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How do we as pastors respond when CNN and comedian Jon Stewart make fun of Christian preoccupation with the end of the world?

At a minimum, I thought you might want to be aware of the recent CNN and Jon Stewart segments which feature some preachers speculating about the end of the world.  I hope you will read below why I think Stewart responded like he did and how we as pastors might respond.   

You may have to click twice on the You Tube links below for them to play.  They are both 5 minutes long. 

In light of the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the Middle East (See
CNN’s timeline here of the conflict), there has been some news coverage of Christians who are predicting the end of the world.  See the example from CNN here or above.

But not all evangelical Christians believe as these fiery preachers do.  The people featured believe in premillenialism (See the Wikipedia article).  There is a decent article at the BBC website Millennialism, Premillenialism, Dispensationalism which outlines a few of the main Christian perspectives.  The very reputable National Association of Evangelicals has a very simple line about what evangelicals agree upon about the end of the world in their statement of faith:  “We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and in His personal return in power and glory” (italics mine). 

Comedy Central comedian Jon Stewart has a segment (that you can watch here) in which he makes fun of the news coverage.  Some of it is downright hilarious. 

But towards the end of the segment Stewart mocks a line by Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series, who is shown in a Good Morning America interview.  Lahaye says, “There is no alternative.  You either accept Jesus or you will go through terrible times.”  Stewart is incredulous and makes fun of the idea as ridiculous.  It is disconcerting to see Stewart make fun of perhaps the central tenet of Christianity – “accepting Jesus.”

But before we are too hard on Stewart, we need to ask ourselves why Stewart sees plenty of reason to ridicule the whole "accept Jesus" shebang. 

Because of all these reasons, we should not be surprised when Stewart and others say things about Christianity that trouble us.  Though they may bear ultimate responsibility for their own views, we as Christians are not giving them much help. 

Here is how we might help Jon Stewart and our congregations have a better understanding of the current Middle East crisis and its implications for “the end of the world.”

1.        Rather than mental ascent, might we instead emphasize that following Jesus is a courageous adventure which brings good and God’s light into all the world? 

2.        Rather than firing up the ignorant, might we instead thoughtfully, responsibly and passionately teach people how to read the Scriptures?

3.        Rather than demonizing the media, might we instead continue to invest in the Taylor University new media program, Act One, Los Angeles Film Studies Center and other Christian Hollywood organizations who are developing competent Christian media professionals?   

4.        Rather than continuing to buy the Left Behind books, might we instead promote solid books on the book of Revelation from scholars at some of our best evangelical schools? 

a.      The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation by Craig S. Keener (Hardcover - Jan 1, 2000). Palmer Theological Seminary. 

b.      Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Grant R. Osborne (Hardcover - Nov 1, 2002).  Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

c.      The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) by G. K. Beale (Hardcover - Oct 1998).  Wheaton College.

d.      Revelation (New Cambridge Bible Commentary) by III, Ben Witherington, Ben Witherington III, Bill T. Arnold, and James D. G. Dunn (Paperback - Sep 15, 2003).  Asbury Theological Seminary.

5.        Rather than trying to interpret the book of Revelation using Fox News, might we instead remind people that Jesus said no one would know the day (Matthew 24:36)? 

6.        Rather than thoughtlessly cheering on Israel, might we instead echo the letter sent by 40 evangelical leaders in 2002 who urge the President to “employ an even-handed” policy toward Israel and its neighbors?

If we do these things, Jon Stewart may still ridicule Christianity, but I bet we won't be as easy a target. 

1.        Might it be that “accepting Jesus” sounds like simple mental ascent that seems to Stewart quite trivial? 

2.        Might it be that Stewart associates Jesus with the preachers who he showed on television who yell in their preaching and seem to be attempting to persuade the uneducated through fear? 

3.        Might it be that there are not enough outstanding media people in Hollywood who are thoughtful Christians for him to rub shoulders with? 

4.        Might it be that there are not enough vocal thoughtful Christians who ask how the book of Revelation was originally intended to be read?

5.        Might it be that many of the doomsday prophets of the past have been wrong when they have predicted a certain day, month or year?   

6.        Might it be that evangelical Christians are famous for supporting Israel for religious reasons and have thus seemed to overlook the suffering of people who are perceived as Israel’s enemies?