Saturday, March 01, 2008

Anti-Catholicism, Premillenial Dispensationalism, and the Republican Party

You may remember Pastor John Hagee from the the PBS documentary Apocalypse! we watch clips from when we were discussing John Nelson Darby's "premillenial dispensationalism" in class last week. Hagee was and is one of America's leading preachers of Darby's prophetic system, which includes the Rapture, the Tribulation, and large doses of venom against the Catholic Church, a.k.a. "The Whore of Babylon." What you might not know is that Hagee is also major force in the Christian conservative wing of the Republican party, gladly embraced as a supporter even by not notably Christian figures such as likely GOP nominee John McCain.

Check out this item from the American Prospect's blog, and note the statistics on the levels of public belief in biblical and Bible-related (since that's all Darby's system is) prophecies:

Last fall, John Hagee gave a speech at the late Jerry Falwell's church, where he shared the stage with Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series of novels. "How close are we to the second coming of Christ?" Hagee asked. "The Bible clearly states that heaven and earth shall pass away. … The signs of his coming are very clear in Scripture. If you listen closely, you can hear the hoofbeats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, racing toward the battle of Armageddon."

For Hagee, the Bible prophesies that certain events will take place before the Second Coming. Hagee believes that many of these events have already occurred or are occurring. Referring to the Rapture, during which he believes Christians will be whisked away to heaven to wait for the Second Coming, Hagee said, "We’re going up in a twinkling of an eye. Jesus Christ could be here before you get home tonight."

While John McCain clearly doesn't believe this stuff, he knows that millions of Americans do. A 2002 Time magazine poll found that “fully 59% [of Americans] say they believe the events in Revelation are going to come true, and nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the Sept. 11 attack.” A 2007 AP/Ipsos poll found that one quarter of Americans believed that Jesus Christ would return in 2007 and 46% of evangelicals believed that it was “somewhat likely.” A comprehensive study of Pentecostals and charismatic evangelical Christians conducted by the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life in 2006 found that “Pentecostals have particularly strong views on 'the rapture of the church,' the teaching that before the world comes to an end the faithful will be saved and taken up to heaven.” According to the survey, 90% of American Pentecostals held that belief, while 69% of charismatics and 59% of other Christians did.

For video of the good pastor explaining the anti-Catholic aspects of his theology -- the proper word is actually "eschatology" -- see my history & politics blog.