Preaching and believing apocalyptic doom is not limited to crazy people in surplus uniforms playing God’s Army in the woods of Michigan, like the Hutaree were until the FBI put the kibosh on their alleged plans to kill government agents, better known as the police.
Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and countless other Christians have made a decent (some would say, indecent) living warning of our impending destruction, the end of the world. We even have such folks here in Joplin.
Ironically, on the Sunday the FBI moved in and foiled the alleged plot of the Hutarees, Central Christian Center’s weekly television broadcast featured a guest appearance by former and much-beloved pastor, Mack Evans, whose sermon focused on “the last days.”
For those who don’t know, Central Christian Center is one of the area’s largest churches and occupies the former Fox Theater in downtown Joplin. Our current mayor, Gary Shaw, serves as Executive Administrator, Elder, and Trustee of the church.
Anyway, Pastor Mack’s sermon, which was actually recorded the previous Sunday, included themes similar in nature to those one might find on sites like Hutaree—without the accompanying affection for violence, however. Repeat: Mack Evans’ sermon did not advocate or even suggest that Christians take up arms against the government.
The main theme I am referring to is the “end times” meme that permeates much of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity in America, which then is amplified by people like those in Michigan, who put on uniforms and strap on guns and practice fighting the government in preparation for some kind of apocalyptic convulsion.
On the Hutaree site, you will find this statement:
…the people with enough faith to last as long as it might take are the wise ones. They know and believe in the testimony of Christ, even through the darkest and most doubtful of times. This day is soon.
Now, Pastor Mack’s sermon also touched on a similar theme of “the darkest and most doubtful of times.” He said,
…you do not have to be a Christian to know that things are accelerating out of control…on a gut level, you talk to anybody—you talk to anybody—and on a gut level they know that things are not right…You know that the spiritual pressure is increasing and the end time events are moving faster and faster. The spiritual war in the heavenlies is intensifying and the closer we get to the last days, there will be a rapid acceleration of events—signs in the heavens and on the earth and men’s hearts failing them for fear…
The pastor was just getting started:
…there’s also going to be social, political, economical, and spiritual unrest and destruction. Now, right now, Church, economically and politically, governments are beginning to reach crisis stage. You have Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States—right now—that is on the verge of bankruptcy—all of them.
If you are sufficiently scared by now, but still yearn for more details, he continued:
Now, the United States, whether you know it or not, is in critical mass right now. We’re gonna pass, apparently, the health care bill—I think everybody deserves health care—but I think this may be one of the final blows to bring down the finances and the political—politics—of this country. [A boisterous "Amen" shouted at this point.]
While I have heard many similar pessimistic sermons in my time as an evangelical Christian, I don’t think I ever heard one that involved relating the passage of a universally acknowledged bill of good intentions (whatever one thinks of its economic assumptions) to our demise as a country. In my experience, our doom was connected to such horrid things as sexual permissiveness or abortion or homosexuality—or simply because our “time” was up.
In any case, the point of citing Pastor Mack’s ominous message to the faithful at Central Christian Center, is that this kind of Bible-based cynicism about our future—that pollutes the minds of millions of our fellow citizens, including children—is a dangerous and possibly ultimately self-destructive feature of American culture.*
Not only does this end-times theology put fear in the hearts of our youth and promote unhealthy cynicism about our government and our civilization, it makes the world a little safer for folks like the “Christian Warriors” of Michigan, who take seriously the implications of such radically morbid theology.
It’s much like the way fundamentalist and evangelical rhetoric and teaching about the “sin” of homosexuality makes the world a little safer for the hateful members of Westboro Baptist Church—whose URL includes, godhatesfags.com, and who claim they have conducted nearly 43,000 “peaceful demonstrations opposing the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth.”
It’s much like the way the extreme anti-abortion and anti-choice rhetoric—”babykillers” and “murderers“—makes the world a little safer for domestic terrorists like Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. George Tiller and remains unrepentant and defiant to this day.
Admittedly, it’s a long way from Pastor Mack’s sermon on the end times to strapping on semi-automatic weapons and picking a fight with the government, but the message of both Mack Evans and the Hutaree begins with an apocalyptic vision written a long time ago in an age of considerable ignorance and superstition.
And it really has no place in the modern world.
…He [Jesus] said the day’s gonna come when there’s gonna be some overcomers—times are gonna be so tough and so hard they’re gonna have to have a new authority. And when that comes, just relax: “I’ll give you a new name. I’ll give you a new authority. And with that name and that authority, no enemy will be able to stand.”
Reverend Wright anyone?