Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Media Matters - Parker claimed that "no one" in Bush administration is listening to Apocalypse predictors, joined media in ignoring alleged White Hous

Media Matters
Summary: Claiming that "no one in the Bush administration is listening" to evangelical leaders who have recently espoused the view "that Armageddon and the Second Coming are related to current events in the Middle East," syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker joined numerous other media figures in ignoring Christian author Joel C. Rosenberg's recent assertion that he has "been invited to the White House, [and] Capitol Hill" to explain the issues facing the Middle East "through the lens of biblical prophecies."
In her August 4 syndicated column, Kathleen Parker claimed that "no one in the Bush administration is listening" to evangelical leaders who have recently espoused the view "that Armageddon and the Second Coming are related to current events in the Middle East." But in making that assertion, Parker simply ignored Christian author Joel C. Rosenberg's recent claim that he has "been invited to the White House, [and] Capitol Hill" to explain the issues facing the Middle East "through the lens of biblical prophecies." As Media Matters for America has noted, the media have largely failed to follow up

on Rosenberg's suggestion that Bush administration officials have solicited his views on the purported signs of the Apocalypse in the Mideast. For instance, media outlets have failed to report that when White House press secretary Tony Snow recently faced a question regarding the "outside experts" consulting Bush on the current crisis, Snow refused to tell reporters with whom the president had met or whether they were "religious leaders."

Parker's August 4 column -- headlined "The Christians are coming! The Christians are coming!" -- focused first on evangelical leaders who believe that "U.S. support for Israel isn't about protecting the only healthy democracy in the Middle East, but about advancing Armageddon and, yes, the Second Coming." Parker described these figures as "conspiracy theorists" and "paranoiacs" and argued that their "virulent strain of right-wing political Christianity ... parallels Islamist lunacy."

Parker then set out to rebut charges from what she referred to as the "anti-Christianist movement" that a relationship exists between these religious leaders and the Bush administration:

A slew of new books have emerged with titles like "American Theocracy,'' and "Kingdom Coming,'' that tackle the perceived emerging Christocracy, while op-ed-ists opine that right-wing evangelicals are directing foreign policy through the White House. Words like "theocrats'' and "American Taliban'' have become commonplace in describing those who fill televangelism's La-Z-Boys.

Certainly, there's an element among some Christians who believe that Armageddon and the Second Coming are related to current events in the Middle East. For instance, John Hagee, televangelist and pastor of an 18,000-member mega-church in San Antonio specifically believes that Israel has to strike Iran's nuclear facilities in order to move things along toward Jesus' new millennial reign.


Doubtless Hagee holds his audiences in thrall, but that audience does not happen to include George W. Bush or even (cue thunderclouds) Karl Rove. Nor millions of other Christians. Despite what the anti-Christianists seem to believe, the evangelical movement is not monolithic on such issues and Hagee doesn't have an office in the State Department.

In fact, at one White House meeting with about 35 evangelical leaders, one participant told me Hagee said nary a word. Even if he had, no one in the Bush administration is listening.

"You can be sure that Condi Rice is not reading Tim LaHaye books,'' says Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of its Evangelicals in Civic Life program. LaHaye is author of the best-selling apocalyptic "Left Behind'' series.

Parker went on to claim that those alleging such a relationship lack "a basic understanding of reality":

At least part of what's behind the anti-Christianist movement, of course, is dislike of Bush, who happens to be a born-again Christian, combined with angry opposition to the war in Iraq, as well as contempt for the anti-intellectualism of some on the Christian right -- a perfect storm of secular disgust.

What's missing, however, is a basic understanding of reality: the fact that those who preach an End Times scenario also voted for Bush does not necessarily mean that they have Bush's ear. When someone like Hagee sends a smoke signal to the White House about Israel and Armageddon, the attitude at Pennsylvania Avenue is, "Oh yeah, John, we're aware of that, thank you.''

