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(This is Day 18 of our look at the book of Revelation and what it means–and doesn’t mean.)

Tim Laye, who founded the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, has extreme anti-Catholic opinions that have landed him in trouble at times. He also has been associated with "The Moonies" and accepted $500,000 from a Moonie operative. That's a strange association for such a conservative evangelical.

Tim Laye, who founded the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, has extreme anti-Catholic opinions that have landed him in trouble at times. He also has been associated with “The Moonies” and accepted $500,000 from a Moonie operative. That’s a strange association for such a conservative evangelical.

Jimmy Akin, a Roman Catholic speaker and apologist who writes at Catholic Answers (see here), once wrote a lengthy takedown of the Left Behind franchise of books and films that so badly distort the meaning of the books of Revelation and Daniel and other pieces of the Bible.

The title of Akin’s was:

False Profit: Money, Prejudice, and Bad Theology in Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind Series

The title makes it pretty obvious that Akin is no fan of LaHaye and the Left Behind franchise.

Again, Akin’s article is lengthy, but very readable and quite powerful in exposing the anti-Catholic prejudice in the Left Behind novels and shedding light on LaHaye’s less-than-sterling character.

You can read it here and I commend it to you.

Below is an excerpt from Akin’s piece exposing the background of Tim LaHaye–a Christian evangelical associated with, of all people, Sun Myung Moon, the “Moonies” leader who claims to be “the world’s new Messiah” and “the Lord of the Second Advent”:

    Tim LaHaye was born in 1926 in Detroit, Michigan. He fought in World War II and afterwards attended Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Bob Jones is a Fundamentalist school known for intense anti-Catholicism. It also did not admit African American students until the 1970s and, between 1950 and 2000, maintained a policy against interracial dating among students. The school explained that intermarriage among the races would further the cause of “One World Government” and thus the Antichrist. While attending Bob Jones, LaHaye met his wife, Beverly. He also began to pastor a church during this time.

    In 1956, LaHaye became the pastor of Scott Memorial Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, just outside San Diego. While there, he and his wife began a radio program called The LaHayes on Family Life, which sought to promote family values from a Fundamentalist perspective. Also while in the San Diego area, LaHaye established Christian Heritage College.

    His literary flair expressed itself in writing a number of popular (and contentious) books, including Spirit-Controlled Temperament, Battle for the Mind, The Battle for the Family, and Battle for the Public Schools. In the 1970s he began to publish books on the subject of Bible prophecy, including The Beginning of the End andRevelation Illustrated and Made Plain.

    The LaHayes have been active in politics. Tim was a co-founder of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and founded a number of his own Christian political action groups as well. Beverly founded Concerned Women for America, a rival of the National Organization for Women that has a membership substantially greater than NOW.

    In 1987 Jack Kemp named Tim LaHaye as national co-chair of his presidential campaign, but LaHaye resigned days later when newspapers published anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic remarks he had made. These included references to Catholicism as “a false religion” and to Jews being responsible for the death of Christ. Subsequently it came to light that, during the 1970s, LaHaye’s church had funded Mission to Catholics, a virulently anti-Catholic ministry run by former Carmelite priest Bart Brewer.

    Scandal continued to dog LaHaye when it was revealed that he had connections with the Unification Church (“the Moonies”). The head of the Unification Church is Sun Myung Moon, who has proclaimed himself “the world’s new Messiah” and “the Lord of the Second Advent.” LaHaye was the chair of Moon’s Coalition for Religious Freedom, and is reported to have received at least half a million dollars in funding from Moon’s associate Bo Hi Park. LaHaye and his wife have attended and spoken at Moon-sponsored events, though they have made it clear that they do not endorse Moon’s theological ideas.

    LaHaye’s association with Sun Myung Moon is especially perplexing. As a man who has written so many books warning people about the Antichrist, LaHaye is one of the last people one would expect to ally with a man who literally is a false Christ.

