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Apocalypse Now: Tim LaHaye Captures the Press Again
Time Magazine accents the religious right in a cover story.
The July 1st issue of Time Magazine includes another example of how the major media gives major attention to representatives of the religious right.
Nancy Gibbs writes an article called Apocalypse Now which discusses not the movie about the Vietnam War, but Tim LaHaye's series of ten novels on the end times, beginning with "Left Behind". Gibbs says: "To some evangelical readers, the Left Behind books provide more than a spiritual guide: they are a political agenda."
A Time/CNN poll claims to have found that: 36% of Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God and is to be taken literally, 59% believe the prophecies in the Book of Revelation will come true, 35% say they are paying closer attention to news events and how they relate to the coming end of the world since the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 36% of those polled who support Israel say they do so because they believe in biblical prophecies that Jews must control Israel before Christ will come again. I wonder what sort of questions might be asked to create some news for other church bodies.
Selling a lot of books and making a lot of money are, of course, part of the justification for Time to give so much space to the religious right. A whole separate section is devoted to Tim LaHaye and entitled "Meet the Prophet". LaHay has signed a contract with Bantam Dell for a new series featuring an evangelical Indiana Jones which will bring him $42 million.
The church body of which I am a part, just one small Christian group in the U.S., has a budget of over $85 million for one year, twice the take of LaHay for his new book deal. Why don't we get a little more press attention for that?
Nancy Gibbs might have at least raised the question whether LaHaye is less a prophet than a religious shyster ruthlessly playing on people's fears and uncertainties for his own monetary reward. And in the article is very little evidence that she has interviewed a broader spectrum of representatives of the Christian church. There is one reference to Billy Graham as one who "helped bring Evangelicalism back into the social mainstream." Apparently this is enough to justify a focus on a very narrow and esoteric view of Darby-type eschatology.
The article asks "Is It Good for the Jews?" The religious right supports Israel, but as Harvey Cox is quoted in the article: "You're playing with fire there. I'd be awfully cautious about this alliance if I were on the Israeli side." That's because most of the Jews after the end times will perish completely according to this eschatology.
Billy Graham has adjusted his views over the years, but it may be well to recall what has been revealed on the oval office tapes in a 1972 conversation between Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. As reported in First Things magazine:
Referring to Jewish domination of the media, Graham says, “This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.” “You believe that?” responded Nixon. “Yes, sir,” said Graham. “Oh, boy. So do I,” said Nixon. “I can’t ever say that, but I believe it.” “No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,” Graham said. Mr. Nixon turned the conversation to Jewish influence in Hollywood, and Mr. Graham said, “A lot of Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.” Nixon replied, “You must not let them know.”
Billy Graham's view of Jewish people in 1972 is not unlike the view of many in the religous right today. Is this really the kind of religion that should be encouraged by cover stories in major magazines?
I think publications like Time should think much more carefully about giving such huge attention to figures of the religious right. They help create the impression that the religious right is much more important than it actually is, and that helps give the religious right much more political influence that it deserves.
Websites referred to in the article:
Atlanta Christian Weekly
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