“. . . That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse . . . “

Granddad would have wondered where this idea came from.

Granddad would have wondered where this idea came from.

My paternal grandfather’s birthday is today (born January 21, 1885). Archie James Knight was a serious and jolly man, a contractor (he built houses as well as cabinetry), a pear farmer (that is, he had a half dozen pear trees in his yard), a voracious reader, a bass in his church choir—my description could go on and on. He was also something of an old-fashioned disciplinarian. No one came to the breakfast table at his home (or even into the living room) in pajamas.

He was disciplined himself. He worked hard and took care of his family, his children and their children. But he also had something elfin about him. He laughed with a twinkle in his eye, and he was capable of a kind of endearing silliness (endearing to this grandson, at any rate).

Granddad and I had a special bond—at least in my mind—because I was the one person in the entire extended family named for him. My middle name is his name, Archie. He was called Arch, and I have from time to time been known as Arch (in college, for example).

The most enduring memory of Granddad is his reading. He sat in his chair daily reading—reading newspapers, magazines, Bible study books, the Bible itself. Making up for his family’s inability to send him to school past the fourth grade. The photograph of Granddad on Grandmother’s sewing machine is a favorite of all of his grandchildren, taken by Jose Naredo, husband of his granddaughter Jan Noland Naredo. We’d all have that picture in our minds even if Jose had never snapped it with a camera. Granddad in his chair reading.

I’ve been having a great deal of trouble writing the last few days because no matter what I begin writing, whether it makes any sense or not, whether it interests me or not, whether I have some idea where my train of thought is headed or not, I end up wanting to write a brilliant scholarly article—an article that will arrest the attention of the public and explain a very simple truth of which Americans seem to have no idea.

It’s an idea that I think my grandfather would have understood. He was one of those old-fashioned Baptists who held several beliefs that seem out of fashion today. Things such as “soul freedom” (the idea that his relationship with the divine was his relationship with the divine and no one could intervene). And the authority of the scripture (if it’s not in the Bible, don’t bother him with it). The separation of church and state (yes, that used to be a Baptist principle). So he would not—I know his Baptist preacher son did not, at any rate—have had much use for such non-Biblical nonsense as “The Rapture.”

I don’t care if anyone believes in “The Rapture” or not. It’s pretty silly even as silly religious ideas go. But what I wish Americans understood is that the belief in “The Rapture” is directly responsible for the argument over whether or not Iran should be invited to peace talks about Syria.

So I keep getting started writing the kind of personal, flaky, too-self-revelatory stuff I usually write, and I keep running up against my large (and growing) research on “The Rapture,” and “Dispensationalism,” and “Zionism,” and John Nelson Darby and Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. And then I want to write scholarly history. I want to write about the Balfour Declaration and its indebtedness to Darby, and . . . well, I just get bogged down because I don’t have my scholarly act together, but the stuff keeps impinging on everything I want to write and think.

So John Hagee and his Christians United for Israel will just have to run rampant over American foreign policy and the peace of the Middle East one more day because I can’t focus long enough to write what I need to write. Thank goodness Barbara Rossing and others have already written what really needs to be written.

Except for the part of John Hagee using Texas A&M University to further his goal of bringing about the Second Coming by helping Israel (and then getting rid of the Jews).

Oh Me! O My!

O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman

O Me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

This hymn is one that I distinctly remember hearing my grandfather sing—that is, the bass line mostly an octave lower than written. It was at the dedication of the new church building of Immanuel Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, the church of which he was a member for most of his long life. The words are by the ever-popular Fanny J. Crosby.

The sewing machine is my grandmother’s which is in my living room.

Praise Him, praise Him—Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer,
Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim.
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
In His arms He carries them all day long:
O ye saints that dwell on the mountain of Zion,
Praise Him, praise Him ever in joyful song.

Praise Him, praise Him—Jesus, our blessèd Redeemer,
Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring,
Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever.
Crown Him! Crown Him—Prophet, and Priest, and King!
Death is vanquished! Tell it with joy, ye faithful.
Where is now thy victory, boasting grave?
Jesus lives! No longer thy portals are cheerless;
Jesus lives, the mighty and strong to save.

Are you pre-millennial or post- millennial. . .

. . . or not a dispensationalist at all?

John Nelson Darby. You, too, can invent a theology.

John Nelson Darby. You, too, can invent a theology.

On one of the rare Sundays in the early `60s when my father was not traveling for his work (he directed the Christian Education program of the Nebraska Baptist [not Southern] Convention) and went to church with us—it must have been on a Sunday evening because I had my own organist job and would not have been there in the morning—he and my organ teacher, the organist of the big church of which we were members, had a conversation that completely baffled me and which I remember to this day.

My teacher asked my father if he were a pre-millennial or post- millennial dispensationalist. (What?) My father answered that he tried to base his theology on the Bible, not on John Darby. The organist was not amused.

I asked what that meant, and my father said he’d explain when we were alone.

He did. What I remember is a nonsensical (to me) numerological theory that had to do with whether the “tribulation” would happen a thousand years before the Second Coming of Christ and then Jesus would fix the whole mess, or the tribulation would happen a thousand years after the Second Coming and Jesus would lead the warfare that would finally bring an end to the world. Armageddon.

Of course, in the middle of all of this my father had to explain the “rapture” because I had never heard of it. In all my years growing up in Baptist churches I never heard the word. Neither my father nor any other Baptist preacher I knew taught about it. Because they thought it to be nonsense.