TODAY’s takeaway on Revelation:

18. Let’s be candid here: If your church library has Left Behind novels and videos, you might want to learn more about co-author Tim LaHaye and question why the church carries such awful theology peddled by a man driven by more by profiteering than legitimate prophecy.


It seems like an eternity ago, but it was just last week that America was celebrating the life of a world-renowned peacemaker who happened to be a devout American Muslim.

If you didn’t see funny-man Billy Crystal’s hilarious but poignant tribute to his longtime “brother” Ali, do yourself a 15-minute favor and watch it below.

If there’s one thing Billy and Ali had in common it was a high-octane gift for often hilarious gab.


(This is Day 17 of our breakdown of the Bible’s much used, abused and misused Book of Revelation.)

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Tim LaHaye and his partner in profiteering Jerry B. Jenkins–the co-authors of the all-too-popular Left Behind series of novels and movies–boast that they’ve brought millions of people to Christ through their creations.

Unfortunately, they’re right: they’ve brought millions into the Christian fold.

It’s unfortunate because those millions have come to Christ out of the “turn-or-burn” fear of a violent Jesus that LaHaye and Jenkins promote. (See yesterday’s post for more about this “violent Jesus” they believe in.)

With their kazillion-dollar franchise, they’ve led people to fear the future–to verily obsess over it–rather than respond to the call of Jesus to advance the kingdom of God by making the sin-sick world a better and healthier world.

The LaHaye-Jenkins Jesus is not the Jesus who brought hurting people to him by invitation–not the Jesus who said, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

That was a non-threatening invitation to join the kingdom of God and enjoy a foretaste of heaven on earth, in the here and now.

The LaHaye-Jenkins Jesus is a long way from the Jesus who said to his expanding band of followers, “Do not be anxious for tomorrow. . . . Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [good] things will be added to you.”

He didn’t spoil that invitation by saying, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, or I will burn you alive and make you wish you had never been born.”

And yet the LaHaye-Jenkins franchise is going strong.

And their hack writing isn’t just for grownups.

The Left Behind franchise includes a line of books specifically directed at children, called “Left Behind: The Kids.”

The series is projected to include a total of 36 volumes and is aimed at children ages 12 to 16.

Titles for these “children’s books” include:

    Terror in the Stadium, Death at the Gala, Escape to Masada, (the site of a mass suicide), Through the Flames, Nicolae High (it’s about kids in a high school named after the Antichrist), and so on.

Lord in your mercy, deliver us from this erroneous and potentially harmful Rapture racket.

Today’s takeaway:

17. Jesus brought people living in the darkness of paganism and the religious and State oppression by healing people, reaching out to the poor and marginalized, and inviting rich and poor into the light, not by scare tactics.


(This is Day 16 of our 30-days series in which we’re unpacking the seemingly scary and bizarre book of Revelation in order to examine its contents.)

According to LaHaye and Jenkins, the true believers will be raptured up while billions of non- or questionable believers will be targets of a God gone madder than Dirty Harry.

According to LaHaye and Jenkins, the true believers will be raptured up while billions of non- or questionable believers will be targets of a God gone madder than Dirty Harry.

In 2004, when Americans by the millions were reading the Left Behind novels and buying into the “Rapture” theology of authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the two authors had an interview with the late, great Morley Safer.

The interview was in a 60 Minutes II segment in which Safer gave this succinct overview:

    “The Left Behind novels give a graphic version of the New Testament prophecy of the end of the world happening in our time, in which only the righteous are saved. [The novel in the series] Glorious Appearing tells the story of the return of an avenging Jesus, slaughtering non-believers by the millions. It’s an image of Jesus that many evangelicals say is long overdue.”

Sadly, millions of American evangelical Christians in 2016 still embrace this image of Jesus as a Dirty Harry figure who will slaughter your own non-believing loved ones if they happen to be non-believers.

It’s no wonder so many Rapture-believing Christians see nothing wrong with torturing enemies or meting out the death penalty even if it means a “few innocent people” get sent home to God by the State.