In fact, evangelicals such as Rosenberg have not only suggested that the White House is "listening" to their views on the Middle East, but that the administration is seeking them out. Rosenberg is the author of the novel, The Ezekiel Option (Tyndale House Publishers, July 2005), which he described in a recent radio interview as "based on a 2,500-year-old Bible prophecy -- Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39 -- in which Russia teams up with Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and a number of other Muslim countries to destroy Israel in what Ezekiel calls 'the last days.' " In a July 30 posting on his weblog, Rosenberg noted that the various "End Times events" -- including the aforementioned war against Israel -- could not take place "until Israel was reborn as a country and the Jewish people were back in the Holy Land." He went on to write: "But now we're there, which means events could begin to accelerate very rapidly. That said, if you're a follower of Christ and you're planning any major sins, let me recommend that you postpone them."

As Media Matters noted, Rosenberg claimed on the July 26 edition of CNN's Live From ... that he had been invited to the White House, Capitol Hill, and the CIA to discuss the Rapture and the Middle East. In a subsequent interview with WashingtonPost.com columnist Dan Froomkin, Rosenberg described his meeting on February 10, 2005, with "a couple dozen" Bush aides, with whom he claims to have stayed in touch since. From Froomkin's August 4 column:

Rosenberg wouldn't say exactly what was discussed. "The meeting itself was off the record, as you could imagine," he said. He declined to name the staffer he said invited him or describe the attendees in any way other than to say that the president was not among them. "I can't imagine they'd want to talk about it," he said.

"I can't tell you that the people that I spoke with agree with me, or believe that prophecy can really help you understand what will happen next in the Middle East, but I'm not surprised that they're intrigued."

The White House press office wasn't able to confirm the visit for me, but there have been previous reports about White House Bible study groups inviting Christian authors to come speak.


Rosenberg says he got a call last year from a White House staffer. "He said 'A lot of people over here are reading your novels, and they're intrigued that these things keep on happening. . . . Your novels keep foreshadowing actual coming events. ... And so we're curious, how are you doing it? What's the secret? Why don't you come over and walk us through the story behind these novels?' So I did."

Moreover, while Parker suggested that evangelicals' decisions at the ballot box represent the extent of their political clout, she ignored the recent political actions of John Hagee -- the Christian leader she reported had said "nary a word" at a White House meeting. Hagee recently helped gather more than 3,400 evangelical Christians in Washington, D.C., for the "Christians United for Israel" summit. A large-scale show of support for Israel, the conference took place in mid-July and involved approximately 280 meetings on Capitol Hill. The event is considered evidence of an increase in evangelicals' political activity, which some experts say will "have a huge influence on foreign policy over time," as a July 19 BBC News article reported:

What has changed is the movement's level of political involvement, said Nancy Roman, the director of the Council on Foreign Relations' Washington programme.

"Part of what is happening is that the evangelical community in the US is becoming more engaged in the political process," she said.

"Whereas the church used to counsel people not to engage in politics, many churches are now counselling the opposite.

"It's important and it will have a huge influence on foreign policy over time," she added.

As the Israel-Hezbollah conflict has escalated in recent weeks, media outlets such as CNN and ABC have repeatedly hosted Apocalypse predictors such as Rosenberg to comment on the current events in the Mideast, as Media Matters has documented (here, here, and here). But since Rosenberg's admission, these outlets have failed to follow up on his assertion -- even when interviewing him, as CNN anchor Paula Zahn did on July 31.

As the weblog The Carpetbagger Report noted, however, a reporter did ask White House press secretary Tony Snow during the August 4 press gaggle whether Bush had brought in outside experts -- "perhaps Jewish or Christian or Muslim" -- to offer him advice on the ongoing crisis. Snow responded, "There have been meetings of that sort in recent days." But when asked what "types of people" had consulted the president and whether they included "religious leaders," Snow declined to give any additional information, saying, "I'll see what I'm cleared to tell you about." No news outlets subsequently reported that Snow had refused to disclose who was present at these meetings.


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