Palin, Fox, 'Jesus on Acid' and the End of the World.
The unconnected dots of Alaska's superstar and rightwing evangelical/fundamentalist victimhood for politics and profit...
Guest blogged by Frank Schaeffer
Do you want to understand Sarah Palin's attraction to the born-again Republican/Fox crowd? Then you have to "get" the apocalyptic fantasy world they live in. I know. It's where I once lived.
Palin comes from that world of hysterical paranoid delusion. It's her attraction to the people who like her. God has "raised her up for such a time as this" they believe. It is why Fox "News" just hired her as another one of their fair and balanced commentators.
Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of sixteen novels (so far!) represents everything that is most deranged about Palin's religion, and understanding why those books are popular is the key to "getting" the Palin Fox "News" deal...
The Left Behind novels represent the fundamentalist end times view that Palin buys into. They have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an "End Times" cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children's books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise.
If you think Palin's fans are nuts; they are. If you think the tea baggers are odd; they are. The theology of the "End" is behind both.
Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting "Christ-centered" home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the "other," as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who perform legal abortions, and even a killing in the Holocaust Museum.
No, I am not blaming Palin, Jenkins and LaHaye's product line for murder or racism or any other evil intent or result. What I am saying is that feeding the paranoid delusions of people on the fringe of the fringe --- people who think they alone are "Real Americans" --- contributes to a dangerous climate that may provoke violence in a few individuals.
Convincing folks that Armageddon is on the way, and all we can do is wait, pray, and protect our families from the chaos that will be the "prelude" to the "Return of Christ," is perhaps not the best recipe for political, economic, or personal stability, let alone social cohesion! It may also not be the best philosophy on which to make serious American foreign policy decisions --- especially for a Palin-type who we now know didn't even know why North and South Korea were divided into two!
Palin might not know the 2 Koreas but she knows when Jesus is returning!
Here's the official position of Sarah Palin's denomination, of which she'd been a member for 25 years until she left when political ambition meant clearing the decks of embarrassment (then, on the advice of her political McCain handlers, even further distancing herself). Palin was born into a Roman Catholic family. She was "born-again" and joined the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church, which she attended until 2002.
Palin then switched to the Wasilla Bible Church --- equally if not even more nutty --- because, she said, she preferred their children's ministries. When in Juneau, she attends the Juneau Christian Center. After the Republican National Convention, a spokesperson for the McCain campaign told CNN that Palin "doesn't consider herself Pentecostal" and has "deep religious convictions on the 'End Times.'":
What does the Assemblies of God believe concerning end-time events?
The Assemblies of God understands the biblical description of end-time events to be literal, not symbolic (as do some churches).
To the Christian who truly loves Jesus, the sudden appearance of Christ in the air will hold no fear, dread, or disappointment.
The end times will be full of frightening events. Christians will be spared from suffering some of them by being snatched away in the Rapture.
With the saints removed from the earth, a time of suffering will come upon the whole world.
The Tribulation directly concerns Israel and is God's judgment for long apostasy (abandonment of religious faith) and neglect of the Messiah - Jesus Christ
After the judgment fire physically destroys those deceived by Satan at the end of the Millennium, all the wicked who have ever lived on the face of the earth will be dead. Then will follow the resurrection of the wicked dead to stand before the austere Judge "from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away" (Revelation 20:11)
If it were only the scoffers and skeptics who raise question about the certainty of the Lord's return for His own (cf. 2 Peter 3:3,4), it would be bad enough. But for the Church of Jesus Christ to become lethargic and careless because the long-promised chain of end-time events has not yet begun is unconscionable. The Assemblies of God preaches a clear message that Jesus is coming soon...
The momentum toward what amounts to a broad Palin-loving subculture seceding from the union (in order to await "The End") and/or a time when the US government quits taxing us, is irrevocably prying loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and their fellow citizens. If you think Palin's fans are nuts; they are.
If you think the tea baggers are odd; they are. The theology of the "End" is behind both. In the religious version Jesus is on the way. In the "tea bagger" secular version: the US government is the enemy and is the harbinger of doom, collapse and the end.
Disclosure: I was one of those nuts.
A time-out for disclosure is in order. I knew Jerry Jenkins quite well many years ago when I was a Religious Right leader before I quit in the mid 1980s. We worked on a project together. I also knew Tim LaHaye. I'm betting that they mean well. It seems to me that they also have no idea what they have helped unleash. You can be very decent and very blind.
That said...the evangelical/fundamentalists --- and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of President Obama in 2008, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then-dominant Republican Party --- are in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Too bad.
The Bible's weirdest book (and that's saying something!)
Revelation: this weird book, was the last to be included in the New Testament. It was included as canonical only relatively late in the process after a heated dispute. The historic Churches East and West remain so suspicious of Revelation that to this day it has never been included as part of the cyclical public readings of scripture in Orthodox services. The book of Revelation is read in Roman and Anglican Churches only during Advent.
Given that Revelation is now being hyped as the literal --- even desired --- roadmap to Armageddon and given Palin and her long-time church buys into this vision, it's worth pausing to note that the book is nothing more than a bizarre pastoral letter that was addressed to seven specific churches in Asia at the end of the first century by someone (maybe John or maybe not) who appears to have been far from well when he wrote it. In any case, the letter was not intended for use outside of its liturgical context, not to mention that it reads like Jesus on acid.
Profit-taking from scraps of "prophecy"
As I describe in detail in my new book Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism), the Left Behind series is really just recycled evangelical/fundamentalist profit-taking from scraps of "prophecy" left over from an earlier commercial effort to mine the vein of fearsome End Times gold. A book called The Late Great Planet Earth was the 1970s incarnation of this nonsense.
It was written by Hal Lindsey, a "writer" who dropped by my evangelical-leader parents' ministry of L'Abri
several times. When Mikhail Gorbachev became president of the U.S.S.R., Planet Earth groupies claimed Gorbachev was the Antichrist, citing the references in Revelation to the "mark of the beast" as proof because Gorbachev had a birthmark on his forehead!
After everything predicted in the book came to nothing, Lindsey rewrote and "updated" his "interpretations" in many sequels, in what must have been some sort of record for practicing George Orwell's idea of "doublethink" via editorial revision of ever-changing "facts."
To Jenkins and LaHaye, who have taken over the Hal Lindsey franchise of apocalypse-for-fun-and-profit and expanded it into a massive industry, the "chosen" will soon be airlifted to safety. The focus on the "signs" leading up to this hoped-for aeronautical excursion is understandably no longer the defunct U.S.S.R. but the ripped-from-the-headlines gift that keeps on giving: the Middle East.
The key to understanding the popularity of this series and just why a nonentity like Palin is accepted as a leader by her fans --- and now Fox, and the whole host of other End Times "ministries" from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine --- isn't some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community.
The Evangelical inferiority complex:
The evangelical/ fundamentalists ... have been 'left behind' by modernity. They won't change their literalistic anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against 'the world.'