George Washington University
Making Israel Matter: Hal Lindsey and the Politics
of Prophecy Talk
The following essay is based on material
from Chapter 4 of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and US Interests
in the Middle East, 1945-2000 (Univ. of California Press, 2001)
Keep your eyes on the Middle East. If this is the
time that we believe it is, this area will become a constant source
of tension for all the world. The fear of another World War will be
almost completely centered in the troubles of this area. It will become
so severe that only Christ or the Antichrist can solve it. Of course
the world will choose the Antichrist.
-- Hal Lindsey, 1970
In June of 1967, a long-standing but smoldering conflict between Israel
and Egypt sparked into war, and within a few days, the Israelis had
surprised the world with their extraordinarily rapid victory over the
forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Before war broke out, experts had
suggested that the Arab forces were significantly stronger and more
battle-ready than they had been in either 1948 or 1956. But doubts about
the outcome were quickly put to rest; six days after the war began,
Arab nationalists were humiliated and Israel emerged as the preeminent
military power in a region where the political and territorial map had
been suddenly redrawn.
In the mainstream media, most news accounts focused simply on the drama
of Israel’s victory. Newspapers and TV news told of the rapid
successes of the Israeli army, detailing the “stunning pre-dawn
air-strikes,” the “remarkable military triumph,” and
the “brilliant planning and execution of the Israeli attack.”
Politically, Israel clearly had the vast majority of public support,
but for many people, the real impact of the Middle East war seemed to
be the comparisons it offered to the U.S. war in Vietnam. As the conservative
news magazine US News & World Report put it, quoting the observations
of an unnamed U.S. military official: “The Israeli performance
was proof of the only sound military strategy: When a country decides
to go into a war, it goes in ‘wham’--to win.”
The 1967 war was the beginning of a new kind of visibility for Israel
in American public life, which emerged out of the aftermath of military
conflict in the Middle East. That visibility took many forms, and Israel
held very different meaning for diverse groups of people in the United
States, both before 1967 and after. Israel had long mattered to particular
groups of Americans, from the mainstream Protestant interest in the
Holy Land as a tourist site, dating from the 19th century, to those
who hailed Israel as an exemplar of anti-colonial (and pro-American)
nationalism in the 1950s. African American intellectuals and activists
had their own set of interests and investments in Israel, beginning
before the founding of the state and continuing well into the 1960s.
Among Jews, there was some debate about what Israel meant, especially
among liberals and leftists, though most American Jews viewed Israel
as a nation where Jews would always be safe, and as a site of democratic,
even socialist possibility.
This essay examines one particular site of this broader set of investments:
the rising fascination with modern-day Israel in the subculture of conservative
Christian fundamentalism in the years after 1967. As the New Christian
Right emerged and gained cultural recognition and political power over
the course of the 1970s, its writers and preachers began to talk more
and more about the role of the Middle East in the great end-time battles
predicted in biblical prophecy. Israel was central to their scenario,
and the fundamentalists’ deep interest in the details of the contemporary
Arab-Israeli conflict arose from an increased sense that the end-times
were heralded by events in the Middle East. The strong interest that
Israel had for conservative Christians was not new, but it was different
from what had come before, and the cultural and theological logic that
underwrote that interest would have profound political implications
for Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians into the 21st century.
First Call: Hal Lindsey’s Late Great
Three years after the Six-Day War, in 1970, a small religious publishing
house released a thin book of biblical prophecy that would soon transform
the cultural and religious landscape of the decade. The author, a relative
unknown who had graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and then
toured as a lecturer for Campus Crusade for Christ, was Hal Lindsey.
His exegesis of the relationship between the biblical prophecies of
Armageddon and contemporary political events was titled The Late Great
Planet Earth (LGPE); by the end of the decade, it had sold more than
10 million copies, making it the best-selling book of the 1970s. (By
2000, estimates for total sales ranged between 18 and 28 million copies.)
LGPE was an unusual book in a long tradition of Christian publishing.
For decades, evangelical authors, had analyzed the prophetic and apocalyptic
books of the Hebrew scriptures, particularly Daniel and Ezekiel, and
the Christian New Testament, particularly Revelations. An interest in
prophecy was particularly common among fundamentalists, who identified
themselves as literal interpreters of the Bible. Like earlier authors,
Lindsey interpreted the biblical prophecies of the “last days”
and the war of Armageddon in light of contemporary politics, focusing
on the Middle East. LGPE’s fundamental argument was that certain
world events that would signal the battle of Armageddon and the Second
Coming of Christ were beginning to happen in the 1970s, and that the
nation of Israel (and its allies and enemies) would be central to those
developments. As bible analysis, Lindsey’s book added little to
the established framework of evangelical prophecy interpretation as
outlined in scholarly texts and as taught in the nation’s bible
colleges and seminaries. Indeed, some of his fellow students at Dallas
Theological Seminary complained that Lindsey had simply repackaged his
But if Lindsey’s theories were derivative, his “re-packaging”
made impressive innovations at the level of style. LGPE was a very different
sort of narrative than its predecessors, which were often academic,
inbred books aimed at audiences of the already-converted. For example,
the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, John Walvoord, had published
the evangelical standard Israel in Prophecy in 1962. A long, densely-packed
tome of close textual analysis, it presumed an audience both deeply
familiar with the scriptures and only loosely interested in the modern-day
political happenings that were said to signal the coming apocalypse.
In contrast, Lindsey’s breezy, upbeat style attempted to make
the exegesis of complex biblical passages, and the accompanying discussion
of contemporary politics, accessible and non-intimidating. Mobilizing
the language of the sixties’ counterculture (or at least those
popularized versions of the counterculture that had migrated into the
mainstream), Lindsey tried to structure his discussion like an imagined
rap session, sprinkling his prose with headlines like "Tell it
like it Will Be" (7), "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" (52),
and “What else is New?” (86).
Lindsey’s strategy was not unlike that of the Jesus movement,
which in the late 1960s began to bring a reinvigorated energy to Christianity
by constructing an alternative to mainline Protestantism, based on selected
aspects of the sixties counterculture, particularly the casual, androgynous
clothing styles and an interest in rock and folk music. With the political
New Left in shreds after the battles of the late 1960s, the counterculture
itself was increasingly separate from the anti-Vietnam radicalism that
had fueled it. It was thus available, as a cultural style, for a wide
range of appropriations, including those by more conservative movements.
LGPE presented itself as a lay person’s, and particularly a young
person’s, guide: “We have been described as the ‘searching
generation,’ he wrote. “We need so many answers...”
(vii). Acknowledging that many young people were questioning the authority
of political and social institutions, Lindsey’s offered a socially
conservative vision in response: “In talking with thousands of
persons, particularly college students, from every background and religious
or irreligious upbringing, this writer found that many people want reassurance
about the future” (7). This reassurance, LGPE said, was available
from the Bible, which provided accurate prophecies of what was to come
in the near future.
