Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Quite a few Christians of more mainstream stripes are getting worried about the spread of a doctrine with the somewhat jawbreaking name of pretribulationist predispensational millenarianism -- roughly speaking, that the world is going to end pretty darn soon, and good Christians ought to get ready for it:

"Pretribs'" dreams of the future are extremely pessimistic. More accurately, their worldview includes almost no future for themselves on this earth. In stark contrast to the Reconstructionists who expect to be able to establish a Christian nation here in the United States, the pretribs expect the world to become very hostile toward Christians in the near future. This time of trial will be short-lived for Christians who have been truly "born-again." Before things get really bad, their involvement with this world will come to an end when Christ returns to "rapture" them into heaven.

When will all this take place? Very soon say most of the pretribs. They point to apocalyptic portions of the Gospels like the 13th chapter of Mark. They interpret these passages as a declaration that not more than one generation, i.e. 40 years, will pass between the initiating event that marks the beginning of the end of the "church dispensation" and the Rapture. Since most identify that initiating event as connected with the modern state of Israel, the clock is getting pretty close to striking midnight.

Which doesn't leave them with much of what an earlier, wimpier sort of Christian might have seen as a properly merciful disposition toward the rest of us:

All those cocky, condescending people who reject the hard-sell, last-minute evangelism of the pretribs will get theirs: searing heat, oceans turned to blood, open running sores. God will avenge all the slights delivered by the skeptics and the critics. They'll be sorry they didn't follow the four-step plan to salvation when they had the chance.

It's a short hop, skip and a jump from this position to the notion that making things worse, to bring about what the pretribs interpret as Biblical prophecies of tribulation, doom, gloom and the apocalypse, is actually doing G-d's work -- far more so than actually, say, trying to improve the lives of all those heathens who will be burning in hell by G-d's will no matter what.

Imagine for a minute what someone who actually thought like this might do with real power, if they had it. Now, hold that thought.

Juan Cole has a blog entry up in which he expresses grave reservations about the apparent American adoption of counterinsurgency tactics from the current regime in Israel:

The tragic thing is that the Sharon government's Iron Fist policies do not work (if by "work" you mean "lead to resolution of conflict and make people safer"). Palestinian opponents of the Great Israeli Land Theft continue to grow like kudzu, and terrorism has not been stopped. Even the former heads of Shin Bet, Israeli internal security, have publicly come out to critique Sharon and say it does not work. ...

The US is doomed not just to a small run of the mill disappointment in Iraq if it goes on riding roughshod over ordinary Arabs' feelings like this. It is doomed to a major blow-up that will do incalculable damage to the security and well-being of you and me.

And who does he think is responsible for this dreadful idea? Lieut. Gen. Jerry Boykin -- the same one who regularly appears before American fundamentalist audiences saying, among other things, that Muslims worship "an idol", that the enemy he is fighting is not Osama bin Laden, but Satan, and that a black smudge on a photo he took over Mogadishu was a demonic presence.

And he's adopting policies that don't work -- if by "work" you mean "make people safer"...


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