11 September and the Millennialist Discourse: An Order of Words?

Article excerpt

I have not sent these prophets, saith the Lord, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, and yet they prophesied.

Jeremiah (23:21)

THIS PROPHETIC VERSE PROVIDES a proper starting point for the thesis of this article, namely, that a clash of cultures has been going on for centuries between the West and the Arab World; that this clash was started and has been continuously perpetrated by those "prophets of doom" who could easily be the object of the verse from Jeremiah; that the horrible terrorist attacks of 11 September served to intensify the millennial discourse and to provide it with more fuel. The 11 September attacks did not start this discourse; and that one serious result of 11 September has been the license taken by many to demonize Islam and to establish new intolerant rules of debate and of encounter which would have been difficult to accept before. Two events will help illustrate this argument:

Only three days after the 11 September attacks, and in a rare joint appearance on television, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson discussed the significance of the event. They decided that "we made God mad" and that in these horrible deeds "God gave us what we deserve." The two old rivals, who have been competing for the leadership of the religious right in the U.S., agreed that Americans have "just seen the antechamber of terror." Falwell elaborated on the theme: "I blame the CL groups, the feminists, the homosexuals, the abortionists, and the federal courts, because they threw God out of the public square ... I put the finger in their face and say 'You helped this happen!'" Pat and Jerry did blame the "terrorists legally and morally," but in their view it was these groups that brought about God's punishment.

This event is relevant to the theme for a number of reasons. First, the two religious preachers have enjoyed phenomenal popularity among the fundamentalists and the religious right constituencies. Secondly, Robertson and Falwell have traditionally been rivals competing for these constituencies. In fact, Falwell had backed George H. W. Bush's bid for the Republican nomination against Robertson in the 1988 Presidential campaign. Both of them agreed that the terrorists were simply tools in the hands of an angry God, used to punish Americans for the sins of liberals, feminists, and homosexuals. That the terrorists may have their own reasons or motives was of no consequence. Finally, and more importantly, both Robertson and Falwell have ardently and unconditionally supported Israel for over forty years. They have consistently cited God's 'purpose and plan' to explain every event that has taken place since the establishment of the state of Israel. Which brings us to the second event.

In 1974 the Bible Believers' Evangelistic Association published the first of a series of pictures and posters graphically describing 'God's Plan' and purpose. One picture in this publication presents the fundamentalist artist's concept of the events which take place (or have taken place?) during the 'Rapture of the saved.' The figure of Christ in the clouds appears at the top center stretching His arms to 'receive up to Himself' those who believed in Him. The 'dead in Christ' rise from the graves, and the 'living in Christ' are 'caught up' or quickly removed to meet Christ in the clouds. The text explains the events of the Rapture which include the sudden and mysterious disappearance of millions of people, and the resulting "world crisis, confusion and panic." Cars, trains and other vehicles have crashed; an airplane slams into a large building complex; there are fires, looting, rampaging, lawlessness, crimes and mobs running out of control; and "families 'Terrified and in Shock' over missing saved family members, while the unsaved family members are still left on the earth." The 'signs of the times' which lead the fundamentalists to believe that the Rapture and the return of Christ are around the comer--if indeed they have not happened already--are indicated by the following events:

* June, 1967--The Israeli "Six day war. …