Though it aimed at a mass market of the young and worried, LGPE initially
made its reputation by selling to committed evangelicals. Released by
a small Midwestern publishing house, Zondervan, it rode a rising tide
of interest in religious and inspirational writings, including a proliferation
of books aimed specifically at evangelicals, who by 1976 numbered almost
8 million in the United States. In the early 1970s, religious publishing
had become the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry in
the United States, even though religious-themed books rarely showed
up on best-seller lists. Before the advent of universal product codes,
the major lists (such as the New York Times list) were compiled by polling
general-interest bookstore managers; since religious books were sold
primarily through church conferences and small religious book stores,
they usually did not show up in the sampling polls. It was in this subcultural
market that LGPE was first distributed; only later, after it had already
sold half a million copies, did Bantam pick it up for release in a mass
market edition. From then on, Lindsey’s book was distributed at
convenience and grocery stores, as well as in major bookstores, where
it was often shelved alongside the “occult” and “New
Age” paperbacks that were also selling at a brisk pace.
Marketed to a mainstream audience as doomsday exotica, LGPE brought
evangelical prophecy interpretation to bear on a detailed discussion
of contemporary international politics. Unlike some analyses, which
assumed that signs of the end of times could be read primarily through
the supposed moral degeneration of the United States, LGPE focused on
events in the Middle East and Russia, and to a lesser degree, Europe
and China. Lindsey assumed that, however much his readers knew of scriptural
texts, they were far less familiar with the outlines of Middle East
politics; his response was to freely mix scripture, historical background,
and political advice. The “prophetic calendar” was moving
forward, Lindsey insisted; the second coming of Christ was imminent,
and would take place in modern-day Israel. According to the Bible, three
things had to happen before Christ would return: "First, the Jewish
nation would be reborn in the land of Palestine. Secondly, the Jews
would repossess Old Jerusalem and the sacred sites. Thirdly, they would
rebuild their ancient temple of worship upon its historic site"
(40). By 1970, two of those events had occurred, and both had involved
a major Middle Eastern war. Arguing that the bible predicted yet another
conflict, LGPE included a map of the Middle East, marked with arrows
indicating the expected invasion routes into Israel by the “Russian
confederacy” to the North and the “Pan Arabic assault”
from the South (144, 148).
Lindsey’s detailed analysis of the world situation provided what
was, in 1970, still the unusual step of encouraging white evangelicals
to focus on politics. For the most part, white evangelical and fundamentalist
churches had remained aloof from political life since the 1920s, when
the Scopes Monkey Trial had subjected fundamentalist beliefs about evolution
to public ridicule. Focusing on personal sin and inner salvation, fundamentalist
doctrine had discouraged too much focus on “this world,”
as opposed to God’s kingdom. Black churches, which might well
be called evangelical in doctrine, had been swept into political life
during the civil rights movement, but they had organized themselves
more as big-tent Christians than specifically as evangelicals. When
they faced opposition in the South, these black Christians often squared
off against whites who identified with a particular evangelical denomination.
Thus the segregation of church life and the fact that both black and
white fundamentalists were concentrated in the South made race a particularly
Most scholars have traced the increasing politicization of white evangelicals
in the 1970s to a few key domestic issues, particularly the changing
educational environment (the Supreme Court ban on school prayer, new
tax codes for religious schools, and curricula issues in the public
schools) and the extensions of the liberal state. Many white fundamentalists
and evangelicals also perceived a threat to their values in the civil
rights and student movements. And they were profoundly affected by the
public visibility of feminist movements in the 1970s–from the
famous Miss America pageant demonstration in 1968 to Congress’
approval of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1972 to the Roe v. Wade
abortion rights decision in 1973. In their eyes, “women’s
lib” had become perhaps the most influential, and threatening,
social movement to emerge out of the 1960s.
These issues were undeniably important to fundamentalists, but the U.S.
position in the world mattered to them as well. One tangible interest
arose from the fact that evangelicals were disproportionately represented
in the U.S. military and specifically in Vietnam. Southerners had for
many years played a major role in the military leadership and were more
likely to be among the mid-level leadership in Vietnam. This Southern
over-representation in the military did not mean, of course, that any
particular Southern soldier was a fundamentalist. But within a few years,
both rank-and-file and military officers were declaring their religious
convictions, countering the traditional marginalization of religion
in military culture. By the early 1970s, Bible studies, prayer groups,
and Christian breakfast meetings had become routine at the Pentagon,
as evangelical officers dramatically increased their public visibility.
At the same time, from the late-1960s on, fundamentalist preachers consistently
and vocally supported U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
In 1970, however, the opening-up of white evangelicals to politics was
still in its infancy, and Lindsey’s enthusiasm about the links
between bible prophecy and the details of the Arab- Israeli conflict
was remarkable precisely for its worldliness. The brew of political
analysis and apocalyptic urgency proved potent, and after LGPE, evangelical
intellectual life would never be the same. The book’s remarkable
popularity was at once a foreshadowing and an exemplar of the emerging
white Christian evangelical politicization–a development that
would consistently include a strong investment in modern Israel’s
Israel and Prophecy Theology
Lindsey’s focus on Israel was not an innovation; it drew on a
long history of passionate evangelical interest in the politics of Zionism.
Certain basic doctrines had changed little since the late 19th century,
including the commitment to biblical inerrancy and the premillennialist
view that Christ must return before the thousand-year reign of peace
predicted in the Bible could begin. Still drawing on the interpretations
popularized in the 1909 Scofield Reference Bible, evangelicals held
that the Bible’s accuracy could be tested and confirmed by political
developments, especially those concerning Israel. Fundamentalists who
followed the Scofield framework were often referred to as premillennial
dispensationalists: “premillennialists” because they believed
that Christ will come before the promised millennium of peace, and “dispensationalists,”
based on their view that God has a specific plan for different peoples
in different periods.
Though many aspects of the timeline of Christ’s return and the
ensuing millennium were (and are) hotly debated, certain doctrinal issues
were commonly agreed upon. One important signal of the approach of the
Second Coming of Christ would be the return of Jews to the Holy Land.
As the “end times” approached, an Antichrist would arise,
claiming to bring peace. At some point, believing Christians would be
bodily lifted to heaven in an event premillennialists call the Rapture.
After the Rapture, the Antichrist would oversee seven years of “tribulation”–economic
distress, natural disasters, suffering, and the persecution of both
Jews and newly converted Christians. Sometime during this period, Jews
would rebuild the second Temple and begin the ancient rituals of temple
sacrifice. At the end of seven years, Israel, threatened by a confederacy
of most of the nations of the world, would face down her enemies at
a final, terrible battle of Armageddon, during which Christ himself
would return to do battle for Israel. After Christ’s return, the
millennial reign of 1,000 years of peace would begin.
This focus on Israel as an instrument in God’s plan for human
history had underlay evangelicals’ significant support for Zionism
in the early part of the century. An even greater enthusiasm was generated
with the founding of Israel in 1948. While mainline Protestants had
been divided on the issue of Israel (in the years just before and after
the creation of the state, they debated the partition plan, the conduct
of the 1948 war, the status of Jerusalem, or the situation of the Palestinian
refugees), evangelicals and fundamentalists saw the establishment of
a Jewish state in Palestine as a clear validation of prophecy and of
God’s action in history. As William Culberson of the Moody Bible
Institute wrote in 1960, Israel's rebirth was "the most striking
of all the signs" of an imminent Rapture.