Here’s what Jenkins, a devout servant of God and mammon, had to say in that interview with Safer:

    “Unfortunately, we’ve gone through a time when liberalism has so twisted the real meaning of scripture that they’ve manufactured a loving, wimpy Jesus that would never do anything in judgment. And that’s not the God of the Bible. That’s not the way Jesus reads in the Scripture.”


Honestly, I have to wonder if Jenkins and LaHaye have ever read the Sermon on the Mount with its Beatitudes.

I wonder if they’ve read the parable of The Prodigal Son, in which God ran out to greet the son who had so lost his way that he ended up living in a pig pit. Was the Jesus who told that parable about God’s radical love, mercy and forgiveness a “wimpy Jesus who would never do anything in judgment?”

Jesus does have his judgmental side for sure. It was out of fiery, righteous indignation that he cracked the whip on some money-grubbers (speaking got the fabulously wealthy Left Behind authors) in the temple.

But–contrary to what so many Christians who don’t study the Bible think–he didn’t physically assault anybody with the whip.

Jesus spoke in harsh judgment in a series of “woes” to the hypocrites who incensed him–the scribes and Pharisees who judged him to be a threat to their comfortable power and control over poor and vulnerable people.

And here’s another point lost on the co-authors of the Left Behind books: Jesus looks down from the cross on us all in judgment every day. That’s part of the theology of the cross–the vantage point from where Christ asked his Father to forgive his persecutors.

I suppose the Christ who sought such radical forgiveness from the cross could be construed as the “loving, wimpy” Christ of some kind of “liberalism” that Jenkins and LaHaye fear in all their extreme conservatism.

There’s a possibility, perhaps, that when he looks down in judgment on Jenkins and LaHaye, Jesus weeps over how the authors have distorted the image of he who was the incarnation of love.

* * * *

Here’s what LaHaye had to say to Safer about their novels:

“The biblical stuff is as close to the Bible interpretation as we can get. But if they (readers) are not people who read the Bible, they don’t know which is which.

“And so they say we sort of invented this violent Jesus, this judgmental Jesus. That stuff is straight from the Bible. The idea of him slaying the enemy with the sword that comes from his mouth, which is His Word, and the fact that the enemy’s eyes melt in their heads, their tongues disintegrate, their flesh drops off — I didn’t make that up. That’s out of the prophecy.”

In fact, biblical scholars say the Left Behind authors have invented a violent Jesus because they’ve invent a violent Jesus. UNLESS you take John’s vision literally, which obviously is now how it was supposed to be taken. What kind of monster of a God would literally melt the eyes of even some enemy?

Quite to the contrary, Revelation contains two beautiful scriptures in which God wipes away the tears from the eyes of God’s people (see Revelation 7:17 and 21:4).

It cannot be said enough that Revelation and books like Daniel were not written as prophecies in which prophets looked into a mystical crystal ball and told us through scripture how the world will be blown up by an avenging Jesus who, in his unjust judgment, will be the Jesus of holy massacres.

It cannot be said enough that Revelation was a pastoral letter written in highly symbolic–not literal–apocalyptic language. As I’ve noted often in this series, just because the symbolism, images and metaphors John used are difficult wrap around our heads around doesn’t mean it was difficult for readers in the year 90.

It’s a shame that Jenkins and LaHaye–and TV preaching hucksters like John Hagee in San Antonio (who has enormous political clout in American politics these days) continue to rake in millions of dollars annually pushing a monstrous Christian theology that has no scriptural legs to stand on.

Today’s takeaway is this:

Is God a judge? Absolutely. Is God a fair, merciful and just judge or a God waiting to go all Dirty Harry on the ever sin-sick world which is so in need of God’s loving, healing powers?

Read the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Good News of extravagant love, grace and mercy, and then, you be the judge.


Even the guy on the left joined Carter and Ford in calling for an assault weapon ban that was passed--and effective.

