This is a few days late, but we need to look at that Los Angeles Times "End Times" story. I'm not sure if the problem with the story is that it is disorganized or that the reporter just doesn't get the topic about which he is writing. Speaking of not knowing about the topic, I'm Lutheran and we think Left Behind is where you get a penicillin shot. Still, I think I'd put any catechumen from my church up against the Times' Louis Sahagun. His breathless piece is about how an unspecified number of religious groups of unspecified population -- some of which don't even share the same religion -- are using technology to hasten the end times and/or apocalypse and/or the arrival of a Jewish, Christian or Muslim messiah.
I mean, is it me, or is this kind of a big umbrella for one story? Compounding the problem is that some of his examples don't have anything to do with technology. Maybe it's a new Times exercise in free-association stories. But since this is GetReligion and not GetOrganized, how about I move on . . .
Sahagun fails to prove his point. If you're going to claim that people are wacky, it's important to be specific and substantiate claims with evidence the reader can check:
With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission: to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message. Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades.
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a far different vision. As mayor of Tehran in 2004, he spent millions on improvements to make the city more welcoming for the return of a Muslim messiah known as the Mahdi, according to a recent report by the American Foreign Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.
Maybe these unquantified megachurch pastors were trying to bring about Armageddon. Or maybe they were doing what Christians have done since, well, Day 1: evangelism. And mayors improving the infrastructure of their city? Well, that is crazy, isn't it? Put another way, how hard does a reporter have to work to make Ahmadinejad seem like a sensible bureaucrat? This is the man who spins the Holocaust, for crying out loud. I kid you not when I say Sahagun also acts like it's news that Jews want to rebuild "a temple on a site now occupied by one of Islam's holiest shrines." A temple? You don't say . . .
Sahagun glosses over different Christian beliefs about Revelation:
Though there are myriad interpretations of how it will play out, the basic Christian apocalyptic countdown -- as described by the Book of Revelation in the New Testament -- is as follows:
Jews return to Israel after 2,000 years, the Holy Temple is rebuilt, billions of people perish during seven years of natural disasters and plagues, the antichrist arises and rules the world, the battle of Armageddon erupts in the vicinity of Israel, Jesus returns to defeat Satan's armies and preside over Judgment Day.
Generations of Christians have hoped for the Second Coming of Jesus, said UCLA historian Eugen Weber, author of the 1999 book "Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages."
"And it's always been an ultimately bloody hope, a slaughterhouse hope," he added with a sigh.
Oh, so that's the "basic Christian apocalyptic countdown"? And we Christians have always had a "slaughterhouse hope" in the end times? That's good to know. I wonder why my pastor and every other Lutheran pastor and, for that matter, most of Christendom is keeping this from me. I mean, Lutherans, for instance, reject all forms of millennialism. (Happy birthday, Augsburg!) And even among folks who do believe in millennialism, you have your Historical Premillennialists, your Dispensational Premillennialists, Pre-Tribulation Rapture folks, Post-Tribs, Mid-Tribs and Pre-Wrath Rapturites and Partial Rapture folks -- all of whom have disparate eschatological views.
Sahagun confuses evangelism with Armageddon (maybe this explains other problems in the newsroom). There are many examples but here's one:
Apocalyptic movements are nothing new; even Christopher Columbus hoped to assist in the Great Commission by evangelizing New World inhabitants.
Sahagun is unaware that not all Christians are millennialists, part 246:
For Christians, the future of Israel is the key to any end-times scenario, and various groups are reaching out to Jews -- or proselytizing among them -- to advance the Second Coming.
No. No, no, no. Israel is not the key to any end-times scenario for Christians. There are billions of Christians in the world, all of whom believe in the world to come, as we say. And religious support of Israe? That's certainly of concern to some Baptists and Pentecostals, for instance. But not everybody.
Complete lack of context. Reporters should use specific words. Avoid the word "some" as much as possible. Sahagun used the word eight times. The article gave the impression that statistical outliers -- a farmer in Mississippi trying to breed a herd of red heifers -- represent average Christians. And Christian thought is fleshed out much more in the story than Muslim or Jewish thought.
I know I'm not the Times' only reader who wants to learn more about millennialism and religious support of Israel. It's a shame we're still waiting.