If the founding of Israel was the necessary pre-condition, the Israeli
army’s taking of Jerusalem in the 1967 war galvanized evangelical
observers. For years, after the initial excitement over the creation
of Israel had worn off, the contemporary Middle East had appeared to
be something of a backwater, even to evangelicals who had an interest
in prophecy. Then suddenly, the war, the seemingly miraculous Israeli
victory, and the transformation in the status of Jerusalem (a formerly
divided city now entirely controlled by Israel), made contemporary Israeli-Arab
politics look imminently and urgently relevant to evangelicals. L. Nelson
Bell, the Executive Editor of Christianity Today, wrote in July of 1967
that the taking of Jerusalem “gives a student of the Bible a thrill
and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible...If we
say, as the Arabs do, that Israel has no right to exist, we may prove
blind to her peculiar destiny under the providence of God.” The
prophecy clock jumped forward, and statements about the “prophetic
significance” of the war and its aftermath soon became an evangelical
Thus while the mainstream media had focused on the logistics of Israeli
victory in the 1967 war, and while Jews wrote of its effect on their
emotional relation to Israel, Christian evangelicals interpreted the
event as evidence of the quickening pace of God’s action in human
history. Lindsey argued that the 1967 war proved that the final war
of Armageddon would likely be triggered by the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“It is [the Arabs’]...fierce pride and smoldering hatred
against Israel that will keep the Middle East a dangerous trouble spot.”
(76). For Jerry Falwell, then a young minister in Lynchburg, Virginia,
the war also inspired the beginning of what would become a long-standing
interest in Israel; he took his first of many trips to the “Holy
Land” shortly thereafter. And in 1970, Billy Graham, the nation’s
best known and most influential evangelist, released the feature-length
film His Land. Featuring upbeat tunes by the young Christian singer
Cliff Barrows, and criticized, even at the time, for its simplistic
support of current Israeli policies, the film nonetheless was the beginning
of the multi-media presentation of evangelical interest in Israel.
Four years after the war, a remarkable gathering of evangelicals consolidated
the newly politicized interpretations of prophecy. In 1971 “The
Jerusalem Conference on Biblical Prophecy,” spearheaded by the
editor of Christianity Today Carl Henry, proved a stunning success,
drawing 1,500 delegates from 32 nations. The conference was welcomed
by the Israeli government, which even provided the hall. Prime Minister
David Ben-Gurion greeted the guests, who were entertained by the Jerusalem
Symphony, Anita Bryant, and groups of Arab and Israeli schoolchildren.
The speakers included prophecy luminaries from the United States and
Europe, as well as two Arab Christians (no Muslims), one converted Jew,
and one Israeli Jew. Many of the speakers argued that Israel’s
control over Jerusalem was an indisputable sign that the God’s
final dispensation for human history–when He would once again
deal directly with his Chosen People, the Jews–was about to begin.
The speakers affirmed Israel’s control over the newly occupied
territories; one reminded the audience that God had promised Abraham
all the territory from the “river of Egypt” (the Nile) to
the great river of the Euphrates (in Iraq). Biblical prophecies were
coming true, the speakers said, but if evangelicals were to understand
the events of the ends of times, they would need to know about worldly
politics as well as scripture: if, eventually, Jesus would descend from
the heavens to fight for Israel; for now, God seemed to be acting through
the tanks and tactics of the Israeli military.
Evangelicals get Popular
The rise of prophecy talk in the 1970s influenced the emerging arena
of Christian mass media and popular culture. In the early 1970s, evangelical
preachers began to make extensive use of television. Several changes
in the previous decade had made television more attractive: in 1960,
the FCC changed its regulations to allow stations to charge for the
time they set aside for religious programming; later, a growing number
of UHF stations, usually independently owned, welcomed the chance to
sell air-time in the slow Sunday morning period. By 1977, paid programs
accounted for 92% of all religious air time, as opposed to 53% in 1959.
Since most Mainline Protestant churches were not willing to solicit
for donations on the air in order to pay for the shows, religious programing
on television was soon dominated by evangelicals. Jerry Falwell had
begun broadcasting on local radio within a week of the founding of the
Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956; by 1967, he was broadcasting the
“Old Time Gospel Hour”every week; by 1971, he was buying
time on two hundred television stations around the country. Audiences
for Christian television shows increased noticeably in the 1970s: in
April 1978, 28% of the public claimed to watch religious broadcasts,
as opposed to only 12% in 1963. The introduction of the consumer VCR
in 1975 also expanded visibility, since both films and television shows
could now be re-marketed on videocassette. By the end of the decade,
evangelicals had moved outward from the “parallel institutions”
that had long been part of their subculture, reaching new audiences
while also increasing the media consumption of previous converts.
The reach of evangelicals extended beyond from the subculture of primarily
Southern and Midwestern evangelical churches into the larger public
throughout the country. Though commitment to biblical inerrancy remained
more common in the South (in 1986, 40% of Southerners described themselves
as born-again Christians, as opposed to 19% in the Northeast), the presence
of evangelical believers increased in the 1970s, both numerically and
in terms of geographical spread. In 1976, a Gallup poll found that 50
million people in the United States declared themselves to be “born-again.”
By the mid-1970s, public figures from across the spectrum had announced
their conversions: Nixon aide and Watergate figure Charles Colson, rock
star Eric Clapton, pornographer Larry Flynt, and former black Panther
Eldridge Cleaver all went public as born-again Christians. Two weeks
before Jimmy Carter was elected the first 20th-century president to
claim membership in an evangelical denomination, Newsweek magazine declared
the Year of the Evangelical, commenting on “the most significant–and
overlooked–religious phenomenon of the 1970s: the emergence of
evangelical Christianity into a position of respect and power.”
The rise of evangelicalism and fundamentalism had, in the words of Richard
Neuhaus, “kicked a tripwire alerting us to the much larger reality
of unsecular America.”
Evangelicals made biblical prophecy a central part of their new visibility.
In 1975, one popular evangelist, Jack Van Impe, who was already reaching
a large audience via television and radio and was selling cassettes
and books at a brisk pace, presented a TV special, "The Middle
East, World War III, and Christ's Return." Periodicals and newsletters
also began to appear, with titles like “Its Happening Now”
and “End time Messenger.” The 1972 film Thief in the Night,
first of a dramatic trilogy about the Rapture, was released on video
and became a best-seller in Christian bookstores. Lindsey himself would
go on to write at least seven more books on biblical prophecy by the
end of the decade, selling a combined total of more than 21 million
books. In 1977, The Late Great Planet Earth became a movie, with Orson
Welles as the narrator, which featured interviews with a rather extraordinary
range of luminaries, including Israel’s ambassador to the United
Nations, peace activists, and a long line of well-known ecologists,
sociologists, and military experts. By 1978, even Christianity Today,
the organ of mainstream evangelicals, was commenting sardonically on
the rise of “Doomsday Chic.”
Arabs, War, and Oil
The Armageddon fascination in prophecy circles was only strengthened
by political events in the Middle East. In 1973, the October war between
several Arab states and Israel brought the United States to full nuclear
alert. Soon after, headlines screamed about the Arab Oil boycott that
followed the war, and lines formed outside gas stations. As the crisis
deepened, it was easy to argue that Middle East was the world’s
most significant flashpoint, even without resort to scripture. For evangelical
writers and preachers, however, passages from the bible highlighted
the implications of a Middle East conflict whose consequences every
American was feeling at the gas pump.
