THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS

On the last Sunday in May 2006, then-U. S. Senator Bill Frist was interviewed on one of the morning TV news shows. When asked what were the two most important issues facing the Nation at that time, he didn't hesitate: gay marriage and flag burning. That likely endeared him to his religious and patriotic constituencies. I suspect most other Americans - no matter what their political persuasions - would have had far different answers to the question.

   I bring up Frist's response because it made me wonder: what would be the most common answer if one asked today's religious conservatives what are the most important issues or concepts covered in the New Testament? I assume the highest rank would go to "personal salvation." Would Important Item Two be the end of the World, including "The Rapture" and "Armageddon?"

   Religious conservatives seem to feel they fully understand the "Revelation of St. John." This is curious, considering all the faulty interpretations of signs, personalities, times, and events that have been made in the last two thousand years. It's doubly curious in that Jesus made it clear that the events of the "end times" would remain a mystery until they actually occurred. It is triply curious when one considers how much trouble people have understanding Jesus' simplest parables, let alone anything as nebulous as "The Revelation." Be that as it may, evangelicals back every move that Israel makes, no matter how wrong those moves seem on the surface (because they're sure that "the End" can't come until Israel is "whole"). They get happily excited over hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and AIDS epidemics (either because they see those things as heralds of the "end times," or as judgments against evil people). They refuse to seriously consider global climate change, resource depletion, international hunger, and human rights (because Jesus is coming soon, and none of that matters in the long run). They are glad to wage war against Middle East nations because they see them not as mere wars, but as crusades -- God's christian armies confronting the infidels...

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  I think when I originally drafted this essay, I intended to bring it to some eloquent and portentous conclusion. Now, I think -- enough said.


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