It has been painful for me to read this recent apocalyptic literature. I have watched Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart on TV for months, sometimes also Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker. I am shocked that lately both Fallwell and Swaggart claim to have been called to evangelize the world. What is good news (evangel) in their message?
Forty percent of Americans say they are listening to these kinds of "gospels." Thirty-four percent of Americans responding to a poll believe that nuclear war is inevitable. They hear and absorb what is said or written often enough.
In this section we have seen that through both content and method the same conclusions are reached:
— because Good must not compromise with Evil we must be prepared to defend what is Good;
— because Armageddon is coming we are to provide for the need of Israel in that battle and stand on the same side;
— because the "literal" interpretation is free to choose any text and find all texts plastic enough to mold,
the dispensational conclusion is reaffirmed: PEACE IS NOT POSSIBLE, PREPARE FOR WAR. Until the return of Christ, war will be with us. Military expenditure, even if disproportionate and unrealistic,is to be supported. That such preparations may upset the international balance of power, or even provoke war, is no reason to reject a military budget, since the final war is coming according to the will of God.
How can people live with such a view? They do not need to worry about Armageddon. The horror of the Tribulation will not touch them because it pits only evil people against evil people. The raptured believers will be safely elsewhere.
After all the reading and listening, the central question remains: what picture of God emerges from these dreadful imaginings? The God of Rapture plays with the world and humanity. The evil that will overwhelm humanity -- Armageddon, the Tribulation -- is God-determined, as is the murder of most Jews and Gentiles. (The writers have not yet noted that these two categories do not exhaust the variety of humanity.) This view has nothing to do with the permissive will of God that allows us to live with the consequences of our actions. Rather, this is presented as the will of God for the fulfillment of the divine plan which is to save a handful of converted Jews and another handful of converted Gentiles, and destroy the rest.
What is so wrong with these men (no woman has yet become known with this kind of message) that they can preach and rejoice in a God who actively wills the destruction of most of humanity, whose idea of peace is to destroy all contrary voices, and who calls us to be fellow destroyers by sanctioning build-ups of nuclear weapons?
Feeling pain, sensing mischief and inordinate arrogance as I read books for this study. I was in need of healing. One evening I started to jot down notes for my picture of God. What I put on paper is not new, but it helped me and I want to share it with you.
God who loved us into being does not play cruelly with the universe or a planet.
God who creates women and men for freedom and for community,divine and human community, does not play pre-determination with those very creatures.
God who re-creates community through the covenant teaches us that we belong to God and to each other; that our life is fused with the life of others in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth.
God who came to us as a baby, God whose glory we have glimpsed in the face of Jesus Christ, is the God who is with us and for us in our birth, our life, in death and eternity.
In Jesus Christ we see that we are to attend to the present. We are called to be co-creators alongside the Creator. No one in need was turned away by Jesus because his concern for the future never overrode a response to present need.
In Jesus Christ we see that God’s victory over evil and death is not by might, but by weakness, not by weapons but by suffering. Christ took upon himself our griefs, our sorrows and transgressions, and taught us the way of peace.
The Holy Spirit confirms in our heart that the divine plan for the wholeof creation is mending, healing, redemption.
Praise be to God.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Allan A. Boesak, Comfort and Protest (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press,1987).
Flo Conway, Holy Terror (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982).
Gabriel Fackre, The Religious Right and Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, Ml: Eerdmans, 1982).
Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1986).
Samuel S. Hill and Dennis E. Owen, The New Religious Political Right in America (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1982).
Robert Jewett, Jesus Against the Rapture: Seven Unexpected Prophecies (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1979).
A.G. Mojtabai, Blessed Assurance: At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986).
Peggy L. Shriver, The Bible Vote: Religion and the New Right (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1981).
Gayraud S. Wilmore, Last Things First (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1982).