In 1974, the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, John F. Walvoord,
followed up his earlier, scholarly study of prophecy with a highly visible
book, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis, provocatively subtitled,“What
the Bible says about the future of the Middle East and the end of Western
civilization.” Illustrated with photos of Israeli troops in territories
occupied in 1967 and long lines of cars outside U.S. gas stations, it
described “the Oil Blackmail” of 1973 in terms that were
very critical of both Arabs and U.S. oil policy. The maps and charts
in the book were clear and detailed, explaining the European dependence
on imported oil and tracing the history of major Arab-Israeli wars,
including detailed attention to military hardware and battle strategy.
Listing the economic and political power that Arab nations accumulated
in the wake of the 1973 war, Walvoord argued that Americans would soon
be faced with a difficult choice: the United States would have either
to give in to the Arab world to keep access to oil, and the friendship
of the industrialized nations, or support Israel and face the consequences.
He had little doubt of the likely (and disastrous) outcome: “Inevitably,
major concessions will have to be made at the expense of the power of
the United States and of the security of the state of Israel.”
Walvoord’s analysis described a multi-polar world, one in which
U.S. military power was simply no longer sufficient to win all conflicts,
be they economic boycotts from the Arab states or determined guerilla
war in Vietnam. He predicted the United States would take the easy way
out when faced with an issue of principle. Walvoord’s “realism”
about the nation’s economic requirements was thus shot through
with his moral horror that, in the post-Vietnam era, the United States
would not fully support its allies if the cost was too high. The initial
edition of Armageddon, Oil, and The Middle East Crisis sold 750,000
copies in the mid-1970s, but even these impressive sales almost certainly
underestimate the intellectual impact within the evangelical community
of a popular book by someone of Walvoord’s stature.
For most prophecy writers, the return of Israel to all of her biblical
heritage was a pre-requisite to Christ’s return. The Antichrist
would then establish his headquarters in Jerusalem; most believed that
the he would initially present himself as a Middle East peacemaker.
At some point during this period, Israel would find itself at war with
the Soviet Union, at war with the Arabs, and then with most of the world.
Several writers saw in the rise of Arab oil power a clear invitation
for the predicted Soviet conflict with Israel. The Coming Russian Invasion
of Israel, for example, explained that the Soviet Union might have many
secular reasons for such an attack, from grabbing Israel’s mineral
wealth to using the country as a base for spreading Communism. “In
the past twenty-five years,” the authors explained, “Russia
has increasingly become Israel’s arch-enemy....There has been
an enormous outlay of men and material for war steadily flowing to the
Arabs from the Soviets, and it amounts of one of the most fearsome military
mobilizations in history.” Under the Nixon administration, detente
with the Soviet Union had become U.S. policy, and arms control agreements
were being negotiated at a rapid pace. In this context, evangelicals
focused on the likelihood of a Soviet-Arab attack on Israel, rather
than fear of an attack on the United States, as the moral armor of their
Taken together, these materials built upon the presumed anti-Soviet
and anti-Arab sentiments of their audience to shore up a pro-Israeli
position By 1984, Tim LaHaye’s list of why biblical Palestine
was “the world’s focal point in these last days” replicated
the standard arguments in the much more militarized vein that had by
then become common:
“1.The Bible said so. (”Prophecy is history written in advance”).
2. Palestine is the center of the earth.
3. Oil! Oil! And more oil!
4. Israel is the third-strongest military force in the world.
5. Israel cannot be intimidated.”
The anti-Arab feelings generated by the oil boycott thus became an argument
for strengthening the alliance with Israel; if Israel and the United
States both had the Soviet Union and the Arabs as enemies, then Israel
and the United States had that much more in common, if only the U.S.
government would take the right stance.
As the evangelical movement became more outward looking, many fundamentalists
looked beyond Israel, focusing both on the Soviet Union and “anti-Christian”
communism, and on their increased missionary efforts abroad, particularly
in Latin America. These international involvements did have an influence,
on Latin American politics and on Cold War policy. But no part of the
world held nearly the attraction that the Middle East, and especially
Israel, had for evangelicals. In the words of John Walvoord, these other
regions and their conflicts were not “prophetically significant.”
Israeli and American Jewish Responses
Evangelicals’ very strong support for Israel and Israeli foreign
policies in the wake of the 1967 and 1973 wars did not escape the attention
of the Israeli government. Successive governments over the course of
the 1970s clearly made a strategic decision to support the evangelicals’
interest. The relationship had first emerged after Billy Graham’s
film His Land impressed Israeli officials with the potential base of
support they might find among evangelicals. Israel’s backing of
the 1971 Jerusalem conference was an early manifestation what would
become its long courtship of conservative American Christians. As Paul
Boyer has pointed out, the Israeli leadership privately “ridicul[ed]
premillennialist readings of prophecy as those of a six-year old child.”
But the Labor governments of the 1970s recognized the value of evangelicals
as an important political bloc and dealt with them accordingly. In 1978,
the right-wing Likud government came to power in Israel. By then, evangelicals
had already proven themselves a political force in the United States.
And, despite their support for Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, the community
had strongly conservative inclinations. Conservative Christians in the
United States shared with the political right in Israel not only support
for a free market economy and opposition to the Soviet Union and communism,
but also a commitment to Israel’s military power and political
This alliance between Israel and evangelicals left many American Jews
increasingly worried about what they saw as the anti-Semitism of many
evangelical teachings. In fact, the question of whether evangelical
support for Israel also translated into a commitment to oppose anti-Semitism
is a complex one. In the prophecy literature, Jews held a multi-faceted
and often ambiguous position: on the one hand, most evangelicals were
quick to point out that Jews had failed to recognize Christ, and that
the collective failure of the Chosen People to do so was a cause of
particular displeasure to God. On the other hand, dispensationalists
believed that at the end-times, God would once again be dealing directly
with his “earthly people,” the Jews, as opposed to his “spiritual
people,” the Church. Thus the destiny of the Jews as God’s
chosen people and their central role in God’s plan for humanity
was a matter of doctrine. (For this reason, perhaps, converted Jews--Derek
Price, Charles Lee Feinberg--played a particularly visible role in the
prophecy-interpretation genre.) But in a religious tradition in which
“earthliness” or “worldliness” was often despised,
the positioning of Jews as merely God’s people on earth, as opposed
to heaven, certainly seemed like a demotion of Jewish “chosen-ness.”
Evangelicals also generally presumed the mass conversion of large numbers
of Jews during the tribulation, and the terrible deaths of many others.
As one sociologist has pointed out, whatever else these prophecy interpretations
suggest, at the very least they indicate the “instrumentality”
of Jews for premillennialists. But beyond this particular theological
interest in Jewish conversion at the end times–and here one must
note that evangelicals viewed all those who had not been converted to
Christianity as both recalcitrant and doomed–there was little
direct anti-Semitism in the prophecy literature and a good many statements
of God’s love for his People.
Anti-Semitism was, however, present in fundamentalist thinking, as became
clear in a now infamous comment made by Bailey Smith, then president
of the Southern Baptist Convention. Speaking before a gathering of ministers
in Dallas in 1980, Smith remarked disparagingly on the ecumenical trends
of the major political parties: “It is interesting at great political
rallies how you have a Protestant to pray, a Catholic to pray, and then
you have a Jew to pray. With all due respect to those dear people, my
friends, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” The
comment reached the national media and set off a storm of criticism.