Even the guy on the left joined Carter and Ford in calling for an assault weapon ban that was passed–and effective.

Remember that time in 1994 when three former U.S. Presidents–Republican Gerald Ford, Democrat Jimmy Carter and–yes–even the Giant of G.O.P.-ism Ronald Reagan–joined forces in calling for a ban on assault rifles?

I’m old and gray-bearded enough to remember that they did this without anyone accusing them of being soft on crime or terrorism or the Second Amendment or any such thing.

And the ban was passed into law.

In a letter the three sent to Congress they wrote the following:

    May 3, 1994

    To Members of the U.S. House of Representatives:

    We are writing to urge your support for a ban on the domestic manufacture of military-style assault weapons. This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety. Although assualt weapons account for less than 1% of the guns in circulation, they account for nearly 10% of the guns traced to crime.

    Every major law enforcement organization in America and dozens of leading labor, medical, religious, civil rights and civic groups support such a ban. Most importantly, poll after poll shows that the American public overwhelmingly support a ban on assault weapons. A 1993 CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 77% of Americans support a ban on the manufacture, sale, and possession of semi-automatic assault guns, such as the AK-47.

    The 1989 import ban resulted in an impressive 40% drop in imported assault weapons traced to crime between 1989 and 1991, but the killing continues. Last year, a killer armed with two TEC9s killed eight people at a San Francisco law firm and wounded several others. During the past five years, more than 40 law enforcement officers have been killed or wounded in the line of duty by an assault weapon.

    While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.

    Sincerely,

    Gerald R. Ford

    Jimmy Carter

    Ronald Reagan

Note their acknowledgement that a ban on assault weapons–which are basically machine guns made to mow people down in war and not for deer or duck hunting–wouldn’t stop any and all assault weapon crimes.

But we’ve come a long way since our Founding Fathers–whose idea of a weapon was a musket, for gosh sake–gave us the Second Amendment.

I have no doubt that our founders would be appalled that the machine guns we have now are widely available for anything but war.

Here’s a fact sheet, prefaced with a statement, from Sen. Diane Feinstein, who’s been pushing for a reinstatement of the ban for years (and good for her):

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was effective at reducing crime and getting these military-style weapons off our streets. Since the ban expired, more than 350 people have been killed and more than 450 injured by these weapons.

— A Justice Department study of the assault weapons ban found that it was responsible for a 6.7% decrease in total gun murders, holding all other factors equal.

Source: Jeffrey A. Roth & Christopher S. Koper, “Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994,” (March 1997).
The same study also found that “Assault weapons are disproportionately involved in murders with multiple victims, multiple wounds per victim, and police officers as victims.”

— The use of assault weapons in crime declined by more than two-thirds by about nine years after 1994 Assault Weapons Ban took effect.

Source: Christopher S. Koper, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003” (June 2004), University of Pennsylvania, Report to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
The percentage of firearms seized by police in Virginia that had high-capacity magazines dropped significantly during the ban. That figure has doubled since the ban expired.

Source: David S. Fallis and James V. Grimaldi, “In Virginia, high-yield clip seizures rise,” Washington Post, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/22/AR2011012204046.html

— When Maryland imposed a more stringent ban on assault pistols and high-capacity magazines in 1994, it led to a 55% drop in assault pistols recovered by the Baltimore Police Department.
Source: Douglas S. Weil & Rebecca C. Knox, Letter to the Editor, The Maryland Ban on the Sale of Assault Pistols and High-Capacity Magazines: Estimating the Impact in Baltimore, 87 Am. J. of Public Health 2, Feb. 1997.
37% of police departments reported seeing a noticeable increase in criminals’ use of assault weapons since the 1994 federal ban expired.
Source: Police Executive Research Forum, Guns and Crime: Breaking New Ground by Focusing on the Local Impact (May 2010).  


(This is Day 15 in our 30 days of Revelation series.)

If I knew the world was going to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.”

