AMERICA’S RELIGIOUS DEFAULT SETTING: APOCALYPSE THEATER
Yesterday I blogged about the attack on Governor Mitt Romney's Mormonism and Governor Romney's response. But I'm not quite done with the topic of America's religious default switch being set to "baptist-revivalist." So, first, a couple of caveats. By "baptist" I mean not the denomination, but the theological position, namely, any group practicing so-called "believer's baptism" and opposed to the practice of historic Christianity of baptizing, and in some cases, communing, infants. Within the mainstream Christian tradition, the Kingdom of God was open to all, including infants, a manifestation of the basic Christian belief that God and a participation in the love of God was something both mystical, sacramental, and ultimately beyond mankind's reason. There was within such systems, no need to claim a "decision" nor to have any special illumination or experience, for indeed, within the mainstream, such views were viewed as inherently Gnostic in nature.
The baptist religion inverted all that, for membership in the Church became centered upon man's reason and the claim to have made a rational decision for Christ, and in many cases, to have an experience of salvation (thus, many within this revivalist religion, as I know all too well, spend their lives seeking one experience after another, to assure themselves that indeed they are saved). It is the quintessence of classical Gnostic systems.
Add into this mix yet another potent doctrine: millennialism, which the popular culture in America knows as "the Rapture." Here we must digress briefly, and note that the reason this doctrine - itself yet another late-comer on the scene of Christian history and found nowhere in the first one thousand years of Church history, and finding only adumbrations in the millennial speculations of the mediaeval theologian, Joachim of Fiore - has taken hold on the popular and theologically illiterate imagination of American culture only because the revivalist religion has promoted it relentlessly through its "ministries" and television networks and "annotated bibles" teaching but one interpretation of certain textsand novels fictionalizing the millennialist doctrine.
So why belabor all of this?
The answer is very simple: it is this religion that has made its influence felt at the very pinnacle of American power, and hence, of American foreign policy, for within this teaching is the idea that at some future point, the "true Church" of all believers will be magically taken out of the world (to avoid the "Tribulation"), and thus, the only way to approach God will be again through - you guessed it - the reinstitution of the bloody animal sacrifices of the Old Testament dispensation. Now pause and consider the implications of this.
For one thing, it means that Israel -God's "chosen people" - must be supported, no matter what (forget all that stuff in the New Testament about Christ abolishing the distinction between Jew and Greek...remember, that is raptured out of this world!). For another, the goofiness of this doctrine need only be considered from another perspective: imagine having to get on an airplane in New York, fly to Jerusalem, and buy some turtle doves, turn them over to a priest, who will then slaughter it in an act of ritual sacrifice. Imagine red heifers, imagine a return to Old Testament law in other respects...you get the idea.And if you think there is no serious danger here, think again... just google "Amalekites" and "Israel" and you will be astounded.
The point is that an eschatological expectation has been created - perhaps and arguably even deliberately - even within a popular culture that otherwise wouldn't even think about religion at all: America's religious "default" setting is set to "revivalist millennialism." And that is a dangerous setting to be set on, regardless of where one stands. I mention all this because it is my hope that my co-author and I eventually will be able to address such issues regnant in the "apocalypse theater" driving American culture - and hence, its political and policy climate - in future ebooks. Consider this carefully once again: with the promotion of the doctrine through books, television, and "ministries" most Americans would be shocked to know that the doctrine is a relative late-comer on the scene, and that means that the interpretation it advocates is a form of deliberately created expectation, a form of social engineering for an apocalypse theater.
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