As William Martin has pointed out, though Smith’s comment sounded
like profound anti-Semitism, it might also be interpreted as simple
fundamentalist exclusiveness: had he been asked, Smith likely would
have also argued that God was equally deaf to Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists.
At the very least, however, Smith’s comment indicated a stunning
insensitivity to Jewish concerns and a more general lack of appreciation
for pluralism in American life.
As Smith was being criticized roundly in the U.S. media, Israeli officials
and American Jews worked together to craft a response: Smith was immediately
invited to come to Israel as a guest of the Israeli government. After
his trip, he announced, “The bottom line is that you’re
going to read my name many times in the future in activities supporting
the Jewish people and Israel.” Of course, there was a conflation
of Jewishness with Israel here, one aided by the apparently savvy decision
to sponsor Smith’s trip to Israel. In order to deal with Jews
and Jewishness, Smith had to go first through Jerusalem. American Jews,
and their varied concerns about church and state, civil liberties, domestic
policy issues, etc., were marginalized in this equation. In a remarkable
case of side-stepping the theological issue of conversion and the political
issues of pluralism, evangelical Christian relations with Jewishness
were forged through, and exemplified by, their relations to the Israeli
Modern Israel’s attention to American evangelicals and evangelicals’
attention to Israel proved useful for both sides; still, the first reason
for evangelical interest remained biblical: all agreed, drawing on Genesis
12: 1-3, that God would bless those who blessed Israel and curse those
who cursed it. In their enthusiastic study of Israeli military capacity,
the detailed examination of maps, invasion routes, and attack strategies,
evangelicals were searching for clues to the end of times.
Last Call: The Appeal of Doomsday Exotica
This fascination with Doomsday sometimes seemed to involve a strange
excitement at the visions of imminent destruction. Lindsey, for example,
had apparently thrilled at the prospect of “billions of Dead”
and “rivers of blood” that would ensue at the battle of
Armageddon: “For all those who trust in Jesus Christ, it is a
time of electrifying excitement” (58). Lindsey’s swelling
phrases were the source for much criticism and ridicule by commentators,
including liberal Christians who were offended by his weirdly enthusiastic
tone. But Lindsey was far from unique. In 1971, then-governor of California
Ronald Reagan unsettled a group of dinner companions with his apparently
hopeful attitude toward the end of history. At a fundraising dinner
in Sacramento, Reagan asked one colleague at the table if he had ever
read Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. When the colleague assured Reagan that
he had, the governor, who had read and “repeatedly discussed”
LGPE in the previous year with other associates, launched into a passionate
lecture, insisting that, with the founding of Israel and the development
of nuclear weapons, the stage for the final battle was being set. “It
can’t be too long now,” Reagan said heatedly. “For
the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon
and the Second Coming of Christ.” Strange as they might sound
to outsiders, such views were understandable, given the premises of
evangelical doctrine: If this indeed was the generation that would see
the fulfillment of the last of biblical prophecies, it would witness
the most dramatic and religiously significant events in human history.
This combination of excitement and dread also linked prophecy literature
to the New Age, occult, and UFO fascinations that arose at the same
time. Though each of these genres had a different overt world-view,
they all shared an iconography of supernatural intervention that challenged
secular political logic and undermined liberal humanist assumptions
about stable, self-knowing human agency. As the decade progressed, even
a mainstream evangelical like Billy Graham became simultaneously more
literalist and more focused on the intervention of the spiritual world:
his book Angels sold one million copies in 30 days in 1975. In a period
of profound political instability and economic dislocation--the failures
of Vietnam, the oil crisis, the economic downturn that began in 1974,
fears about the environment and natural resources, and the rise of black
radicalism and feminism--the turn to alternative narratives of cause,
effect, and meaning was quite common. Fredric Jameson has argued, in
his analysis of the rise of the conspiracy film in the 1970s, that the
gaps in linear, rational logic apparent in certain kinds of cultural
texts highlighted (if only implicitly) the failure of rationality in
the face of a dramatically transformed world system–an economic,
political, and social universe that no longer seemed comprehensible
by the old methods. Or, as one observer put it, quite simply, “In
the 1970s, you didn’t have to be born-again to reach for notions
of the Apocalypse.”
After 1967, evangelicals looked around and saw a world spinning out
of control; immersed in the post-Vietnam discourse of failure, they
harbored doubts not only about the social fabric of American society,
but also about the nature of U.S. power in the world. In that moment,
white evangelicals entered the world of politics for the first time
in decades. And they developed a specific (and perhaps otherwise unexpected)
interest in military and foreign policy issues, as these related to
their almost obsessive fascination with the question of how and when
the last great war–the war to end all wars–would come about.
The Apocalypse at Armageddon would be horrific and frightening, but
it would also be the one truly just war, with Jesus himself fighting
on the side of righteousness.
America’s Israel: Neo Conservatives
and Conservative Christians
In May of 1979, Kevin Phillips, a leading conservative intellectual
who had worked for Richard Nixon, published a widely-cited article on
the emerging phenomenon of neoconservatism. In his assessment of the
state of conservative politics in the late 1970s, Phillips argued that,
despite the media attention they had received, neoconservatives would
never manage to achieve real political power. The movement, as he defined
it, was made up of well-known intellectuals and activists (who included
Irving Kristol, Daniel Pat Moynihan, and Norman Podhoretz), who he described
as a group of “distressed ex-liberal Democrats” who had
been disenchanted with McGovern in 1972 and who needed a banner to rally
around. Several reasons, Phillips said, made neoconservatism “a
nonstarter in North Carolina or South Boston,” including the “New
York city parochialism” and the “intellectualism”
of its leaders. In addition, Phillips argued–with more than a
suggestion of anti-Semitism–that neoconservatism had “disproportionately
Jewish antecedents” and thus focused too strongly on Israel. While
he disagreed with those who had suggested that neoconservatism’s
origins were primarily with Jews who had become hawks on issues of Israeli
security, Phillips argued that “neoconservatism’s strong
preoccupation with Israel does suggest a genesis and a partial raison
d’être not deeply shared by the country as a whole.”
This provocative and impressively misguided assessment
appeared about 18 months before the 1980 elections that swept Ronald
Reagan to power on a landslide, ushering in a conservative resurgence
that fundamentally reshaped the American political landscape. After
1980, neoconservatives were influential–active in the Reagan administration,
cited in the press, interviewed on television, and consulted for their
policy views. Despite what Phillips had said, “real political
power” was theirs indeed. Philips thought that a concern with
Israel was “not deeply shared” outside neoconservative circles,
and thus would marginalize the conservative movement. He imagined Israel
as a rather esoteric foreign policy investment, a special interest group
politics based on ties essentially ethnic or religious, something akin,
perhaps, to Irish American support for the IRA. Ten or 12 years earlier,
he might have been right. But by 1979, something fundamental had changed
in non-Jewish Americans perceptions of Israel.
Also in May of 1979, Jerry Falwell, working with several other activists
of the New Right (including Paul Weyrich, who had founded the Heritage
Foundation), announced that he and his colleagues had begun a new organization,
the Moral Majority. They were not simply a religious (Christian) organization,
Falwell said, but instead were willing to work with anyone “who
shared our views on the family and abortion, strong national defense,
and Israel...” Shortly thereafter, Falwell issued the Moral Majority’s
platform statement, which listed ten tenants of the new organization.