— Martin Luther

——————

“Luther is saying he would continue to live even more deeply rooted in the confidence of God’s love for the world. ‘Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,’ is what Jesus taught us to pray. It is not a prayer to take us away from earth, nor a prayer for escape in a bunker, but a prayer that God’s reign will come to earth–and that it will even come ‘through us,’ as Luther explains.”

— Barbara Rossing in The Rapture Exposed

Left Behind theology is a profitable racket: another movie came out last October, complete with t-shirts for sale!

Left Behind theology is a profitable racket: another movie came out last October, complete with t-shirts for sale!

Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed, noted in the first sentence of that important book that “The Rapture is a racket.”

Indeed, the theology may be bunk, but the novels and the films the novels inspired are certainly profitable for evangelical figureheads who never miss an opportunity to turn an easy buck on the Bible.

An updated version of the “Left Behind” movie series came out just last October, complete with caps and t-shirts aplenty for sale.

Not surprisingly, profiteering Christian Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame (don’t get me started on the Robertson family’s despicable takes on all things biblical) was an executive producer of that latest film based on the huge-selling series of Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and his partner in biblical exploitation Jerry B. Jenkins.

As I noted yesterday, Rapture/Left Behind theology was a 19th century concoction created by a Brit named John Darby and popularized in 1909 by a Dallas preacher named C.I. Scofield, who came up with The Scofield Reference Bible.

The Dallas Theological Seminary in the north Texas city to this day teaches and preaches Rapture theology, which is one reason it endures. The seminary, steeped in the history of Scofield’s biblical interpretations, is hugely influential in fundamentalism.

Rapture theology is based on a crazy quilt of scriptures from 1 Thessalonians, Daniel, Isaiah and, of course, Revelation with its Antichrist.

The bottom line of this Doomsday doctrine is that God is going to destroy this earth that, as LaHaye himself has said, “is so marred and cursed by Satan’s evil. He will include the atmospheric heaven to guarantee that all semblance of evil has been cleared away.”

This is a man who obviously has a pipeline to God in heaven.

* * * *

So God created the earth and atmosphere and famously declared it good in the first book of the Bible, only to declare in the last book of the Bible that His/Her good earth has to be utterly destroyed–along with kazillions of people God created in His/Her image.

This theology makes no sense on the face of it, but what it does do is feed the fears of vulnerable and gullible people attracted to escapism from a world that is, for sure, shot-through with evil.

As Rossing writes, “the Bible’s message is not that ‘God so loved the word that he sent World War III’–and yet Rapture believers believe just that, that God is going to bring about ultimate peace by bringing about God’s personal war to end all wars.

“God,” Rossing writes in The Rapture Exposed, is not a God who will destroy the earth by fire or nuclear war. Nor does God approve of our destruction of the earth.”

That said, no one can deny we–not God–have done a thoroughly good job of destroying God’s good, green earth.

* * * *

In the opening of her book Rossing writes:

    “The Rapture is a racket. Whether prescribing a violent script for Israel or survivalism in the United States, this theology distorts God’s vision for the world. The Rapture proclaims escape. In the place of Jesus’ blessing of peacemakers, the Rapture voyeuristically glorifies violence and war. In the place of Revelation’s vision of the Lamb’s vulnerable self-giving love, the Rapture celebrates the lion-like wrath of the Lamb. This theology is not biblical. We are not raptured off the earth, nor is God. No, God has come to live in the world through Jesus. God created the world. God loves the world, and God will never leave the world behind!

Today’s takeaway is:

15. God who created the world and loves the world is not going to do a 180 and leave the world behind just because a C.I. Scofield or a LaHaye or a Jenkins or a Hal Lindsey of The Late Great Planet Earth book fame or some doomsday preacher in Dallas or on TV’s Trinity Broadcasting Network said so.


(This is Day 14 in our look at the Bible’s Book of Revelation, what it means and doesn’t mean.)