What I didn’t know then, and came to understand only about 15 years ago, is that the “rapture” and pre-and-post- millennial theology determine American foreign policy to a degree that ought to shock and repel anyone who does not believe in those concepts made up—invented—by John Darby in the 1830s that have nothing to do with Christian theology or any other traditional worldview.

One in four Americans believe in the “rapture” and some form of “dispensationalist” theology, and in its concomitant tenant that the founding of Israel in 1948 was the first salvo in the Tribulation that will eventually bring about the Kingdom of God (either before or after Armageddon, depending on how you count numbers scattered throughout the Bible).

That’s why the United States can never broker peace between Israel and its neighbors. To do so would be, according to a very vocal quarter of our citizens, an attempt to thwart the Will of God to bring about His Kingdom on Earth.

Secretary of State Kerry cannot compete with that mass of bizarre belief. Sorry, John, your efforts are doomed to failure before you begin.

Mi casa es tu casa?

Mi casa es tu casa?

Founded in 2006 by John Hagee [founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational megachurch with more than 20,000 members] Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is a highly organized and mobilized political organization. . . CUFI’s policy recommendations stand within CUFI’s larger policy perspective on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The stated purpose of CUFI is to support Israel in matters related to our understanding of the Bible,” James Hutchens, a CUFI regional leader, has said. “The implications of that include the fact that we do not support a two-state solution; we do not support ‘land for peace.’”

. . .  During a dinner [meeting of the CUFI] addressed by the Israeli ambassador to the United States during Israel’s 2006 bombardment of Lebanon (precipitated by Hezbollah missile attacks), Hagee said the conflict was  “a battle of good and evil” and reminded his audience that American support for the State of Israel was “God’s foreign policy.”

. . . In the right context, calling support for Israel “God’s foreign policy” can sound quaint. Doing so while holding conferences addressed by sitting United States senators (including Joseph Lieberman, Rick Santorum, and Sam Brownback), addressed by Israeli political leaders like Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, and featuring a “Middle East Briefing” presented  by former CIA director James Woolsey and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, indicates a movement with potentially far-reaching implications for global well-being.

. . . [After Hagee’s endorsement of John McCain in the 2008 election campaign] the controversy prompted journalists to dig further into Hagee’s statements and beliefs. McCain repudiated Hagee’s endorsement only after video recordings showed Hagee preaching that God used the Holocaust to drive European Jews into Israel. Theology that excluded Catholics while accommodating the Holocaust [was not helpful to McCain].

Colossal images: Clarence Larkin's graphic depictions of dispensationalist thought, such as this one of the image of the Beast, or "Colossus of World Kingdoms" (Dan. 2:31-45), helped to popularize the philosophy. A former mechanical engineer, manufacturer, and teacher of the blind, Larkin (1850-1924) believed "drawings and specifications" were necessary for biblical interpretation, and his charts are still popular among dispensationalists.

Colossal images: Clarence Larkin’s graphic depictions of dispensationalist thought, such as this one of the image of the Beast, or “Colossus of World Kingdoms” (Dan. 2:31-45), helped to popularize the philosophy. A former mechanical engineer, manufacturer, and teacher of the blind, Larkin (1850-1924) believed “drawings and specifications” were necessary for biblical interpretation, and his charts are still popular among dispensationalists.

(The above from:  Smith, Robert O. More Desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism. New York: Oxford University Press, USA (July 5, 2013). Pages 34-36.)

God engineered the Holocaust to drive European Jews to Israel?

This is “God’s foreign policy?”

This is supposed to be a blog in which I write about the humorous aspects of my increasing awareness that I am in my senescence and that mortality is right around the corner. That the United States is beholden to the likes of John Hagee for our foreign policy is, I suppose, humorous. Unless you think about the fact that the Bin Laden family owned a house in Jerusalem. How do little facts like that muddy the waters?

O my god! I’ve really gone off the deep end now.
Don’t take my word for any of this. Here’s a bibliography.

Chapman, G. Clarke. “What God Can Help? Trinity and Pop Religions of Crisis.” Cross Currents 44.3 (1994): 316.

Haija, Rannny M. “The Armageddon Lobby: Dispensationalist Christian Zionism and the Shaping of US Policy Towards Israel-Palestine.” Holy Land Studies: A Multidisciplinary Journal (Edinburgh University Press) 5.1 (2006): 75-95.

Ice, Thomas. “John Nelson Darby and the Rapture.” Journal of Ministry & Theology 17.1 (2013): 99-119.

Megoran, Nick. “Towards a Geography of Peace: Pacific Geopolitics and Evangelical Christian Crusade Apologies.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35.3 (2010): 382-398.

Salleh, Mohd Afandi, and Hafiz Zakariya. “The American Evangelical Christians and the U.S. Middle East Policy: A Case Study of the Christians United For Israel (CUFI).” Intellectual Discourse 20.2 (2012): 139-163.

Smith, Roberto O. “Between Restoration and Liberation: Theopolitical Contributions and Responses to U.S. Foreign Policy in Israel/Palestine.” Journal of Church & State 46.4 (2004): 833-860.

Smith, Robert O. “Toward A Lutheran Response to Christian Zionism.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48.3 (2009): 279-291.

Weber, Timothy. “The Dispensationalist Era.” Christian History 18.1 (1999): 34. (You can read this article here.)