Number six read: “we support the state of Israel and the Jewish
people everywhere....” As evangelicals and fundamentalists organized
themselves, they surprised a great many people in the conservative camp
who, like Phillips, had paid little attention to evangelical theology
and thus never would have believed that Israel would have mattered in
“North Carolina” or in Falwell’s Virginia. He did
not see the ways in which the issue of U.S. support for Israel, far
from being an obstacle, helped to secure the conservative coalition
that came together to elect Reagan in 1980.
In fact, by 1979, ties between the new Christian Right and Israel had
moved from being primarily theological and emotional to quite literal
and explicitly political. When the Moral Majority was founded, Falwell
had already traveled twice to Israel (in 1978 and 1979) as a guest of
the Likud government. On the fall of 1978, he had visited the West Bank
settlement of Alon Moreh, where he spoke out in favor of Israeli settlement
policy. Falwell told reporters, and later repeated in his preaching,
that he believed that Christians must involve themselves politically
in such a way as to guarantee that the United States would support Israel:
In recent years, there have been incidents at the very highest levels
that would indicate that America is wavering at this time in her position
on the side of Israel. I believe that if we fail to protect Israel,
we will cease to be important to God. For the Christian, political
involvement on this issue is not only a right, but a responsibility.
We can and must be involved in guiding America towards a biblical
position regarding her stand on Israel.
Late in 1979, during a fundraising dinner in New York, Prime Minister
Menachem Begin presented Falwell with a medal named in honor of the
militant Zionist activist Zev Jabotinsky, making him the first non-Jew
ever to receive the honor. A couple of years later, Falwell said again
what he had long been preaching: “To stand against Israel is to
stand against God.”
Despite (or perhaps because of) such success stories, American Jews
continued to be concerned about whether the new political power of evangelicals
would also mean an increase in anti-Semitism. But as the New Right coalition
emerged, several activist intellectuals argued for the viability of
an alliance between conservative Christians and conservative Jews. Writing
in Commentary, Irving Kristol, a former Marxist who went on to become
a major intellectual of the neoconservative movement, took to task those
Jews who, while becoming more conservative on economic and race issues,
had remained wary of the Moral Majority. American Jews, he argued, needed
to recognize the depth and importance of the Christian right’s
pro-Israel politics. Referring implicitly to the incident in which Bailey
Smith had said that God does not hear the prayers of Jews, Kristol wrote:
After all, why should Jews care about the theology of a fundamentalist
preacher when they do not for a moment believe that he speaks with
any authority on the question of God’s attentiveness to human
prayer? And what do such theological abstractions matter as against
the mundane fact that this same preacher is vigorously pro-Israel?
The existence of such support could, Kristol argued, be decisive for
Israel’s political position in the United States, and thus it
mattered more than evangelicals’ position on other issues. “This
is the way the Israeli government has struck its own balance vis-a-vis
the Moral Majority, and it is hard to see why American Jews should come
up with a different bottom line.”
By 1980, the activism of the Moral Majority and other evangelical groups
did include significant support for Israel. Evangelicals had become
involved in the electoral process beginning in 1976, with the rallying
of evangelical votes for Carter, and continuing into 1977, with support
for the anti-homosexual referendum organized by Anita Bryant and aided
by Falwell in Dade County, Florida. The work continued into 1978, when
conservative Christians organized to support pro-life/anti-abortion
candidates in the mid-term congressional elections.
In 1980, pro-Israel evangelicals used their clout quite self-consciously,
getting involved early in the Republican primary process. In the spring
of 1980, before the Republican nomination was decided, candidate John
Connolly had been a strong contender for the conservative vote. But
Connolly upset Falwell and others by his attitudes toward Israel, especially
when he seemed to assert that the main reason the U.S. should support
Israel was to protect access to Middle East oil, “as if fulfillment
of biblical prophecy was not even a consideration.” Shortly thereafter,
in August of 1980, Reagan made a wildly successful appearance before
a briefing sponsored by the Religious Roundtable in Dallas. Three months
later, as the Republican candidate, he won a decisive victory over President
Carter, capturing the traditionally democratic South by carrying every
Southern state except Carter’s Georgia.
While the question of whether or not it was the evangelical vote that
won the election for Reagan has been hotly debated by scholars and political
activists alike, there is little question that Israel was a key issue
for the conservative Christians who were involved in the organizing.
Thus it was perhaps a case of preaching to the choir when, in early
1981, some prominent leaders of the Christian right sent a telegram
to President Reagan after he took office: “We are concerned about
morality and reaffirmation of principles of faith,” they wrote,
“not only on the domestic American scene but also in terms of
our international affairs. From our religious, moral, and strategic
perspective, Israel supremely represents our values and hopes for security
and peace in the Middle East.”
The significance of Israel as an issue in the 1980 elections has often
been overlooked. Many evangelical Christians had been educated in detail
about the Middle East over the previous decade, and by the year of Reagan’s
election they shared with many American Jews, and not just conservative
Jews, a commitment to supporting Israel both politically and militarily.
Of course Israel was not by far the only issue tying these groups together;
among other things, they also shared a dislike of Carter and of communism.
But Israel certainly was one issue, and one that has been far too often
ignored or dismissed.
Of course, the political and cultural power of conservative evangelical
culture did not end in the 1980s, and in recent years popular Christian
apocalypticism has made an impressive comeback. The Left Behind series,
written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, has has made prophecy exegesis
into a science-fiction tinged action story that has dominated best-seller
lists in the United States for the last four years. The eleven books
published so far (out of a planned 14) sold more than 50 million copies,
(excluding graphic novels and children’s versions) since the first
book appeared in 1995. The series tells of the adventures of those who
were originally “left behind” when God raptured the Church
into heaven. Quickly recognizing their error in failing to accept Christ,
these new believers must now face the terrible events leading up to
Armageddon and Christ’s return. In accordance with that line of
biblical prophecy interpretation associated with Dallas Theological
Seminary and first popularized by Lindsey, these believers must face
the rise of the Antichrist, who will persecute Christians and Jews,
take over as dictator of a one-world government, lead a global crusade
against Israel and eventually bring the world to Armageddon. LaHaye
and Jenkins have constructed fast-paced and plot-driven stories that
are also generic hybrids, combining traditional evangelical homily,
with science fiction-like threats, and action adventure thrills, complete
with plenty of male bonding and high-flying action.
The books, along with the associated movies, cds, websites, calendars,
and non-fiction explications of prophecy, have almost single-handedly
revitalized and mainstreamed Christian apocalyptic theory. But they
are only part of the story. In recent years, conservative evangelicals
have once again become extremely active and visible in support of Israel,
and particularly the Israeli right wing and its anti-Palestinian policies.
In Congress in recent years, Representative Dick Armey (R-TX), Tom DeLay
(R-TX), and Jim Inhofe (R, OK) all seemed to be vying to become the
most visible and most hard-line of Israel’s congressional supporters:
Inhofe recently said on the house floor that Israel should keep the
West Bank “because God said so.” Grassroots churches are
also increasingly in the mix, raising money to fund Jewish immigrants
to populate Israeli settlements, for example, or joining the estimated
16,000 congregations who participated in “Pray for Israel”
day in October 2002. When President Bush called for Sharon to withdraw
its tanks from Palestinian territory in the spring of 2002, Falwell
and others organized the religious right to send nearly 100,000 emails
to the White House to protest the request.