The concept of the Dispensationalism–commonly know today as “Rapture” or “Left Behind” theology–has been a characteristic feature of conservative and evangelical Christian theology for a long time now.

Way too long in fact.

“Left Behind” theology teaches that the true Christian believers among us will be removed from the world just before (or maybe within) a period of hellacious earthly Tribulation.

C.I. Scofield of (of all places) Dallas popularized the faulty but enduring doctrine of Dispensationalism, more commonly known today as "Rapture" or Left Behind theology.

C.I. Scofield of (of all places) Dallas popularized the faulty but enduring doctrine of Dispensationalism, more commonly known today as “Rapture” or Left Behind theology.

This abrupt removal of true Christians from the world in the great “Rapture” means that you–if you are a good, bona fide Christian–could be swept away to the divine realm any minute.

(Hopefully you’ll have your clothes when you go to meet God.)

Unfortunately, your spouse, you children, your siblings–who may not have the bona fides required to spend eternity with God–could be left behind to endure Hell on earth.

N.T. Wright, the British Anglican on everybody’s short list of best theologians alive, once wrote what follows about the “Rapture” craze–when America’s enchantment with the god-awful Left Behind novels and films was peaking–in a 2001 article titled “Farewell to the Rapture”:

    “The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus–especially with distorted interpretations of it–continues unabated. Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre.

    “Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal ‘rapture’ in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been ‘left behind.’

    “This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith.”

Indeed, the distortion of faith presented in the popular novels by the warped minds of two money-grubbing evangelicals who co-authored the books has made a mockery of the Bible and Christian faith.

The heck of it is, the now commonly-held doctrine of the Rapture was never a doctrine at all until a Brit named John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) invented it!

But it wasn’t even popularized until a kook in my beloved city of Dallas, Texas– C. I. Scofield–published Darby’s nonsense in what became the very successful Scofield Reference Bible.

Scofield’s “Bible” was first published in 1909 and, unfortunately, the unbiblical “Rapture” theology has had staying power.

Barbara Rossing, the New Testament theologian at Chicago’s Lutheran seminary and author of The Rapture Exposed, explains why the “Left Behind” Rapture theology made famous in novels and films is not only an unbiblical 19th century invention–but dangerous theology:

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    “We must address the question how the book of Revelation–especially the warrior Jesus in Revelation 19–gets used by American fundamentalist Christians to justify war and conquest, whether in Iraq or in Israel.

    “In my view, today’s Christian fundamentalists have hijacked the nonviolent Lamb of Revelation as the predominant image of Jesus and replaced him with the fierce Lion, a move that has terrifying and violent consequences for both Jews and Christians—especially when followers seek to influence U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

    “Drawing on the interpretation invented by British preacher John Nelson Darby in the 1830s, pre-millennial dispensationalists split the traditional second coming of Jesus into two parts—first a so-called ‘Rapture, when born-again Christians get to escape up to heaven, then seven years of tribulation and wars, followed by the so-called Glorious Appearing seven years later, when Jesus returns for what ends up being a third time.

    “They claim that this scenario—including the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple and its desecration by the Antichrist—-is laid out in Daniel 9:25–27. For them, the world is now counting down for a series of ever-worsening disasters and wars, leading up to the end.

    “Dispensationalist Left Behind theology is dangerous for the Middle East. Israeli theologian Yehezkel Landau calls it a ‘perverse parody of John 3:16: God so loved the world that he sent it World War III.’

    “Some Israelis have been willing to accept American fundamentalists’ financial and political support because their theology promotes a very pro-Israel foreign policy in the short term. But as Landau and others point out, dialogue among Jews and Christians working for peace in the Middle East is ill served by such problematic alliances.”

Today’s takeaway might be this:

14. Don’t buy into “The Rapture” or the enduring popularity of the “Left Behind” stuff that has enriched a lot of preachers and fundamentalists while making a mockery of God and the book of Revelation. It’s not only a false doctrine but a potentially dangerous one.