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.)

I have a very special passport!

My teacher

My teacher

In the last semester of the sequence of courses in which they learn academic writing skills, students at my university are required to write a research essay. This arrangement has a plethora of inconsistencies. The first is that few teachers in the department actually know how to do research.

Please note that I said “inconsistencies,” not “ironies.”

Most often when someone uses the word “irony,” she uses it incorrectly. An irony is not some bizarre inconsistency that flies in the face of reason. An irony is “an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected,” or an “incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is.”

[“Irony” has a specific meaning in literature which I will not attempt to discuss here.]covey

Irony must be self-conscious—in order for something to be ironic, one must have an expectation. One has to know things are askew in order to understand them as ironic. If one is simply clueless, one is not participating in an irony. Otherwise, things are simply irrational or, as I said, inconsistent.

Here is a real irony. I teach classes in which one of the stated educational “outcomes” is that students know how to do research.

Oh, I say arrogantly, don’t get me wrong. I know how to do research.

First, I know that doing research requires discipline, attention to detail, the ability to concentrate on the matter at hand, and to keep track of every “jot and tittle” of what one is doing.

Do you remember a few years back when everyone was carrying around parcels called FranklinCovey Day Planner? They were the brainchild and the cash cow of Stephen R. Covey who wrote the book, The Seven Deadly Sins of Highly (self-proclaimed) Effective People. Everyone you knew was carrying one and organizing her life into quadrants to make her highly effective.

I’m getting to my passport.

In 1999, my late partner and one of my best friends conspired to make me highly effective by purchasing (and adding a few cents to the enormous wealth of Mr. Covey) a FranklinCovey Day Planner. By all means it should have made me highly effective. The problem was, I never remembered to carry it with me, and, in fact, most of the time had no idea where it was (I know it was 1999 because it’s right here on my desk).

That’s irony. I was totally and painfully aware that the first requirement for becoming highly effective was to remember to do something that was, simply put, impossible for me to do, and, therefore, I would never be highly effective. My inattention to detail was keeping me from attending to details.

Yes, I know—the passport.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychological Association lists a bunch of symptoms for adult Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. The six that apply to me are:

Inattention to details/makes careless mistakes
Difficulty sustaining attention
Fails to finish tasks/does not follow through
Difficulty organizing tasks or activities
Loses things necessary for tasks/activities
Easily distracted by external stimuli
Forgetful in daily activities

Will I ever learn?

Will I ever learn?

I’m not blaming my seizure-prone brain for my failures. I’m simply inattentive to details, have difficulty organizing tasks, and lose things necessary for the tasks I have difficulty organizing.

In 1990, I went with a group of educators on the most splendid excursion I can imagine for three weeks in Brazil. Of course, I had to have a passport.

In 2003, I went with a delegation of the Fellowship of Reconciliation to Palestine and Israel. I had to renew my passport because it was more than ten years old.

In 2009 (I think it was), I went with a bunch of Lutherans to Palestine. I had to get a new passport because I could not find mine.

In 2013 (now), I’m fixin’ (Texan for “I’m getting ready”) to go to Scandinavia with a Lutheran church choir. I had to get a new passport because the one I got in 2009 is, you guessed it, lost.

I have a very special passport! It’s good for only a year from its effective date (about two weeks ago) instead of ten years because the State Department wants to teach me to be a highly effective person. John Kerry insists that I pay attention to details. If I am a good boy and remember where this passport is a year from now, I can get one good for ten years (so I can make my mythical trip to Easter Island?).

The irony (the inconsistency that flies in the face of all expectations—of which I am painfully aware) of all of this is that I teach—teach very well—college students to pay attention to details. Go figure.