I argue elsewhere that the cultural politics of this revitalized evangelicalism
is considerably different than that of the Moral Majority in the 1970s
and 80s, in terms of racial politics, gender ideologies, and a self-conscious
“modernity.” But in terms of international politics, there
are many lines of continuity with the older vision. The alliance with
Israeli political leaders that began with the Likud’s embrace
of Falwell and others has continued and expanded. In January 2002, the
Israeli embassy in Washington held the first of a series of meetings
with conservative Christian leaders and launched a drive to encourage
Christian tourism to Israel; later in the year, Ariel Sharon spoke to
an enthusiastic crowd of thousands of evangelicals in Jerusalem. Once
again, Israelis recognize the power of Christian evangelicals, even
while many American commentators ignore or dismiss it. As one commentator
in the Jerusalem Post put it: “The US is Israel’s best friend
largely because the American Christian community wills it to be so.”
The focus on prophecy within certain branches of evangelicalism has
been frequently decried by mainline Protestants and Catholic leaders,
who argue that prophecy talk is neither good politics nor good theology.
Evangelicals, too, have expressed deep frustration with the obsessive
and literal minded focus on biblical prophecy in some circles. The skeptics
have ranged from liberals like Mark Noll and Randall Balmer to some
of the conservative leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals.
But no other aspect of evangelical belief or Christian popular culture
has had the particular kind of galvanizing power that apocalyptic theology
has wielded over the last 35 years. It has wedded popular cultural styles,
doomsday fears, and international politics in ways that would have been
impossible to imagine in the years before 1967. What Hal Lindsey forged
with his foray into modernized prophecy talk was a new kind of evangelicalism
in which cultural conservatism, political worldliness, and spriritualist
enthusiasm would not only coexist, but would revitalize and reinforce
each other. In that sense, his vision was prophetic indeed.
1 Hal Lindsey, The Late, Great Planet Earth,
2. “Middle East: The Scent of War,” Newsweek, June 5,
1967, 47; “Intermission: ‘Too Late and Too Early,”
Newsweek, June 12, 1967, 39.
3“The Quickest War,” Time, June 16, 1967, 22; “The
3-Day Blitz from Gaza to Suez,” U.S. News & World Report,
June 19, 1967, 33; “Terrible Swift Sword,” Newsweek, June
19, 1967, 24. See also “U.S. Believes Israel Can Hold its Own,”
Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1967, sec 1:8.
4. “The 3-Day Blitz from Gaza to Suez,” U.S. News &
World Report, June 19, 1967, 33.
5 Hal Lindsey, Late, Great Planet Earth. All subsequent page references
are in the text. 10 million copies reported sold: Edwin McDowell,
“Publishers: A Matter of Faith,” New York Times Book Review,
April 6, 1980, 18. Bestseller of the decade: Mark Silk, “Religious
Books: Seven That Made a Difference,” New York Times Book Review,
March 30, 1976, 21. William Martin also repeats this claim, without
attribution, in With God on our Side. Later sales: Leo Ribuffo, “God
and Contemporary Politics”; Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No
6 Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 126-127.
7 John Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy, 1962. Another example, Israel
in the Spotlight, by Charles Feinberg, was published in 1964.
8 Dwight Wilson, “Armageddon Now!” quoted in Paul Boyer,
When Time Shall Be No More, 2.
9 Ray Walters, "Paperback Talk," New York Times Book Review,
April 6, 1980. Some of the publishing history from jacket and inside
cover of Zondervan edition, 13th printing, August 1971. (In 1988,
Zondervan was acquired by Harper & Row, later to become HarperCollins,
and LGPE was reissued in 1990 once again under the Zondervan imprint.)
10 Edwin McDowell, “Publishers: A Matter of Faith,” New
York Times Book Review, April 6, 1980, 8; Ray Walters, "Paperback
Talk," New York Times Book Review, Mar 12, 1978, 45-46.
11 Most histories of the fundamentalist and evangelical movements
address this long retreat from politics. See, for example, Paul Boyer,
When Time Shall Be No More, and James Reichley, “The Evangelical
and Fundamentalist Revolt.”
12 Nancy Ammerman, “North American Protestant Fundamentalism,”95-97;
Robert Leibman, “Making of the New Christian Right,” 230;
William Martin, With God on our Side, 100-143.
13 Anne Loveland, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 122-166.
14 Paul Merkeley, Politics of Christian Zionism, 62-63; David Rausch,
Zionism within Early American Fundamentalism, particularly 79-126.
See also George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture.
15 James Hunter, “Evangelical Worldview,” 21-22; Nancy
Ammerman, “North American Protestant Fundamentalism,”
16 Hertzel Fishman, American Protestantism and a Jewish State, 83-122,
17"Could the Rapture be Today?" Moody Monthly, May 1960,
quoted in Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 187.
18 Christianity Today, 21 July 1967, quoted in Hertzel Fishman, American
Protestantism and a Jewish State, 152.
19 Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics, 72-73; Merrill Simon, Jerry
Falwell and the Jews, 57-100, especially 61-65.
20 His Land, videocassette; Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More,
21 Carl Henry, Prophecy in the Making, 9.
22 Herman Ridderbos, Future of Israel, 322; Wilbur Smith, Israeli-Arab
Conflict and the Bible; Carl Henry, Prophecy in the Making, 133, 141,
89, 343; Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 188.
23 Harold Ockenga, “Fulfilled and Unfulfilled Prophecy,”
309; Wilbur Smith, “Signs of the Second Advent,” 207.
24 John Walvoord, “The Future of Israel.”
25 On evangelicals and TV overall, Peter Horsfield, Religious Television,
9, 13-23. On Falwell specifically, David Snowball, Rhetoric of the
Moral Majority, 46-49; Frances Fitzgerald, “Disciplined, Charging
Army,” 58, 88.
26 Robert Wuthnow, “Political Rebirth of American Evangelicals,”
173; Eithne Johnson, “Emergence of Christian Video.”
27 James Hunter, American Evangelicalism, 46; Frances Fitzgerald,
“Disciplined, Charging Army,” 59.
28 On Carter, Robert Wuthnow, “Political Rebirth of American
Evangelicals,” 177. Newsweek, October 21, 1976, quoted by Anne
Loveland, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 212. See also
Richard Neuhaus, “What the Fundamentalists Want,” 9; Paul
Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 11-13; William Martin, With God
on Our Side, 173-190.
29 In addition, Pastor Chuck Smith, who had a national audience on
125 radio stations and 20 TV stations, plus a successful line of paperbacks,
films, audio and video cassettes, frequently discussed Israel and
the end-times scenario. On Jack Van Impe, see Paul Boyer, When Time
Shall Be No More, 129, 160; on Smith, Randall Balmer, Mine Eyes Have
Seen, 12-30. On newsletters and videos, William Martin, “Waiting
for the End”; Eithne Johnson, “Emergence of Christian
30 Ray Walters, “Paperback Talk,” New York Times Book
Review, March 12, 1978, 45-46. Lindsey’s books included Satan
is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (1972) and The Terminal Generation
(1976); see John Nelson, “Apocalyptic Vision in American Culture.”
