. The news media isn't even covering the rallies, the protests!

  3. they cannot conceive that their country might do something not only wrong, but horribly wrong. Their individual identity is bound to their image of them being a good American, citizen of the best country on the face of the planet. So they do not want to even search for evidence to the contrary.

My family of staunchly loyal Republicans, strict Christians, are not evil people. They desperately want to believe that we are doing the right thing, that our administration and our military are made up of good, old fashioned down home Christians. They hear that the US should be 'restored' to its Christian roots, that we should be a Christian nation, and they so much want to believe this. It breaks my heart, because they are not bad people, they are just blind. And they say we are the idealists!

It breaks my heart, but things will have to get really bad over here before they have that significant emotional event that opens their eyes. I am afraid of God's judgement on this nation, as I am afraid also of the natural consequences of our actions, but what else will turn us around? "Can we even be turned around?" is the question.

by Tin Soul on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 10:19:50 AM EST

Gershom Gorenberg's 2002 book The End of Days:  Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount covers a lot of the same ground that is covered in Halsell's book.

What he adds is an appeal for the Jews who uncritically welcome the support of Christian Zionists to realize that what Christian Zionists ultimately desire is the annihilation of all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity.

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 12:30:16 PM EST

No.  But the Neocons around W. Bush can lead him in the direction of Armageddon, because Bush already leans in that direction.

Good article published yesterday at  "The Neocons' Next War" by Sidney Blumenthal.  And a good, relevant comment on the article:  "Searching for Armageddon" by a poster named massacio, in part:

"Since the President is aligned with these people, the Neocons can feed him anything and he will believe it. I confess to a tinge of fear.-- masaccio"

by Tom Neely on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 01:42:26 PM EST

to see the voice of Lebanese Baptists and Christians in all of this. I have seen excellent articles with these voices in the moderate Ethics Daily and the more rightward leaning Christianity Today. Let's hope this will cause some pause with the Christian Zionists.

by Carlos on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 02:56:01 PM EST

Actually, Halsell wrote another book back in 1986 entitled Prophecy and Politics, in which she joined a Christian Zionist tour group visiting Israel. It's a much better book, in my opnion, than Forcing God's Hand. Although I share her concern for Palestinian rights, I thought this second book made too many broad assertions about Israel and Jewish history.

by Richard Bartholomew on Fri Aug 04, 2006 at 03:17:34 PM EST

but I've written about this same dynamic. Maybe I saw this book on the shelf and that subconscious memory of the title has influenced me? I don't know, but I've thought of this as 'twisting God's arm'. Trying to make Armageddon happen faster so as to bring about the 'rapture' and Christ's return faster is an attempt to manipulate God. Do these people think that they can do this? Or that they can do this without God knowing what they are thinking?
I've heard it argued that perhaps Judas, in selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver, may have been attempting to shove Jesus and his disciples into action, to liberate the Jewish people from the rule of the Romans. I don't know if that's true or not, but I find it interesting and there is much to learn from this theory. From all indications, all of Jesus' followers thought he would be delivering them from the rule of the Romans. If the people of that time, who were not distracted by TV, computers, cars, and commuting to a job away from their family or community, if these people could not figure out what Jesus was going to do, how can we figure out God's plan for the future, or be so presumptuous to think we could manipulate God?
I have heard it somewhere, and I think this is true, that we are given the prophecies in the Bible as a way of interpreting the PRESENT and not predicting the future.
Although I took psychology classes in college, I am not a psychologist. But the similarities between this idea of trying to hasten the second coming of Christ and the motivation for an individual's suicide are very close. What is the motivation for trying to hasten the rapture, or the second coming? The motivation is, "Oh God deliver me from this worrisome and troublesome life. Take me away!" Now, what is the motivation for a person committing suicide? It is the very same, isn't it?
And if a supposed Christian is thinking that they can do anything they want at any time to anyone with impunity, they are about as responsible as a drunk 16 year old out on a joyride who smashes into a family in a minivan. Can you imagine the fallout (pun intended) if some kind of limited nuclear war happens, killing millions of people, but because it's not God's time or purpose, it doesn't trigger the second coming of Christ, or the rapture? What if God is not a pre-millenialist?
I do not know whether or not there is any such thing as the rapture, by the way. From everything that I read we are to live a life of sacrifice and persecution, taking up our cross to follow in the path of Jesus (umm, who was executed, by the way). Why did Jesus say that we are to endure until the end, if we don't really have to endure anything? And what does it say in Matthew 24:37-39? "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." Ask yourself, who was taken? Weren't the godless taken? And who was left? Wasn't it the faithful who were left?
I'm not trying to say one way or the other whether or not there is a rapture. All I'm saying is that to not only count on the rapture to save you from having your faith put to the test, but to also go as far as to labor to hasten this theoretical rapture is complete insanity and not the mission of the true Christian.

by Tin Soul on Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 03:43:12 PM EST

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