31. Gary Wilburn, “Doomsday Chic.” Paul Boyer also describes
this trend in When Time Shall Be No More, 11.
32 John F. Walvoord and John E. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil, and the
Middle East, 52.
33 Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 6. John F. Walvoord was
President of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952-1986, and Chancellor
34. Thomas McCall and Zola Levitt, Coming Russian Invasion of Israel,
33-35 and 13.
35 Tim LaHaye, The Coming Peace in the Middle East, 13-24.
36 John F. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East, 1990 ed.,
32, 48, 51. Not “biblically important,” 51. Like other
prophecy writers, Walvoord reiterates this point repeatedly. In the
1974 edition: “The enigma of how the underdeveloped Middle East
could ever become the center of world history again has suddenly been
solved [by the rise of Arab oil power],” 55-56.
37. Wolf Blitzer, Between Washington and Jerusalem, 193-194; Paul
Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 205.
38. See also John F. Walvoord, “The Future of Israel,”
332; and Hal Lindsey, Late, Great Planet Earth, 131.
39. Charles Strozier, Apocalypse, 204.
40. William Martin, With God on our Side, 215.
41. Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics, 122; Wolf Blitzer, From
Washington to Jerusalem, 198.
42. Boyer also discusses Lindsey’s tone in When Time Shall Be
No More, 128. See also Michael Barkun, “Language of the Apocalypse.”
43. Reagan discussed LGPE with Herb Ellingwood, cited by Grace Halsell,
Prophecy and Politics, 43. James Mills’ article detailing his
conversation with Reagan appeared in San Diego Magazine, August 1985.
The article is also discussed by Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No
More, 142-43. For a rather different assessment of Reagan’s
religious views in this period, see William Martin, With God on our
44 . John Saliba, “Religious Dimensions of the UFO Phenomenon.”
On the failures of liberal ideology in this period, see also Steve
Brouwer, et al, Exporting the American Gospel, 24-25.
45. John Pollock describes Angels as having sold, by the end of 1976,
“more copies in hardback than any book in American history except
the Bible,” Billy Graham, 280-281. An ad for the “Billy
Graham Bicentennial Festival of Faith” claimed over 1 million
sold in July 1976, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 5, 1976, B:8.
46. Fredric Jameson, Geopolitical Aesthetic; Mark Silk, “Religious
Books: Seven That Made a Difference,” New York Times Book Review,
March 30, 1986, 21. On the economic transformations in this period,
see David Harvey, Condition of Postmodernity; Barry Bluestone and
Bennett Harrison, The Great U-Turn.
47. Kevin Phillips, “The Hype that Roared,” 55.
48 . David Snowball, Rhetoric of the Moral Majority, 16; on the multiple
origin stories of the organization, see 50-53. See also James Reichley,
“Evangelical and Fundamentalist Revolt.”
49. Jerry Strober and Ruth Tomczak, Jerry Falwell, 167.
50. Wolf Blitzer, Between Washington and Jerusalem, 193; Grace Halsell,
Prophecy and Politics, 75.
51. Jerry Falwell, Fundamentalist Phenomenon, 215. Falwell had said
this in print earlier as well, in the first issue of the Moral Majority
Report (January 1980?); see David Snowball,Rhetoric of the Moral Majority,
52. Irving Kristol, “The Political Dilemma of American Jews,”
25. Kristol’s intellectual background is discussed in Sidney
Blumenthal, Rise of the Counter-Establishment, 148-157.
53. James Reichley, “Evangelical and Fundamentalist Revolt,”
54. William Martin, With God on our Side, 209.
55. Wolf Blitzer, Between Washington and Jerusalem, 193.
56. Nancy Gibbs, AThe Bible and the Apocalypse: The biggest book of
the summer is about the end of the world,@ Time.Com, Jun 23, 2002.
The first book is Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel
of the Earth’s Last Days (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House, 1995).
The following books and their release dates are: #2: Tribulation Force,
1996; #3: Nicolae, 1997; 4: Soul Harvest, 1998; #5: Apollyon, 1998
; #6: Assassins, 1999, #7: The Indwelling, 2000; #8: The Mark, 2000;
#9: Desecration, 2001; #10, The Remnant, 2002; #11, Armaggedon, April
2003. The Afinal@ book, #12, will be followed by a prequel and a sequel;
the series is scheduled to end in 2006. See John Cloud, AMeet the
Prophet: How an evangelical and conservative activist turned prophecy
into a fiction juggernaut,@ Time.Com, July 23, 2002.
57.The Left Behind series does not refer to the end-times converts
as Christians, but as the Tribulation Force or Believers, or, later,
as followers of Tsion Ben-Judah (Judah-ites). This is because, according
to the biblical interpretations put forward by LaHaye, the post-Rapture
converts are not referred to in the scriptures as Christians (those
are already Raptured), but as Tribulation Saints. See Tim LaHaye and
Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?(Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale
House, 1999), esp. pp. 95-120.
58 See my detailed discussion of the Left Behind series in “Prophecy,
Politics, and The Popular: The Left Behind series and Fundamentalism’s
New World Order,” in South Atlantic Quarterly, Fall 2203.
59 For a discussion of Armey=s statements from a moderate conservative
who nonetheless fears the influence of the Christian right on pro-Israel
policy, see Peter Beinart, “Bad Move,” The New Republic,
May 20, 2002, 6. Inhofe=s statement is quoted by Gershom Gorenberg,
AUnorthodox Alliance: Israeli and Jewish interests are better served
by keeping a polite distance from the Christian right,@ Washington
Post, October 11, 2002, A37. In May 2002, the House passed 352-21
a resolution supporting Israel “as she wages war against terrorists
who would mercilessly kill her citizens.” Bruce Alpert, “Support
for Israel Bridges Old Divides,” Times-Picayune (New Orleans),
May 3, 2002, p. 4.
60. Jason Keyser, AHundreds of Americans move to Israel: Mass immigration
is paid for in part by Evangelical Christian groups,@ Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
July 20, 2002, A1ff. Ken Ellingwood, AA Christian Day of Prayer for
Israel,@ Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2002. Other groups that support
Jewish immigration to Israel (e.g. the “ingathering” of
Jews they believe to be predicted in the Bible) are Christians for
Israel, which operates a project called “Exobus,” and
John Hagee Ministries of Texas.
61 On the meetings at the Israeli embassy, see Tatsha Roberston, Evangelicals
Flock to Israel’s Banner; Christian Zionists See Jewish State
Bringing Messiah,” Boston Globe, October 21, 200, A3. Mark O’Keefe,
“Israel’s Evangelical Approach; U.S. Christian Zionists
Nurtured as Political, Tourism Force,” Washington Post, January
26, 2002, B11, discusses both the meetings and the push for tourism.
Sharon’s talk is mentioned by Tatsha Roberston, and also on
“God and Country,” ABC Nightline, November 26, 2002.
62 David Klinghoffer, “Just be Gracious,” Jerusalem Post,
August 16, 2002, 7B.
63 Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1995),
Randall Balmer, Growing Pains: Learning to Love My Father’s
Faith (Brazos, 2001).